Join the Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota Conferences in our Ongoing Commitment to Brave Space

What Is Brave Space?

“Brave Space” is an invitation first offered by Brian Arao and Kristi Clemens. It is a way of creating community, and, for us, Brave Space is a way to BE church. Brave Space is nurtured into being by creating spaces and opportunities for people to summon the courage to be authentic, speak openly, take risks, explore, experiment, learn, and change. Brave Spaces require a commitment to come to a common table, stay engaged, not shy away from the discomfort real learning and growth might require, and be open to letting go of previous ways of understanding. Brave Spaces are not “safe”; they can be uncomfortable and challenging but they are filled with love and grace. Brave Spaces are what Jesus continually created for his disciples and what BEING church invites us all to create now.

A Letter from your Boards of Directors

Dear siblings in Christ,

Knowing that God is indeed still speaking, the Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota Conferences’ Boards of Directors have been reflecting on why we are Church in this time and place. After we listened to stories, engaged in prayer, held sacred the past, and looked to the future, the words became clear. We are Church to most fully express God’s extravagant welcome and to advocate for justice, so that all people may know love, safety, belonging, and dignity.

We believe God is calling us to bold, prophetic, public, and invitational ministry that fosters Brave Spaces and transformation in our Conferences and congregations. We have discerned that God is calling our Conferences to two related commitments: first, to continue our efforts to affirm and celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people (LGBTQ+) in the full life and ministry of our Conferences; and, second, to deepen our collective and ongoing work of identifying, understanding, and dismantling racism in our society, our Church, and ourselves. We invite congregations to join us in this work as well. The Boards of Directors lovingly announce our Conferences’ commitments and covenants: 

The Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota Conferences are LGBTQ+ inclusive Conferences. The covenant and commitment we each make to being an LGBTQ+ inclusive, Open and Affirming (ONA) Church together is enclosed, and we hope you will share it with your congregation. The Conferences join the movement that has been growing since 1985, when the UCC General Synod met in Ames, IA, and encouraged congregations to dedicate time for education, conversation, and discernment, and to grow in their welcoming of all people. At the invitation of the ONA movement, churches began learning more about LGBTQ+ people’s experiences, changing church culture, and publicly speaking this clear message: ALL LGBTQ+ people are welcomed, loved, and celebrated as beloved children of God.

The Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota Conferences are Anti-Racist Conferences. The covenant and commitment we each make to being an Anti-Racist Church together is enclosed, and we hope you will share it with your congregation. The Conferences join the movement that has been growing since 2003, when the General Synod called on the UCC to be an Anti-Racist Church and encouraged all UCC settings to examine historic and current forms of racism and their impact, and commit to dismantling racism. As as Anti-Racist Church, we are inspired by the example of Jesus to be spiritually grounded, engaged in self-reflection, grow in awareness of systems of power and oppression, and challenge the status quo.

We ask you to join with us by creating Brave Spaces in your church for discernment and learning, and we hope you will embrace these covenants in your church. Start by talking with your leaders about committing to creating Brave Space for conversation and learning about LGBTQ+ inclusion and anti-racism. Then reach out to your Conference’s Board of Directors so that we come alongside one another.

We request your congregation return the response sheet enclosed (or fill it out online) so we know how you are engaging in this work and how to support you. Resources to help along this journey are enclosed and on our website. We hope you’ll utilize a Collaborating Partner and attend upcoming events.

We live in a time and place where the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of God’s beloveds are at risk. We, the Church, can and should be places of celebration and life for all people. You have an important role to play in this holy, sacred, and wonderful work.

With hope for our future together,

The Iowa Conference Board of Directors
The Nebraska Conference Board of Directors
The South Dakota Conference Board of Directors

Collaborating Partners

The Conference’s Collaborating Partners are available to help your congregation with creating Brave Space, moving towards being an inclusive church, and striving to be an anti-racist church. They collaborate with leaders via phone or video conference to help a church create a culture for Brave Space, plan, answer questions and dialogue about best practices and resources, build momentum, and expand programs for learning and action. Request to be connected with a Conference Collaborating Partner by emailing bravespace@ucctcm.org, filling out the form below, or by calling the Conference Office 515-277-6369.

Request a Collaborating Partner

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Brave Space Events

Brave Space events are listed on our calendar page. To view only the events associated with Brave Space, use the category filter “Brave Space” at the top of the calendar.

Our Faithful Commitment to Extravagant Welcome and Being an LGBTQ+ Inclusive Church

Because we affirm that the beauty and blessedness of God’s creation is present in all people: 

We make a conscious and deliberate decision to celebrate the diversity of creation as uniquely embodied in people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+). We honor the sacredness of people’s lives through extravagant welcome and unconditional affirmation of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. 

Because we confess that harm has been done to LGBTQ+ people in the name of God: 

We renounce theologies, ideologies, and doctrines that oppress or exclude anyone of any sexual orientation or gender identity. We intentionally design church systems and structures that both include and amplify the voices of all LGBTQ+ people and center the voices of LGBTQ+ indigenous people and LGBTQ+ people of color. 

