In response to God's unconditional love for all people made known to us in Jesus Christ, we are called to be a welcoming and affirming community. The First Church in Albany includes young and old, families, couples and singles, rich and poor, persons of various races, ethnicities, backgrounds, sexual orientation and gender identities, differing physical and mental abilities, believers and seekers. We welcome into the full life of the church all those whom God sends us. Centered in Christ, we commit ourselves to breaking down dividing walls and building community where all are loved.
Statement adopted by the consistory of The First Church in Albany,
March 16, 2010.
First Church adopted this statement after many prayerful discussions to reflect how the congregation feels about being a welcoming and affirming church.
One of the questions raised was why we considered making such a statement, after all First Church is a welcoming community.
The truth is, others may not know. Churches, including churches in the Reformed Church in America (the denomination to which First Church belongs, have not always been welcoming, especially to gay, lesbian and transgender people.
God's people have often struggled with who is in and out. There are examples in both the old and new Testament. Through the prophet Isaiah God calls for his house to be "a house of prayer for all peoples" and specifically mentions the eunuchs and foreigners, because in Deuteronomy 23 these were the very people who were specifically forbidden to be a part of the worshipping assembly. (Isaiah 56:1-8) Jesus himself was nearly thrown off a cliff by his own towns people of Nazareth, when He reminded them that God had helped lepers, a foreign oppressor and a widow. (Luke 4:21-30)
One of the issues for debate in today's Christian church is whether gay, lesbian and transgender persons are truly, fully welcomed into the life of the church. It is an issue worthy of careful attention and prayerful discussion. Because real people are involved. Real justice is at stake. Real faithfulness to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. This issue is about our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, friends, neighbors and coworkers who have been told that there is something wrong with them.
There are about a half dozen scripture passages that are sometimes cited as evidence that God is against homosexuality. Without going into a full fledged Bible study here it is safe to say that none of the biblical writers was talking about sexual orientation as it is understood today. These Bible passages are addressing exploitative, abusive relationships, and that is the kind of behavior that needs to be condemned and dealt with. None of those scripture lessons refer to same-gender relationships based on mutuality and respect and love and characterized by faithfulness and life-long commitment.
Other words for affirm are: confirm, support, encourage, acknowledge and uphold. That is much more then opening the doors for a body, it is opening the doors for a person, it is opening the doors for an equal. In saying that, as followers of Jesus Christ, there are also certain expectations of each other in fellowship: believe and faith in God, and an eagerness to live by God's word.
For more information on our Welcoming and Affirming statement, read this document which contains background information and questions and answers on the statement and this sermon about the process and reasons for creating the statement.
Currently First Church confirms this commitment to diversity in the following activities:
30 Things You Can Do To Be Hospitable To People With Disabilities
Room For All
Several members of First Church belong to Room for All which is a not-for-profit organization within the Reformed Church in America (RCA), the denomination of which First Church is a member. The group is actively seeking full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons within the RCA.
First Church is one of a growing list of Reformed Church in America congregations who have joined a public roster of "Room for All Churches" -- publicly LGBT-inclusive RCA congregations. To view an online database of rostered congregations in the Albany area, see www.believeoutloud.com/take-action/find-your-community.
Supporting Bible studies can be found at www.soulforce.org
You may visit the web site: www.roomforall.com
Room for All: A Welcoming Space
Room for All began with a trial. Or better, with a marriage -- one that set the Reformed Church in America on a trajectory toward becoming, with God's help, what we will surely be one day: a Welcoming Space. This is the story of Room for All's journey from a handful of people who believed in 2005 that God's love embraces people of all sexual identities and gender expressions, to a flourishing network working for LGBTQ inclusion in the RCA.
The impetus for creating this film was, first of all, the tenth anniversary of Room for All. That milestone felt like an appropriate time to recall our beginnings, and celebrate how far we have come. But on a deeper level, we wanted to listen to the voices calling the Body of Christ to “become our best selves,” as one person in the film puts it.
We made this film because we’re not there yet. There are voices for full LGBTQ affirmation resounding within the church, to be sure. “A Welcoming Space” features some of them, along with the witness of Christ-followers whom the church has sought to exclude. In doing so, the film also represents the silent voices, those countless LGBTQ people in the RCA who, throughout their lifetimes, never dared to publicly claim their belovedness as children of God.
Above all, we believe that the voice of the Advocate, the “Spirit of Truth,” continues to testify within, without, and sometimes, in spite of the church. It is our hope and prayer that the Spirit might speak and be heard through this film.
Find out more about Room for All at our website: roomforall.com