Plymouth Church has historically been a church that seeks to practice hospitality in the Burlington community and welcome, with open arms, all those who enter our doors. A number of years ago, the United Church of Christ (our parent denomination) introduced a marketing campaign as a way to intentionally engage in a fresh effort to circulate our “brand” of church with the slogan, Never place a period where God has placed a comma, God is still speaking. This led to yet another catch phrase, No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey you are welcome here.
Still another initiative of the United Church of Christ, one that preceded the first two and that has caused some controversy within the denomination, was a resolution presented and adopted at General Synod (our biennial national meeting) in 1985. The “therefore” portion of resolution read:
Therefore, the 15th General Synod of the United Church of Christ encourages a policy on nondiscrimination in employment, volunteer services, and membership with regard to sexual orientation; encourages Associations and Conferences and all related organizations to adopt a similar policy; and encourages the member congregations of the United Church of Christ to adopt a nondiscrimination policy and Covenant of Openness and Affirmation of persons of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender orientation within the community of faith.”
Plymouth Church Burlington has, as some level, been faithful to these initiatives and has been mindful of how we as a congregation might live into these philosophies and practices though we have never formally acted on them. This past summer, following the attack on the gay club in Orlando, Pastor Bob preached a sermon in response to this tragedy and begged the congregation to reflect on its role as a faith community in response to such tragedies. Furthermore, he asked that the congregation consider how we might stand in solidarity with victims of hatred and violence. Consequently, he suggested one very good way we could live out our faith with compassion and concern and that is by considering the path of becoming an Open and Affirming church as stated in the above resolution; by ourselves adopting a nondiscrimination policy and Covenant of Openness and Affirmation of persons of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender orientation within the community of faith.
After much prayerful consideration, a task force was put together to review the process, gather resources, schedule listening sessions, plan discussion and Bible study groups, and invite every member of Plymouth Church to engage in open dialogue that all may be informed on what this might mean for us as a congregation. Therefore, by next fall we hope to be able to introduce our own resolution for adoption at a specially called congregational meeting. A resolution would include the following explanation:
An Open and Affirming (ONA) church of the United Church of Christ means that it has publicly declared that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning/queer (LGBTQ) people are welcome in its full life and ministry. It bespeaks a spirit of hospitality and a willingness to live out that welcome in meaningful ways.”
We trust that every Plymouth Church member will let their heart be their guide in response to this very important initiative. Stay tuned.