First Christian Church votes to become 'open and affirming'


Members of First Christian Church in Jasper voted unanimously on Sunday to proclaim themselves to be an open and affirming congregation.

The resolution affirms in part that "full and equal participation in the life and leadership of our church is open to all."

"We thought it was time that Jasper had a congregation that would open its doors officially and let the community know that the LGBTQ community is welcome in our doors in leadership, membership and any of our programs," the Rev. C.J. Cobb said.

Cobb added that a few other local churches also welcome the full participation of members of the LGBTQ community as First Christian Church has as well before making it official with a formal resolution.

The move comes six months after delegates at the United Methodist Church General Conference voted to reaffirm the traditional definition of marriage, forbidding congregations to perform same-sex ceremonies and barring the ordination of LGBTQ clergy.

Locally, the treatment of LQBTQ residents became a topic of conversation this summer after comments made by Carbon Hill Mayor Mark Chambers drew national attention. 

First Christian Church is part of the Disciples of Christ, a mainline Protestant denomination described on its website as "a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world."

The local congregation was established in August 1898 and has been holding services in the current church building on 18th Street East for over 90 years.

The Disciples of Christ observe congregational rule, and congregations run the gamut from liberal to conservative, according to Cobb.

Several of the 55 other congregations scattered throughout Alabama and northwest Florida have voted to become open and affirming communities of faith, he added.

First Christian Church board members agreed in June to bring the matter before the congregation for a vote. 

The resolution approved on Sunday reads, "First Christian Church of Jasper Alabama is an Open and Affirming Congregation. We openly welcome persons of all sexual orientation, gender expression, socioeconomic status, family configuration, age, national origin, race, religious or non-religious background, and physical or mental condition. We embrace all people at any point in their faith journey and recognize each person’s spiritual gifts. We proclaim God’s inclusive welcome to the Communion Table, and affirm that full and equal participation in the life and leadership of our church is open to all. We seek to continue to learn and grow in our efforts to be a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world."

Whereas some churches allow LGBTQ individuals to participate in some parts of church life but not others, Cobb said First Christian Church has no barriers.

"I think a lot of churches are like 'don't ask, don't tell,' so you can't be your authentic kind of self. Where you do need to find that is in church. You don't choose this, and God doesn't make junk," Cobb said.