Guidelines from the Open & Affirming Ministry Team of the GLAD Alliance
Suggested Process and Resources
Becoming and being an Open & Affirming Ministry is a journey of ever-expanding welcome. Every congregation can travel this journey and there are resources for every step along the way, from the congregation that hasn’t thought about the welcome of LGBT persons to the congregation that named itself Open & Affirming decades ago.
If you are interested in working with your non-congregational ministry towards becoming Open & Affirming:
These resources are highly recommended to all who are entering a journey towards naming a ministry Open & Affirming:
The Mission of the Open & Affirming Ministry Program is to build a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) that welcomes persons of all gender expressions and sexual orientations to the table of Christ’s communion and to the full life and leadership of the Christian Church.
To be listed as an Open & Affirming Ministry by the GLAD Alliance, congregations and other ministries are asked to make a public witness to the Mission of the Open & Affirming Ministry Program.
Prior to declaring themselves Open & Affirming, we encourage congregations to engage in a process of study and reflection in order to educate the members of the church. The goal is to build a consensus where the members of the congregation can commit to welcoming (though we realize it is not always possible for every member to commit to this) and to discern the ministry’s unique witness as it claims its welcome.
The Open & Affirming Ministry Team has many resources available and the Team’s Executive Director is ready to help you find the resources that are right for your congregation or ministry.
We are also aware that many congregations and ministries have come to a place, through a process formal or informal, or intentionally from the start, where they proclaim a welcome to persons of all gender expressions and sexual orientations but are not yet listed by the GLAD Alliance as an Open & Affirming Ministry.
Below is a list of attributes that we expect of a congregation or ministry in order to list it as an Open & Affirming Ministry. For a ministry about to engage a process towards becoming Open & Affirming, these are explicit goals of the process. For a ministry that considers itself Open & Affirming already, these attributes are the concrete signs that the ministry has committed itself to being Open & Affirming.
We understand that each ministry is unique, and that there may be variations from this list. GLAD and the Open & Affirming Ministry Team reserve the right to determine whether a congregation or ministry is listed on GLAD’s website as an Open & Affirming Ministry.
Marks of an Open & Affirming Ministry
An Open & Affirming Ministry is committed to the Mission of the Open & Affirming Ministry Program. Its commitment is manifest in these ways:
- The ministry has come to a consensus, either through a formal process of study and reflection, informally in the course of its life together, or in its founding documents that it is committed to the Mission of the Open & Affirming Ministry Program.
- The ministry has confirmed this consensus by its founding documents, a congregational vote, or for non-congregational ministries a board action; or the ministry has demonstrated its commitment to the Mission of the Open & Affirming Program by its witness and commitment to welcoming persons of all gender expressions and sexual orientations over a significant period of time.
- The ministry has written and adopted in an official and binding way an Open & Affirming Statement affirming the welcome of persons of all gender expressions and sexual identities to the table of Christ’s communion and to the full life and leadership of the congregation or ministry. (An Open & Affirming statement is usually not focused only on these attributes but also on the many human attributes that have divided us in our history and in our diverse communities. See below for more information.)
- The ministry has in place policies concerning hiring and employment that encourage applications from persons of all gender expressions and sexual orientations and that provide equal protections and benefits to all applicants and employees. A school or seminary has in place a student code that requires respect for persons of all gender expressions and sexual orientations.
Once a ministry has committed to being an Open & Affirming Ministry and GLAD has confirmed its status as an Open & Affirming Ministry, it proclaims, maintains, and widens its commitment in these ways:
- The ministry makes its Open & Affirming status public, informing the Regional and General expressions of the church, prominently publishing its Open & Affirming statement, and using the GLAD logo and naming itself “an Open & Affirming Congregation [or “Ministry”] of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)” in its literature and on its website.
- The ministry continues to revisit and deepen its commitment to being a more inclusive community of faith through continual engagement with communities and persons who have traditionally been marginalized and excluded from the church and society.
