We, the United Church of Christ Mental Health Network (UCC MHN), believe in a radically inclusive God who meets us where we are, loving and affirming the full diversity of gender and sexual expression in creation. We worship an expansive, dynamic, and multifaceted God, who exists beyond any of our human-created limitations. We actively reject any constructions of God that attempt to restrict the divine to a binary embodiment. We believe that all people are created in the image of God, and that as followers of Christ we are called to love and affirm all expressions of human gender and sexuality.
As part of its mission, the UCC MHN assists congregations and wider ministry settings in becoming Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive, and Engaged (WISE) for mental health and advocates for persons with mental health challenges, substance use disorders and brain disorders as well as neurodiverse people. In this work, we acknowledge the myriad ways mental health weaves itself through the beautifully diverse, intersecting identities of God’s people. We are intentionally inclusive of people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, age, race, national origin, faith, marital status, family formation, mental or physical ability, and economic, educational, or social status.
In adopting this Open and Affirming Covenant, the UCC MHN seeks to specifically address the intersections of mental health and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Two-Spirit and other non-cisgender/non-straight (LGBTQIA2S+) identities.
Taking inspiration from our WISE framework, we, the United Church of Christ Mental Health Network, make the following recognitions, affirmations, and commitments to our LGBTQIA2S+ kin.
We recognize that many LGBTQIA2S+ people are in private experiences of exile even when being publicly told that they are welcome. We hold that people are often hindered in their mental health journeys when they constantly find themselves in spaces that alienate them and do not affirm their whole selves.
We affirm that all people, including those of LGBTQIA2S+ identities, are created imago Dei, in God’s image. We affirm that LGBTQIA2S+ individuals are welcome in all spaces that the UCC MHN creates and oversees.
We commit to helping people access communities where they can be their whole authentic selves, with particular attention to the intersectionality of mental health, sexual orientation and gender identity. We further commit to ensuring the language used in our materials is welcoming and affirming of all the ways our LGBTQIA2S+ kin reflect the image of God. We will ensure UCC MHN programming encourages communities to intentionally create space that welcomes and affirms the experiences and expressions of LGBTQIA2S+ individuals and honors this intersectionality in the community’s mental health work.
We recognize that welcoming individuals is only the first step in co-creating and realizing inclusive community. We believe that inclusion can only be truly realized when LGBTQIA2S+ people enjoy unrestricted access to the full life, ministry, sacraments, and clerical and lay leadership of the community. We confess the ways in which the Church falls short of honoring the God-given worth of LGBTQIA2S+ persons.
We affirm that God has created and delights in the expansive and beautiful diversity of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression of all God’s people; it is not the place of religious institutions to define or deny what God has sanctified. We especially affirm the need for the Church to tear down theological and institutional barriers that separate transgender and non-binary individuals, polyamorous and consensually non-monogamous individuals, and individuals belonging to non-nuclear family structures from full inclusion in the life of the community.
We commit to ensuring LGBTQIA2S+ people have access to and hold leadership roles on the UCC MHN Board. We will seek every opportunity to encourage our WISE congregations, Associations, Conferences and other ministry settings to similarly promote such leadership and other opportunities supporting full inclusion of LGBTQIA2S+ people in the life of the community.
We recognize that the Church and its congregations have so often failed to offer support, care, healing, and belonging to LGBTQIA2S+ people, and in many cases have been responsible for untold harm and historic trauma. We confess the interpersonal harm done to LGBTQIA2S+ people in the name of God and the participation of people of faith in the systemic oppression of their LGBTQIA2S+ neighbors. As a mental health advocacy body, we also confess the long and painful history carried out by the mental health professions in medicalizing and stigmatizing LGBTQIA2S+ experience and expression.
We affirm that LGBTQIA2S+ identity is not a mental illness, but rather that systematic mistreatment and oppression of LGBTQIA2S+ people often has a negative impact on their mental health.
We commit to fighting against continued efforts in our churches and public spaces to weaponize scripture and medical terminology against our LGBTQIA2S+ neighbors. We further commit to helping congregations and wider ministry settings be spaces where LGBTQIA2S+ people can find support, healing, wholeness and belonging.
We recognize that covenanting as an Open and Affirming ministry means we must be responsive to the faithful witness of our LGBTQIA2S+ kin. We recognize that in order to successfully engage congregations and wider ministry settings in mental health and LGBTQIA2S+ inclusion, the UCC MHN must cultivate meaningful relationships with LGBTQIA2S+ voices.
We affirm the faithful witness of our LGBTQIA2S+ kin and honor the testimony inherent in their experiences and expressions. We affirm that our LGBTQIA2S+ kin have much to teach us and the wider Church about the nature of God, radical acceptance, and authentic community.
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 LGBTQIA2S+ kin.
Therefore, in accordance with the Calling on UCC Congregations to Covenant as Open and Affirming resolution of the 1985 General Synod, the United Church of Christ Mental Health Network covenants together as an Open and Affirming ministry.
— Adopted by the UCC Mental Health Network Board, May 27, 2021