What is an Open and Affirming church?
Open and Affirming is a designation for congregations and other bodies in the United Church of Christ that make public statements of welcome, love, and inclusion into the full life and ministry to persons of every sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. The shorthand for Open and Affirming is “ONA.”
We at First Congregational UCC engaged in an ONA process in 2002 and 2003. During this period of study and reflection, we decided that we wanted to extend the same welcome to persons of every race, culture, nationality, age, family configuration, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability, and socio-economic status.
Our Open and Affirming Statement was unanimously adopted at a congregation meeting on May 11, 2003.
Living our Open and Affirming Covenant
We continue to work at living into the full potential of being an Open and Affirming congregation and finding new ways to share our message that all are welcome here. We have been delighted to host PFLAG meetings, Little Apple Pride, same-sex weddings, the Manhattan MLK Day Celebration planning committee, playgroups with an international focus, and more. In November 2014 we were honored to have our pastor officiate the first legal same-sex marriage in the State of Kansas.
Since the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson in August 2014, we have been a part of the #blacklivesmatter movement, placing signs on our property in solidarity, hosting prayer vigils, developing a relationship with the Riley County Police Department, participating in actions with the K-State Black Student Union, and bringing educational events to the community. In January 2016, we hosted a community-wide anti-racism training. Over the course of three days, 45 members of our community participated in 20 hours of anti-racism training provided by Roots of Justice.
In September 2015 we were honored to host TransKansas III, the annual gathering of the Kansas Statewide Education Project. In December 2015, we launched the Living Positive support group for people living with HIV/AIDS and their caregivers. During the fall of 2016 about 20 members of our congregation participated in five-week class on gender identity and how we can continue to affirm people who are transgender, taught by two of our own members. In 2016 we worked with the Flint Hills Human Rights Project to organize faith leaders on our city's non-discrimination ordinate. The City Commission voted unanimously in August to revise our city's ordinance to provide protections in public accommodations, housing, and employment for people of all gender identities and sexual orientations. Manhattan is one of only three cities in Kansas that provides these human rights to our citizens.