ONA Coalition to mark 30 years of advocacy for LGBT equality
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the movement calling on churches in the United Church of Christ to fully welcome LGBT people, three outstanding leaders in church will speak at the Open and Affirming Coalition’s National ONA Gathering before General Synod 2015 in Cleveland.
The three speakers—Bishop Dwayne Royster, the Rev. Maritza Angulo de Gonzalez and the Rev. Edward Davis—will reflect on the growth of the ONA movement in the last three decades, and discuss the paths that lay ahead for LGBT equality in the church. The gathering’s theme is “100 Percent OPEN AND AFFIRMING,” with guests coming together June 24-25—a day before General Synod begins on June 26 at the Cleveland Convention Center.
“These three inspiring leaders represent ministries that are on the cutting edge of the Open and Affirming movement,” said Andy Lang, the Coalition’s executive director. “Their lives bear witness to the truth that the movement for LGBT equality is part of the wider movement for human rights and racial justice. Their rich experience in local, regional and national ministry will help leaders of ONA churches meet the new challenges we will face as a movement.”
Bishop Dwayne Royster, founding pastor of Living Water UCC in Philadelphia, will preach during the General Synod opening worship on Wednesday, June 24. A recognized civil rights leader in his community, Royster is a graduate of Geneva College’s Center for Urban Theological Studies with a bachelor’s in urban ministry management. He has studied at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary and earned his master’s in religion at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia with a specialization in the African American Church.
The Rev. Dr. Maritza Angulo de Gonzalez, pastor of Manantial de Gracia (Spring of Grace) UCC in West Hartford, Conn., will be the Coalition’s speaker for Thursday, June 25. Born in Puerto Rico, she was a preacher, teacher and missionary in several Central and South American countries. She earned bachelor’s degrees in theological studies (Logos Bible College) and psychology (College of New Rochelle), a master’s degree in social work (University of Connecticut) and a doctorate in education (Argosy University). De Gonzalez is president of the UCC Council for Hispanic Ministries-New England Region. In addition to her pastoral ministry, she has worked in the mental health field as a counselor, administrator and program director in private practice and at various mental health agencies.
The Rev. Edward Davis, conference minister of the Southern Conference of the UCC, will keynote the Coalition’s ONA Banquet on Friday, June 26. Davis holds two degrees in business and an MBA in finance and economics from Roosevelt University in Chicago. He earned his Master of Divinity degree from Chicago Theological Seminary and a D.Min. with a specialization in “collaborative leadership in the 21st century” at the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, where he serves on the adjunct faculty. In 2014 Davis was honored by the Human Rights Council for his leadership in the UCC’s lawsuit challenging the same-sex marriage ban in North Carolina.
All three speakers are members of the UCC Board of Directors.
“As the struggle for marriage equality draws to a close, our community still faces challenges in our journey towards full equality and justice in American society,” said Lang. “ONA churches need to be ready for the future, and that’s why this year’s National ONA Gathering will shape new directions for our movement.”
The ONA gathering comes at a time when the LGBT movement is at a crossroads, as the Supreme Court could weigh before the event in with a historic decision on the constitutionality of marriage equality nationwide. The gathering will offer two tracks for attendees: one for ONA churches seeking ways to deepen their commitment to LGBT inclusion and justice, and one for congregations taking their first steps towards an ONA covenant.
Registration is now open and more information is available on the ONA Coalition website.
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