It's the action, not the fruit of the action, that's important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there'll be any fruit. But that doesn't mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.
--Mohandas K. Gandhi
Dear Members and Friends of First Christian Church:
At our Annual Meeting on January 30, we attempted something rather unique and even daring. We used a consensus process to deal with a potentially divisive topic. After nearly a year of study, we were asked to officially declare what has been our unofficial practice: that “we are an Open and Affirming Congregation and people of all sexual orientations and gender identities are welcome in the full life and ministry of our church".
The following policy was proposed:
Policy: As a way of becoming a more just, welcoming and inclusive church, one that honors the gifts and graces of all individuals, we declare we are an Open and Affirming Congregation and people of all sexual orientations and gender identities are welcome in the full life and ministry of our church.
Vision: To be registered with the Community of Welcoming Congregations in Oregon and with the Open and Affirming Ministry Team of Disciples of Christ. To publicize our O & A status on our website, church bulletin and other outreach information. To be open and willing to perform marriages for same sex couples under the same conditions we offer to heterosexual couples. To include this policy in our church’s governing documents as recommended by GLAD (Gay, Lesbian an Affirming Disciples) and the Welcoming Community Network.
If the meeting was not our longest on record, it may have been the most powerful! The testimonies we heard were among the strongest witnesses ever given to the inclusive love of God. We also felt the enormous pain experienced by some of our own members because of treatment they or their loved ones received elsewhere as a result of their sexual orientation. At the table discussions that followed, every person present was given an opportunity to share their own stories and responses. We have heard many reports of the ways in which people were moved and touched by what they heard and by the honest, respectful sharing that occurred around those tables.
After all the sharing and listening, each person was asked to finish one of three sentences:
I am for this proposal because . . .
I am not for this proposal but am willing to stand aside because. . .
I am not for this proposal and am not willing to stand aside at this time because . . .
A consensus occurs when all present opt for the first or second statement. An overwhelming majority of those present chose the first option and several chose the second giving us consensus at 15 of the 16 tables. Wednesday afternoon, those who could not stand aside on Sunday were gracious and open to the greater body's interest and concerns. We are pleased to announce we have reached consensus and we are now, officially, an Open and Affirming congregation. We thank all those who have participated in this long process and especially the good work of the task force.
We would also like to express our appreciation for those who have shared concerns during this process. The issue that came up most frequently was marriage. We acknowledge that we still have more work to do on this issue as we discover what it means to discern God's leading as an Open and Affirming congregation. We are committed to work with all members to further our education and understanding on how we live this out.
This process was a strong affirmation of the direction in which we are moving as a congregation. Everyone was respectful and heard. The spirit of the meeting moved many. Hearts were touched by the testimonies given. As we reflect on our own experience and the many responses we have received so far, we are even more convinced that we are on the right path and that the consensus process was the right thing for this particular moment in the life of our congregation.
Many people have asked, now what? The Open and Affirming Task Force will meet to reflect on what we heard from those in the meeting and to consider the next steps. Your input into that meeting is most welcome. Please feel free to contact us, or Sarah Lauer, chair of the task force, and let us know your thoughts and ideas.
Finally, we conclude with this prayer used to open the table discussions:
Lord of Love, we call upon your Spirit to guide our thoughts and your Wisdom to guide our actions. May we be open to discern your will as we listen deeply to one another, seeking your Spirit of Truth and showing your care for one another this day. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen
In Christ’s love,
Dan Bryant April Oristano
For additional information, please visit our Open & Affirming resource page.