Mental Health Network is latest UCC body with Open and Affirming covenant
The United Church of Christ Mental Health Network released the following announcement on June 23, 2021. As noted in an earlier UCC News article, the Network is the latest organization to declare itself Open and Affirming, or “ONA.”
Text of the statement:
Believing that as followers of Christ we are called to love and affirm all expressions of human gender and sexuality, the United Church of Christ Mental Health Network declared its official commitment to being an Open and Affirming Ministry of the UCC.
Open and Affirming churches and other ministries within the United Church of Christ advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and pledge to become effective witnesses to Christ’s extravagant welcome for all people. They commit to welcome LGBTQ+ people, support their relationships, offer them all sacraments, and advocate for their basic rights.
There currently are 1,700 ONA churches and ministries within the UCC, encompassing more than 350,000 church members – and the number continues to grow.
In adopting its Open and Affirming Covenant, the MHN specifically seeks to address the intersections of mental health and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Two-Spirit and other non-cisgender/non-straight (LGBTQIA2S+) identities.
“The UCC Mental Health Network is honored to join with all ONA churches and other ministries in welcoming all of God’s people into our communities of faith,” said MHN Chair, the Rev. Amy Petré Hill. “We know mental health cannot happen if we do not have safe spaces to share our whole authentic selves—including our sexuality, gender identity, gender expression and families—with others.”
The UCC Mental Health Network’s ONA covenant was written by a committee of four board members – the Rev. Dr. Megan Osborn Snell; Kyle Michael Ingram, MSW; Dr. Averyn Payne, PhD; and the Rev. Dr. Marty Kuchma – after a time of study, dialogue and prayer. It is built around the MHN’s WISE framework for helping congregations create spiritually engaging spaces for people facing mental health challenges – Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive and Engaged. It was then approved by the full MHN board before it was submitted to the ONA Coalition for review.
Upon accepting the covenant, the ONA Coalition noted that it was “the best summary we’ve seen of the consequences of homophobia and transphobia on the mental health of LGBTQIA+ people.”
The covenant reads, in part:
We commit to supporting the mission of the Open and Affirming Coalition of the
United Church of Christ with our prayers, actions, and enthusiasm for meaningful
partnership with the Coalition. We further commit to integrating Open and Affirming
principles into the mental health programming and resources offered by the UCC MHN
to congregations and wider ministry settings, so that awareness of the intersections of
mental health and LGBTQIA2S+ identity informs the community’s understanding of its
mission and ministry. Finally, we commit to ongoing review and renewal of our Open and
Affirming covenant so as to remain responsive to the needs and experiences of our
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