- The ministry includes GLAD in its regular mission budget with an annual pledge.
What does it mean to welcome all? What does it mean to be Open & Affirming?
When we WELCOME persons of all gender expressions and sexual orientations, we commit to including persons regardless of their gender expression or sexual orientation, welcoming all as Christ welcomes us. We do not use these attributes as a barrier to communion, membership, service, leadership, or employment in our ministry, nor as a barrier among those served.
A ministry is OPEN when it commits to communicating its welcome publicly. This may come in many forms, and most ministries do this in several ways: communicating their O&A status to Regional and General Church leadership, placing signage on their church building, publishing their O&A statement on their website, in their Sunday bulletin and in their newsletter, and wherever possible naming itself ‘an Open & Affirming Congregation [or ‘Ministry’] of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).’
A ministry is AFFIRMING when it commits to preaching and teaching a gospel which understands that God does not reject or condemn people solely for their gender expression or sexual orientation (nor any of the other attributes listed in their Open & Affirming statement).
Does every member of our congregation or ministry have to be Open & Affirming?
No. We are Disciples, after all, and we don’t expect every member of our congregations to agree about much of anything! Open & Affirming is an attribute of the congregation or ministry as a whole: what it teaches and preaches, how its members treat one another, how its members welcome newcomers, whom it serves, and what policies it adheres to when hiring, evaluating, and compensating staff. But if a large number of members in a congregation or ministry don’t hold an affirming stance, it would be best to continue educating the members rather than proclaiming a welcome that much of the congregation or ministry disagrees with.
What does an Open & Affirming statement look like?
An Open & Affirming statement usually includes a list of attributes that the ministry is committed to accepting without judgment. For instance, General Assembly Resolution GA-1327 “Becoming a People of Grace and Welcome to All” states that the General Assembly “calls upon the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to recognize itself as striving to become a people of grace and welcome to all God’s children though differing in race, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, ethnicity, marital status, physical or mental ability, political stance or theological perspective.”
Open & Affirming statements vary greatly, reflecting the personality, commitments, and missions of our varied ministries.
You can find several O&A statements here – Inspiration: Open & Affirming Statements.
Do you have a sample employment policy?
We understand that the employment policies of various Open & Affirming Ministries will vary according to their situation. A small congregation may pass a simple resolution to insert language similar to this into its bylaws:
The First Christian Church is committed to treating all staff fairly without discriminating on the basis of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, ethnicity and marital status, encouraging all to apply for employment, evaluating applicants and staff equally, and providing equal compensation and benefits.
Larger congregations and other organizations may change their employment policies or employee handbooks. It would of course be wise to consult a lawyer before making a legal commitment to your staff and clergy.
Once we’ve completed the process, what exactly do we need to send to GLAD?
The Open & Affirming Ministry Team is committed to ensuring that the ministries listed on our website are welcoming and safe places for LGBT persons. Therefore, we ask you to submit the following to document your Open & Affirming process:
- A letter or email from the pastor or board chair:
- requesting placement on our Open & Affirming webpage,
- describing the process that brought the ministry to consensus or describing the ministry’s history of welcoming LGBT persons,
- stating that the congregation has confirmed its Open & Affirming statement, either incorporating it into its founding documents, voting on it in a congregational setting, or another process that confirms the commitment of a large majority of the congregation, or for non-congregational ministries a board action,
- describing how the congregation intends to make its Open & Affirming status public on its website, printed materials, and other places, and
- affirming its support of GLAD through a financial pledge or other support;
- A copy of the ministry’s Open & Affirming statement;
- A copy of the ministry’s employment non-discrimination policy, if separate from its Open & Affirming statement, and if a school or seminary, a copy of its student code.
You can send these materials to:
Rev. Mark Johnston
Open & Affirming Ministry Program
716 Le Conte Ave
San Francisco CA 94124