Because we embrace the extravagant love taught by Jesus: 

We celebrate LGBTQ+ youth and work to create a world where youth grow up in loving community. We preach prophetically, witness publicly, and act boldly to live lives of unconditional love. 

Because we recognize the need for greater understanding of LGBTQ+ people within our faith communities:

We support one another on journeys of claiming gender identities and sexual orientation. We follow the lead of LGBTQ+ persons and families in order to learn to be allies who actively resist and overcome systemic injustices of all kinds.

Because we look forward to the time when every church in our conference, in the UCC, in our country, and in our world senses the movement of the Spirit, recognizes that all persons belong to God, and fully celebrates people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in its life and ministry:

We strive for justice and inclusion of LGBTQ+ people within all settings of the Conference’s ministry, and we support our ministers and laypeople who protest and speak out, and who advocate for equity in access to housing, health care, education, banking, and all other social institutions that disadvantage LGBTQ+ people.

We create Brave Spaces in our Conference and dedicate time for the education, conversation, and discernment central to the journey of being an LGBTQ+ inclusive church, and we invite all congregations to create Brave Space specific to LGBTQ+ inclusion in their own communities.

We hope for each and every congregation to one day prophetically and publicly commit to being an LGBTQ+ inclusive and Open and Affirming Church and to living out that commitment anew each day.

We commit to BE Church together, live into God’s extravagant welcome, and advocate for justice so that all people may know love, safety, belonging, and dignity.

Our Faithful Commitment to Being an Anti-Racist Church

Because we affirm that the beauty and blessedness of God’s creation is present in all people:

We make a conscious and deliberate decision to celebrate diversity of creation as uniquely experienced by people of color. We honor the sacredness of people’s lives saying, “Black lives matter. Indigenous people’s lives matter. People of color’s lives matter. LGBTQ+ people of color matter.”

Because we know racism will not be eradicated without deliberate engagement in analysis and action:

We shake off complacency and strive constantly to identify the social institutions and practices that grant power and privilege to white people over and against people of color. We do not deflect, deny, or evade opportunities to examine racism and privilege and its effects—and then we work to dismantle it. 

Because we confess that harm has been done to people of color in the name of God by words and deeds, and by silence and complacency:

We renounce theologies, ideologies, and doctrines that have been used to justify the enslavement and degradation of people of color. We examine and reimagine church systems and structures, decolonize our iconography and images, and transform the language of liturgies and hymns.

Because we embrace the extravagant love taught by Jesus:

We celebrate black, indigenous, and youth of color and follow their leadership toward creating a world that thinks critically about race and racism, then acts for justice. We preach prophetically, witness publicly, and act boldly to confront injustice in all forms.

Because we recognize the need for greater understanding of how racism and white supremacy have impacted people in faith communities:

We support one another on journeys to learn how racism and its effects are embedded in the Church, in all social institutions, as well as in ourselves. We follow the lead of and come alongside people of color to actively resist and overcome systemic injustices of all kinds.

Because we look forward to the time when every church in our conference, in the UCC, in our country, and in our world senses the movement of the Spirit, recognizes the impact of racism on people’s lives and our communities, and commits to dismantling racism:

We strive for racial justice within all settings of the Conference’s ministry, and we support our ministers and laypeople who protest and speak out, and who advocate for equity in access to housing, health care, education, banking, and all other social institutions that disadvantage people of color. 

We create Brave Spaces in our Conference and dedicate time for the education, conversation, and discernment central to the journey of being anti-racist and dismantling racism, and we invite all congregations to create Brave Space specific to anti-racism in their own communities. 

We hope for each and every congregation to one day prophetically and publicly commit to being an Anti-Racist Church and to living out that commitment anew each day. 

We commit to BE Church together, live into God’s extravagant welcome, and advocate for justice so that all people may know love, safety, belonging, and dignity.

What’s the Next Step?

The holy work of being a UCC LGBTQ+ inclusive and Open and Affirming (ONA) Church and an Anti-Racist Church is a lifelong journey. The designations are not the destination; rather they are only the beginning of an ongoing commitment to education, self-examination, relationship building, institutional changes, community engagement, and justice work. Read on to learn more about what next steps might be for your congregation.

The LGBTQ+ Inclusive and ONA Movement in the church

Open and Affirming (ONA) is the United Church of Christ’s (UCC) designation for congregations, campus ministries, conferences, and other settings in the UCC that make a public covenant of welcome into their full life and ministry to persons of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions. ONA churches commit to the work of Building an Inclusive Church and creating a culture within the Church that extravagantly welcomes people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) as a part of the Church’s love for all people.

The Anti-Racist Movement in the church

An Anti-Racist Church is the United Church of Christ’s designation for congregations, campus ministries, conferences, and other settings in the UCC which make a public, collective commitment to the continual and ongoing work to actively understand, identify, and dismantle racism wherever they find it, including in themselves. Anti-racist churches are inspired by the example of Jesus, to be spiritually grounded, engaged in self-reflection, grow in awareness of systems of power and oppression, and challenge the status quo so that all may experience love, safety, belonging, and dignity.