Many in our church appreciate the loving acceptance and affirmation which GLBTQ folks find in our local church. This acceptance is rooted in struggle and a long history – the Open and Affirming movement of the United Church of Christ, a movement which changed the church.
In 1972, the Rev. William R. Johnson was ordained by the Golden Gate Association in California, the first openly gay minister in the United Church of Christ. That same year UCC members founded the UCC Gay Caucus, which later became the Open and Affirming Coalition. It took much hard work in organizing and education until finally in 1985, the UCC’s General Synod passed a resolution urging UCC congregations to “Declare Themselves Open and Affirming.” The Coalition was given the responsibility to fund, manage and grow the Open and Affirming (“ONA”) movement. In 1987 the Coalition certified the first 15 ONA congregations.
In 1995 the Board of Deacons of First Church Guilford, upon the request of David Knapp, the only openly gay member of the church at the time, established a Study Committee for the church to consider becoming an Open and Affirming Church. Charlotte White was named chair of this Committee and a cross section of members of the church were asked to serve, some who were not so sure this was a good idea. At the time there were 167 UCC congregations nationwide who had declared themselves Open and Affirming, twelve in Connecticut. The Coalition helped First Church with resources and after two years of programs and small group discussions, First Church Guilford voted at its Annual Meeting in 1997 to become ONA. Thanks be to God!
The Rev. Charlotte White
The Open & Affirming Coalition continues its important work and has a website with lots of interesting information. Check it out! https://openandaffirming.org/
Members of the Study Committee:
Still in the church: Jan Campaigne, Barbara Johnson, David Knapp, Rev. Bob Raines, Gail Thompson, Charlotte White, Chair (while a student at YDS)
Moved away: Marilyn Boretz, Linda Carleton, Phil Reilly, Rev. Peg Stearn
Deceased: Bill Farrar, David Johnson, Connie Mermann, Jan Sachs, Eric Sandin
No longer active in the church: Ilona Fucci, Kathy Kalt, Rev. Kendrick Norris