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Rev. Andrew Lang

Biography

The Rev. Andrew Lang, in his final “State of the Open and Affirming Movement” address in April 2022 as executive director of the United Church of Christ (UCC) Open and Affirming Coalition (ONA), refers to the Coalition as “One in the Spirit, the Breath of God”. Lang praises all of those who have come before him to create the movement which would eventually become the ONA Coalition and all of those who will come after him, for because of them, one will “never have to breathe alone.” 

Andrew Lang was born May 11, 1953, the youngest of four siblings. Andrew and his three sisters were raised in New London, Connecticut. Their mother was a teacher from an old New England Congregationalist family and their Roman Catholic father was a civilian employee of the U.S. Navy. Lang was raised in the Roman Catholic church and attended Catholic schools, but his mother’s Congregationalist heritage was never far from his mind or his heart. The covenantal tradition of New England Congregationalism would later shape Andrew’s approach to re-energizing the ONA movement within UCC churches. 

Upon graduation from St. Bernard’s High School in Montville, Connecticut, Lang worked for four years as a summer intern reporter for the New London Day newspaper. He studied theology and liturgy at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Lang continued to live in DC until 1993, working as a press secretary in the U.S. Congress and for the non-profit Christic Institute, a progressive interfaith lobby. 

While an undergraduate, Andrew decided to leave the Roman Catholic Church and began practicing as an Episcopalian. In 1993, Andrew opened himself up to a new denomination, one that spoke to him with many of the tones of his mother’s Congregationalist beliefs- the United Church of Christ. 

In 1993, Andrew moved to Cleveland, Ohio to answer a call from the UCC’s Office of Communication, where he served as a reporter and press secretary. His assignments included coverage of theological movements in the UCC and LGBTQ activism in the denomination. For many years he reported on the Craigville Theological Colloquy, the only annual theological conference in the UCC. At the same time, he began to develop arguments for the full inclusion of LGBTQ people based on scripture and tradition, and during a public debate with UCC ethicist Max Stackhouse in 1995, defended same-sex relationships as part of God’s design for humanity. 

In 1994, Andrew developed the UCC’s first website at ucc.org and for the next ten years he led the denomination's national web ministry. In 2007, he created “i.UCC,” the UCC’s first on-line prayer community. 

In 2010, Lang became the Open and Affirming Coalition’s executive director. During his twelve years with the Coalition, the number of “ONA” (LGBTQ-affirming) churches in the UCC grew from 850 to more than 1,800. In this role, he urged ONA congregations to think of their ONA commitment not as a “statement” or “amendment to bylaws” but as a covenant. Returning to his mother’s New England Roots, he reframed the ONA commitment as a “binding relationship between congregations and God” to “walk together in all of God’s ways”- language from Congregationalist churches in the 17th century that, Andrew believes, was relevant to the ONA movement. An ONA covenant welcomes all people to become full members in the life of the church and specifically affirms that persons of all “sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions” are “wanted and needed” by the church. This honest and inclusive relationship with each other and with God is the heart and soul of a true covenant. Andrew believes in the power of being bound by a covenantal relationship and that through relationships with each other ONA ideals would not only develop naturally but would flourish in the local congregation. 

When Lang became the ONA Coalition’s executive director in 2010, only 18% of UCC parishes had adopted ONA covenants. When he retired in 2023, the number of ONA churches had nearly doubled to 35%. Credit for this tremendous success Andrew refuses to take for himself. With honest humility, he praises his mentors, his colleagues and the leaders of the ONA movement who came before him. Had it not been for the difficult road that they had traversed, laid and finally paved, there would have been no place for his ministry. Andrew specifically cites the courageous ministries of the Rev. Dr. William R. Johnson and Rev. Anne Holmes, the first openly gay and lesbian ministers ordained in the UCC. Among his other mentors were the Rev. Dr. Rebecca Voelkel, his predecessor as the Coalition’s director and onetime leader of the interfaith program at the National LGBTQ Task Force, and the Rev. Ann B. Day and Donna Engberg, the first staff leaders of the UCC’s new ONA program in 1986. Andrew attributes his achievements to the “two generations of leaders and activists before me.” Because of them, he was “able to do something good.” Because of them, he never had to, and we will never have to breathe alone

In 2020, Andrew Lang was ordained in a four-way covenant of ministry to ONA churches. After a two-year wait, due to the COVID pandemic, his ordination was hosted by Plymouth United Church of Christ in Shaker Heights, OH. In 2023, Rev. Andrew retired from the Coalition. He is currently working on a project that has been on his heart for a number of years. He is collaborating with an ecumenical team on a prayer book in inclusive language which follows the ancient spiritual practice of praying the “Hours.” The book, The Ancient Hours of Prayer, will be published in 2025.

(This biographical statement was written by Gwen Lawson for a Queer & Trans Theologies class at the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities from an interview with Andy Lang and was edited by Lang.)

Biography Date: December 2023

Additional Resources

"Lang to Retire as ONA Coalition Leader at End of 2022" (April 2022) https://www.ucc.org/lang-to-retire-as-ona-coalition-leader-at-end-of-2022/

"Outgoing ONA Coalition Director Reflects on Challenges/Hopes for the LGBTQ+ Community" (December 2022) https://www.ucc.org/outgoing-ona-coalition-director-reflects-on-challenges-hopes-for-lgbtq-community/

Tags

United Church of Christ/Congregational Church | Clergy Activist | Open and Affirming in the UCC (ONA & formerly UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns) | Cleveland | Ohio | Online activist

Citation

“Rev. Andrew Lang | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed May 30, 2024, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/andrew-lang.

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