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Guidelines and Action Steps for Welcoming Congregations

No set of guidelines can address the diverse needs of the wide range of Unitarian Universalist congregations, but the following Commitments to inclusiveness and Actions for achieving those Commitments were adopted by the delegates of the 1989 General Assembly as the outline for the Welcoming Congregation Program, and have been updated slightly over the years.

These guidelines are not offered as a blueprint but rather as a suggestive road map for congregations beginning the journey toward becoming truly welcoming of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. You can also check out ten ways to be more welcoming.

Commitments

  1. A Welcoming Congregation is inclusive and expressive of the concerns of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer at every level of congregational life—in worship, in program, and in social occasions—welcoming not only their presence but the unique gifts and particularities of their lives as well.
     
  2. A Welcoming Congregation does not assume anyone’s affectional/sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Vocabulary of worship reflects this perception; worship celebrates diversity by inclusivity of language and content.
     
  3. An understanding of the experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual,  transgender, and queer persons is fully incorporated by a Welcoming Congregation throughout all programs, including religious education.
     
  4. The bylaws and other official documents of a Welcoming Congregation include an affirmation and nondiscrimination clause affecting all dimensions of congregational life, including membership, hiring practices, and the calling of religious professionals.
     
  5. A Welcoming Congregation engages in outreach into lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities, both through its advertising and by actively supporting other lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer affirmative groups.
     
  6. A Welcoming Congregation offers congregational and ministerial support for services of union and memorial services for persons who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer, and celebrations of evolving definitions of family.
     
  7. A Welcoming Congregation celebrates the lives of all people and welcomes same-gender couples, recognizing their committed relationships, and equally affirms displays of caring and affection without regard for sexual orientation.
     
  8. A Welcoming Congregation seeks to nurture ongoing dialogue between people of different affectional/sexual orientations and gender identities, and to create deeper trust and sharing.
     
  9. A Welcoming Congregation encourages the presence of a chapter of Interweave (Unitarian Universalists for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns).
     
  10. A Welcoming Congregation affirms and celebrates lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer issues and history during the church year.
     
  11. A Welcoming Congregation, as an advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people, attends to legislative developments and works to promote justice, freedom, and equality in the larger society. It speaks out when the rights and dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people are at stake.
     
  12. A Welcoming Congregation celebrates the lives of all people and their ways of expressing their love for each other.

Action Steps

The below steps are offered in the hope that all congregations going through a Welcoming Congregation Program will consider incorporating them into their work. Not all steps are appropriate for all congregations; it is up to each congregation to adjust its goals according to its unique situation and needs. However, every Welcoming Congregation Program must cover the three areas of education, congregational life, and community outreach.

When submitting an application for recognition as a Welcoming Congregation, it is often helpful to address how your congregation met the Action Steps, how you altered the steps to suit your needs, and what additional steps you took in each area—not because these steps are requirements but rather to help the Unitarian Universalist Association best understand your unique context, in order to help support all of our congregations in their welcome and inclusion.

Education

  1. Offer religious education for people of all ages that incorporates lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer life issues.
  2. Promote participation by congregational leaders, including the minister(s), religious education minister or director, president, moderator, and board members in the Welcoming Congregation Program.
  3. As part of the Welcoming Congregation Program, offer congregation-wide educational opportunities (such as a workshop series), with follow-up opportunities for study and reflection.
  4. Use the Unitarian Universalist sexuality education program Our Whole Lives.

Congregational Life

  1. Form a broad-based Welcoming Congregation committee to design and offer programming and monitor progress.
  2. Adjust congregational bylaws and other relevant documents to include an affirmative nondiscrimination clause concerning membership, hiring practices, and the calling of religious professionals.
  3. Use inclusive language and content as a regular part of worship services, and provide worship coordinators and speakers with guidelines on inclusive language.
  4. For members and members’ families, provide main worship space and ministerial services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer rites of passage, such as services of union, dedications of children, and gender-affirming ceremonies.
  5. Welcome people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer in places such as the congregation's website, brochure, and orders of service.
  6. Ensure that publications, public information, and programming reflect the requested status of all individuals as they see appropriate; recognize same-gender couples and transgender individuals in directories and other publications as they desire.

Community Outreach

  1. Celebrate and affirm lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer issues and history during the church year (possible options include Pride, Transgender Day of Remembrance, and National Coming Out Day).
  2. Participate in and/or support efforts to create justice, freedom, and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people in the larger society.
  3. For members of your congregation’s larger community, provide main worship space and ministerial services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer rites of passage, such as services of union, dedications of children, and gender-affirming ceremonies.
  4. Establish and maintain contact with local lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer groups and organizations, to build relationships, offer support in whatever ways are needed, and promote dialogue and interaction.
  5. Advertise in the local press and/or other media that reaches lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer communities.
  6. Provide use of building space when requested by members for programs and meetings of groups such as an Interweave (Unitarian Universalists for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Concerns) chapter, and also provide use of building space when requested by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community groups.

 

For more information contact lgbtq @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Tuesday, February 12, 2013.

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