How We Became a Welcoming Congregation?
We believe that our first Principle, respecting “the inherent worth and dignity of every person,” applies equally to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Unitarian Universalism intentionally reaches out to LGBTQ people and their families. Unitarian Universalist churches that are formally designated Welcoming Congregations have completed a program to enhance their welcome of all people.
How Did The Church Become A Welcoming Congregation?
We engaged in The Welcoming Congregation Program, which is a volunteer program for congregations that see a need to become more inclusive towards bisexual, gay, lesbian, and/or transgender people. The program consists of a series of workshops developed by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA).
The goal of the workshops was to reduce prejudice by increasing understanding and acceptance among people of all sexual orientations. Some of the workshop titles included: How Homophobia hurts heterosexuals; connections to other forms of oppression; gender socialization and homophobia; and biblical perspectives on homosexuality.
Why Just Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and/or Transgender People?
Why single out gay, lesbian, bisexual, and/or transgender people? The Rev. Douglas Morgan Strong probably states it best in the Welcoming Congregation manual:
For centuries, the church has been a leading force against sexual minorities. It is not surprising that gay people are reluctant to reach out to the very institution that oppresses them. Yet, gay, lesbian, [transgender], and bisexual people have no less need for warmth, caring, and affirmation than anyone else who calls the liberal church their religious home. In fact, as a subculture in society gay, lesbian, [transgender], and bisexual people may need our support more than the general population.
What Does It Mean To Be A Welcoming Congregation?
We publicly welcome gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and we:
- Include and address the needs of LGBTQ persons at every level of congregational life, including in worship, programs, and social occasions.
- Include LGBTQ people in rites of passage and welcome not only their presence, but their gifts and individual experiences.
- Assume that LGBTQ people will attend our church and we celebrate this diversity by having inclusive language and content in our worship.
- Fully incorporate the experiences of LGBTQ persons throughout all programs, including religious education.
- Include an affirmation and nondiscrimination clause in our by-laws and other official documents that affect all dimensions of congregational life, including membership, hiring practices, and the calling of religious professionals.
- Engage in outreach into the LGBTQ community in our advertising and actively support LGBTQ affirmative groups.
- Offer congregational and ministerial support for union and memorial services for LGBTQ persons, and for celebrations of their families.
- Celebrate the lives of all people and welcomes same-sex couples, recognizing their committed relationships, and affirming displays of caring and affection without regard to sexual orientation.
- Seek to nurture ongoing dialogue between gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and heterosexual persons to create deeper trust and sharing.
- Encourage membership in a UUA Interweave Chapter.
- Affirm and celebrate LGBTQ issues and history during the church year.
- Attend to legislative development and work to promote justice, freedom, and equality in the larger society.
- Speak out when the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and other people are at stake.
- Celebrate the lives of all people and their ways of expressing their love for each other.
Wasn’t The Congregation Welcoming Before?
Yes, it’s true that our church probably met most of the qualifications for a Welcoming Congregation. Our church bylaws state that we do “not discriminate on the basis of age, race, occupation, gender, past religious affiliation, or sexual orientation.” Our membership already included gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons who are active members, willing to give of themselves and share their experiences with us. However, official recognition as a Welcoming Congregation allows us to open our church as safe space for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons; to take positions on oppression in our larger communities; and to carry out outreach programs.
How Does Belonging To A Welcoming Congregation Benefit Me?
Confronting our prejudices in a non-judgmental, non-threatening group allows us to explore their origins and offers an opportunity to replace those prejudices with knowledge. Understanding our prejudices leads to personal spiritual growth and congregational unity. Learn more about the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Welcoming Congregation program.