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Veradale UCC and Mercer Island UCC vote to be Open and Affirming

Two PNC churches recently joined about 993 Open and Affirming UCC congregations in the nation.  Veradale, now in its 102nd year, voted on Dec. 11, and Mercer Island voted in Jan. 29.  

At a Church Leadership Day in fall 2010, Veradale UCC decided to begin a study process to move toward becoming Open and Affirming, said Linda Crowe, pastor.

A committee of 12 formed to plan the study process, seeking to include as many people as possible by offering two sessions, one on Sunday afternoons and one on Wednesday evenings.

“The idea came forth from the people,” Crowe said.

In December 2010, Crowe received an email from the Emmanuel Metropolitan Community Church, informing her that their church would be closing and that they were wondering if they would be welcomed at Veradale UCC.

“I could honestly say that the welcome mat was out,” she said.  “Our church has become more welcoming over the years as some who were uncomfortable with the denomination’s Open and Affirming process and the 2005 General Synod’s vote supporting marriage equality left the church.

“We already had several same-sex couples in our congregation,” Crowe said.

Emmanuel Metropolitan Community Church members joined in early 2011.

Marj Johnston, now pastor at Dayton and the east side PNC member on the PNC Coalition of Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Concerns, met with Veradale UCC’s cabinet last spring.

Crowe said Veradale UCC’s Open and Affirming statement is wide as they proclaim that as they seek to live out Christ’s inclusive love for all people:  “We will not discriminate.”

The statement continues: “Jesus modeled hospitality and openly affirmed diversity and so do we. Because we believe that all people are created in God’s image, all people are loved equally by God, and we are called to love and bless one another, we welcome all persons of every age, gender, gender identity and expression, race, national origin, faith background, marital status and family structure, sexual orientation, mental and physical ability, economic and social status, and educational background, to share in the life, leadership, ministry, fellowship, sacraments, responsibilities, blessings and joys of our church family.  As we grow together in faith and love, we will continue to strive to celebrate the diversity in which God has created us.”

“Our goal is to retain a broad range of people, including those who are conservative,” she said. 

“There is a range of theological diversity in any congregation,” said Crowe, who became part of the UCC when she joined the Warden church in 1956.  In 1960, her family moved to Spokane, and attended Westview UCC.

She and her husband, Randy at N-Sid-Sen, who are both retiring this spring, attended Kirkland UCC while they lived there and became active in summer camping.  When they moved to Spokane, they attended Westminster Congregational UCC, before she went to seminary and then became pastor at Veradale in 1994.

Crowe said she played a supportive role in the process, leading a workshop with Randy and Carol Bellinger on an overview of the United Church of Christ in social justice issues, including its involvement in the anti-slavery movement, its ordaining the first African-American pastor in 1785, the first woman pastor in 1833 and the first gay pastor in 1972.  In 1977, it was a leader in disability ministries.

For information, call 509-926-7173.           

Mercer Island’s vote affirmed their reality

Mercer Island Congregational UCC had started the Open and Affirming process about 20 years ago, when the conference first visited the issue.  They voted to become open but not affirming, because some said they did not want to affirm any “lifestyle.”

Mark Travis, pastor at Mercer Island, said the church revisited the policy again about 10 years ago and more recently, but did not act.

Discussion at the PNC Annual Meeting last year and the vote to encourage churches to enter the process to become Open and Affirming gave impetus and “a powerful witness” for the church to reconsider the issue, he said.

The church council decided the church should be open and affirming, given that the congregation was already open to performing same-sex marriage.

So they embarked on what was planned as a year of study about what it meant to be affirming.

The congregation engaged in five months of surveys, meetings and presentations. 

“The response was overwhelmingly pro,” said Travis.

A survey showed that members were on board about adopting and marriage equality, plus they had no biblical issue against affirming gays or lesbians.

In calling Travis, they had already expressed their affirmation.

“I am an openly gay pastor with a husband and three children,” he said.

So the church decided to shorten the process and at a meeting in which they were voting on the church budget and capital campaign on Sunday, Jan. 29, they voted unanimously to be open and affirming.

Three-fourths of that meeting focused on the other business.  In five minutes, the congregation voted to be Open and Affirming.

“We decided that to spend a full year would mean we were going in circles on an issue we agreed on,” he said.

“The parishioners were excited to proclaim prophetically what was a spiritual and emotional reality of the church,” he said.

For information, call 206-902-8542 or email


Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © February 2012


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