Statement release by the UCC Mental Health Network on June 21, 2021:
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 (MHN) declared its official commitment to being an Open and Affirming (ONA) Ministry of the UCC.
The designation was made through a covenant that was accepted by the ONA Coalition on June 2, 2021.
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 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 – Rev. Dr. Megan Osborn Snell; Kyle Michael Ingram, MSW; Dr. Averyn Payne, PhD; and 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.”