Open and Affirming

We declared ourselves to be an “Open and Affirming” church because we enthusiastically embrace LGBT equality and welcome all people however they identify their sexual orientation or gender.

Many churches make a blanket statements, such as, “We welcome everyone” or “All are welcome here.”  However, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people don’t always feel that the words “everyone” or “all” include them.  To erase any doubt about our welcoming stance, First United officially declared itself (by a unanimous congregational resolution) an “Open and Affirming” church in the United Church of Christ in 1996.  In celebration of our church’s 125th anniversary, our Church Council unanimously reaffirmed our “Open and Affirming” commitment in 2010.

Because LGBT people have gifts and talents to offer our church and have often been discouraged from being “out” in church (or from participating altogether), we at First United reject the silence, condemnation, and discrimination that have been historically aimed at our LGBT sisters and brothers.  In addition, an “Open and Affirming” message helps to counter the notion that “Christians think that being LGBT is sinful.”  It affirms that sexuality is a gift from God, as its responsible and loving expression.  God’s Spirit is present in people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

Hospitality is a key teaching of the Bible.  It is much more than good manners; it is the second commandment of Jesus Christ:  “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  There are 31,110 verses in the Bible.  Sadly, many churches have taken five or six verses out of their historical context in order to practice a harsh inhospitality toward people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.  Just as persons are born left-handed, while the majority are right-handed, so too, some of us are born LGBT.  It is not a lifestyle.  It is not a choice.  It is how we are created by a loving God who knows, more than we, the value of diversity.

In the United Church of Christ, churches that have declared themselves “Open and Affirming” are welcoming to those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.  First United welcomes you regardless of your sexual orientation or gender identity.  Please join us in the life and ministry of our church.  You are welcome here!

Please click here to learn more about the Open and Affirming Program in the United Church of Christ.

During the year of our 125th anniversary, we reaffirmed our “Open and Affirming” commitment.

REAFFIRMATION OF OUR COVENANT TO BE AN OPEN AND AFFIRMING CONGREGATION

(Approved unanimously by the Church Council of First United Church of Tampa on April 25, 2010)

Since its founding in 1885, First United Church of Tampa, a congregation of the United Church of Christ, has been committed to working for peace and justice in Tampa Bay and beyond.  We seek to be a radically inclusive, extravagantly welcoming, and evengelically courageous congregation.

General Synod 15 of the United Church of Christ called upon congregations and other settings to declare themselves “Open and Affirming” by adopting a Covenant of Openness and Affirmation of people of lesbian, gay, and bisexual orientation.  In this spirit, we declared ourselves to be an “Open and Affirming” church in 1996.  Furthermore, General Synod 24 affirmed the full participation and ministry of those who identify as transgender.

We regret the climate in some Christian churches that is hostile or exclusionary–either openly or passively–towards people of differing sexual orientations and gender identities. Therefore, we joyously accept God’s call for us to be an “Open and Affirming” church of the United Church of Christ by proclaiming that those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning are welcome and affirmed among us and encouraged to participate in the full life and leadership of our congregation.

If there are other groups that we as a congregation have inadvertently excluded, we ask for God’s forgiveness as we open our hearts, our minds, our church, and our outreach to them.

Pastor Bernice and members of First United at St. Pete Pride