First Congregational Church of Topeka has long put its actions toward being an Open and Affirming church. As of January 2023, FCC has completed all necessary steps to be formally recognized by the Open and Affirming Coalition. As part of this process, our church information (website, phone address) is now available for those searching for an open and affirming church. Many thanks to Dennis Etzel Jr. for his deeply thoughtful contributions to this statement as well as Tobias Schlingensiepen for pursuing this work through its completion.
Photo Credit: GodsDoor.org
Open and Affirming Statement
As First Congregational Church we not only strive to place our faith in Jesus Christ but also to follow in his footsteps. We hold sacred his commandment to us to love both God and neighbor. We seek peace with justice not only for our neighbors but also for all humankind.
We recognize that, historically, the churches, including our congregation, have often, and in various ways, fallen short of what Jesus commanded his beloved community to be. We have not faithfully followed his commandment that enjoins us to love ALL others. We acknowledge the harm we, as members of Christ’s body, have caused and continue to cause to members of the LGBTQ+ community and vow to take action by examining whatever biases we may personally hold, as well as our participation in systemic biases of which we are often unaware.
Together, we vow to welcome, affirm, and encourage LGBTQ+ persons as full members in the life and work of our congregation. We embrace and support them in all roles of service, whether as married couples, parents, as pastoral leaders, lay leaders, or in any and all forms of paid and volunteer service to our community. We have already been doing this and will continue to.
Any commitment is meaningless without accountability, and so we will actively keep account of how we include the LGBTQ+ community, as well as other people and groups, in the life of our congregation. We will review it annually.
First Congregational Church of Topeka was formed in 1855 as part of abolitionist efforts to ensure that the Kansas Territory would enter the Union as a non-slave holding free state. Our original name, therefore, was The Free Congregational Church. A decade later, our congregation was instrumental in founding Lincoln College (now Washburn University) in Topeka, Kansas, which offered educational opportunities to African Americans and women from its inception. Over the years, our members have played a role in the founding of facilities to care for our senior citizens, for the most severely physically and mentally disabled among the citizens of our city and state, as well as founding safe places that help to employ the differently abled. Our members have also founded and supported a school for the education of preschool-age children. Recently, we have participated in the founding of a shelter for LGBTQ+ youth, as well as supporting ministries and undocumented workers in Topeka.
Today, therefore, we continue to commit ourselves to living up to our mission statement: No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here. LGBTQ+ inclusion is one form of inclusion, but we know that, given our human nature, we must actively seek to include those who are, or will be, excluded for other reasons, such as those who face systemic injustice: people of all gender expressions and identities including race, class, ethnicity, national origin, residency status, age, ability, and sexuality throughout society.
Our congregation’s vision statement is therefore simple; we will strive to welcome everyone, in the hopes that that welcome will not only be extended to everyone here, in our congregation, but one day to all people everywhere. To that end we commit ourselves. Amen.
January 14, 2024