Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns

We Are an Open and Affirming Conference

The Massachusetts Conference is “Open and Affirming,” or ONA, which is the designation for congregations, campus ministries, and other bodies in the United Church of Christ which make public covenants of welcome into their full life and ministry to persons of all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.


The Massachusetts Conference was a pioneer in the ONA movement. In 1984, the 185th Annual Meeting adopted the first Open and Affirming resolution in the UCC. Read the text here.

The national ONA movement in the United Church of Christ (UCC) began in 1985, when the UCC General Synod adopted a resolution, "Calling on United Church of Christ Congregations to Declare Themselves Open and Affirming". Read the text here.

Building on this welcome, the 2003 General Synod adopted a resolution "Affirming the Participation and Ministry of Transgender People within the United Church of Christ and Supporting Their Civil and Human Rights." Read the text here.

In June 2012, the 213th Massachusetts Conference Annual Meeting adopted a resolution to update the Conference's ONA Resolution of 1984 to include persons of all gender identities and gender expressions. See text here.




The MA Conference now has 180 ONA churches with full standing and two ONA new church starts (NCS). The following churches have been listed ONA in the past year:

#1532 Second Congregational Church, Winchester - June 2018

#1531 Groveland Congregational Church, Groveland - June 2018

#1508 Church of Christ, Congregational, United Church of Christ, Millis -  March 2018

#1504 North Community Church Marshfield Hills - February 2018

#1492 First Congregational United Church of Christ, East Longmeadow - January 2018

#1486 Second Congregational United Church of Christ, Cohasset - December 2017

#1485 First Congregational United Church of Christ, Hatfield - December 2017

#1480 Bethany Congregational Church, Foxboro - November 2017

NCS Phoenix Rising UCC (First Congregational Church of Haverhill) - November 2017

#1473  Pilgrim Congregational Church UCC, Weymouth - October 2017

To find a full list of Massachusetts Conference ONA congregations, go here.

What is Open and Affirming?

The essence of an Open and Affirming covenant is the full welcome into the life and ministry of the church for "people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions" (or "lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people”).


ONA is more than LGBTQ affirmation

The spirit of ONA is more than affirming people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions. The meaning of an ONA declaration should be the commitment to affirm every person because they are children of God - those of any age, ability, race, culture and ethnicity, family configuration, health status, immigration status, whether with children or not, as well as any other description that might separate us. 

A true welcome respects and honors every person, their story, their gifts and their needs. A welcome to some but not others is no real welcome.


Get News from the ONA Coalition

You can keep up with the national ONA news, including the listing of new ONA churches, by joining the Coalition's Facebook page and by signing up for Ripples Newsletter


Contact the MA Conference Open and Affirming Ministry Team for help in becoming recognized as an ONA Congregation

The ONA Ministry Team is available to provide guidance and assistance to local churches exploring this issue, and can provide consultation, curriculum materials and workshops. The team can assist you in designing an ONA process and in creating an ONA covenant that expresses your church’s welcome and meets the criteria of the UCC’s Open and Affirming Coalition. We encourage you to contact the ONA Ministry Team so that your process will be an open and successful one.

ONA Ministry Team 2018

Ms. Kathie Carpenter, Chair

Mr. Doug Anderson

Rev. Dr. Frances A. Bogle

Ms. Sara Holland

Ms. Kath Mason

Rev. Ms. Karla Miller

Rev. Mr. Louis Mitchell   

Mx. ivy tillman

Rev. Kelly Gallagher - Staff Person



ONA Starter Toolkit and ONA Planning Guide - contact the ONA Ministry Team for information.

See lists of resources on the Open and Affirming Coalition and the Institute for Welcoming Resources.

Suggested Reading: Transgender Explained: For Those Who Are Not, by Joanne Herman of Old South Church in Boston.


ONA Covenants

In order for a church to be listed ONA by the Coalition, it must present a covenant that makes reference to the inclusion of people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.  The Coalition provides excellent examples of ONA covenants. Please note that nearly all churches choose to expand their welcome to name other groups that have been oppressed and include them in their welcome statement. Go here for examples. The Mass Conference ONA Ministry Team can help with wording.



Open and Affirming Coalition of the UCC: Resources for local churches considering becoming ONA and other information

UCC Justice and Peace Marriage Resources

Greater Boston PFLAG Support for families and friends of GLBT folk

Transgender Rights: A Video From GLAD

LGBT Asylum Support Task Force

The Provincetown Project: God Is Still Speaking on Commercial Street

ONA photo archive



Related Content

First Church in Sterling Believes an Extravagant Welcome Encompasses ONA and More
Community – that basic human impulse to be part of a group, particularly one that understands your struggles and offers support and friendship.

The following statement was released by leaders of the Massachusetts Conference on Oct. 31, 2018 Statement by the Leadership of the United Church of ...
Bullying Resolutions Discussed in MA and CT Conference Annual Meetings On June 15, 2018, a joint hearing was held for Massachusetts and Connecticut ...

Phoenix Rising Pastor Takes Advantage of Many Conference Resources
ONA Updates 4/20/2018
Annual Meeting Resolution on Bullying for MA and CT Conferences Be sure to look out for a proposed resolution at the MA and CT Annual Meetings this ...
Louis Mitchell, associate minister of South Congregational Church in Springfield, was recently selected for an in-depth interview by the LGBT ...
Massachusetts Anti-Transgender Ballot Measure “In 2018 Massachusetts will vote for fairness” says the banner on the website of Freedom Massachusetts. ...
The new Trans Still Speaking initiative is launching this month at the Open and Affirming Coalition's National Gathering in Baltimore. The MA ...

“Stronger Together” - UCC Represents at 47th Boston Pride Pride Day, Saturday, June 10, could not have been more beautiful. The largest parade ever ...
The following was submitted by The Rev. Tom O’Brien on behalf of Freedom Massachusetts. He is Pastor and Teacher at Memorial Congregational Church UCC...
We discovered that many who attended our post-election vigil were looking for a safe place in the midst of uncertainty.

Memorial Congregational Church Made and Float and Joined the Town's July 4th parade to Share the "Be the Church" Message
by Rev. Andrea Ayvazian Haydenville Congregational Church Friday, June 17, 2016   On Monday evening, our church in Haydenville held a service in ...

A seminarian who attends Old South Church in Boston went to Orlando, Florida, yesterday as part of a Connecticut Conference program to offer care, ...