Unitarian Universalist Affirmation of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender People
by the Reverend Barbara J. Pescan
'Love ye one another' is as good a place as any to uncover the origins of the first of the seven principles we promote in Unitarian Universalism: We affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Using our minds and hearts and life experiences as reliable instruments to discern what is right, we enter the combined history and traditions of Unitarians and Universalists to articulate where we stand in relation to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people.
Historically, the Universalists believed in the essential goodness of God and, therefore, would not damn individuals to an eternal hell; Universalists said there was no hell. And all individuals are capable of learning what is good.
Unitarians believed, and still believe, that everyone has the capacity to learn the right and do what is right. Our tradition encourages us to understand and weigh the religious voices and visions of every place and time in light of our own experience.
So when we evaluate current issues, as individuals or in our assemblies, we weigh what was previously thought against emergent truths, especially as our understanding grows about what it means to be human.
Since 1970, the Unitarian Universalist Associate (UUA) has passed resolutions in support of GLBT people. Beginning with resolutions calling for educational efforts and non-discriminatory hiring practices within the UUA, the Association has worked to grow more congruent with its Principles and Purposes. We have addressed legal equity (1986, including advocacy for those with HIV/AIDS) and affirmed services of union (1984). In 1996 the UUA made history by being the first mainline denomination in the U.S. to adopt a position supporting legally recognized marriage between members of the same sex.
In 1989 we funded the development of an association-wide program through which a church or fellowship becomes a Welcoming Congregation, proactive in affirming GLBT members of their congregations. Beyond Categorical Thinking is an equal opportunity program designed in part to settle GLBT ministers and to address many kinds of bias, especially in the process of ministerial searches.
We are proud of our record of affirmation and advocacy. The women and men who brought these resolutions to votes have often acted with the support of their local congregations, and sometimes in painful awareness of opposition to these views. Moving the resolutions from words to deeds depends on the continued presence and vigilance of all who work to embody our Principles and Purposes to the fullest extent.
But we are not finished. Those of us who have found our way to affirm our sexual identities despite all the forces ranged against us and within us (Adrienne Rich), have the responsibility to be a bridge to those still seeking, still angry, still frightened, still excluded.
As we continue our efforts on behalf of all those who are still denied the full rights of their humanity for reasons of sexual and affectional orientation and gender identity—and for reasons of ethnicity, gender, age, economic status, physical challenges, or the construct of race—this record of resolve is an inspiration. We are called to make public, as part of our religious practice, what we believe—that the human family is one, and that the love that binds us is greater than the fears that divide us.
Unitarian Universalist spirituality comes full circle when a person understands that whenever you enter the doors of a Unitarian Universalist congregation, you may not lock them after you—not against what may arise in your own heart, nor against another who will come. It is the root of our faith that we expect ourselves never to cease working for justice, equity and compassion in human relations, especially when we have found our home inside. It is incumbent upon us to push the boundaries of the word "we" to see whom it may come to include. We belong here, not only to receive the comfort of acceptance, but also to speak out for those yet awaiting welcome.
Since 1995, Rev. Barbara J. Pescan has served the Unitarian Church of Evanston, Illinois—first with her life partner as co-minister and, since 2003, as its senior pastor.
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