KOLOA — Koloa Union Church will celebrate the decision of its members to become an “Open and Affirming” congregation — the second on Kauai — of the United Church of Christ, with a service starting at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.
The designation came about following an effort that started in the 1980s when members of the denomination sought to reach out to lesbian, gay and bisexual persons, welcoming them and their significant others into churches with full inclusion for membership, sacraments, blessings of unions, ordination and employment.
Since the start of that effort, the status has grown to include transgender persons and those who are uncertain, or uncommitted, regarding their gender or sexual orientation.
“Every other United Church of Christ congregation I have served was already Open and Affirming when I began my ministry there,” said the Rev. Dr. Alan Akana. “When I was first asked by the Hawaii Conference of the United Church of Christ if I would consider a pastorate at Koloa Union Church, my first reaction was hesitant since they were not Open and Affirming.”
However, once he met the people of the church, Akana said he realized that they were Open and Affirming in spirit.
“Once that was determined, it was an easy decision for me to move to Koloa from the San Francisco Peninsula where I was living at the time,” he said.
During a congregational meeting in October, the Koloa Union Church voted to participate in a process of discovery that included prayer as well as Bible studies and conversations on the topics of sexuality, gender, inclusion and grace. The congregation also voted on a core team to find biblical, theological and practical resources to lead the church.
Later, another congregational meeting was called. The members unanimously voted to adopt an Open and Affirming Covenant, joining more than 1,500 other congregations in the United States, and five churches in Hawaii.
“It was important to the Open and Affirming core team that the entire congregation was included in the process,” Akana said.
He said before members voted on the covenant, the church had two other congregational meetings where they talked about what it means to be Open and Affirming, and address questions. They also updated people through church newsletters, bulletins and announcements on Sunday mornings.
“All in all, it was a very inclusive process, and I am thrilled with the results, and also the fact that the decision was unanimous,” Akana said.
Michael Horning, a deacon at Koloa Union Church, chaired the Open and Affirming core team, and was likewise happy with the results.
“I was quite surprised that we were not already Open and Afirming,” Horning said. “After all, we have such a diverse group of members.”
Guests are welcome at Sunday’s celebration that includes a special luncheon at the conclusion of the worship service.
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.