Beyond Categorical ThinkingBeyond Categorical Thinking The Beyond Categorical Thinking (BCT) program works with Unitarian Universalist congregations to promote inclusive thinking and help prevent unfair discrimination in the ministerial search process. During the Beyond Categorical Thinking visit, the congregation will learn more about its institutional culture, examine ways it can be more inclusive in its consideration of ministerial candidates, and surface subtle and often unintentional, unconscious biases members hold that may result in a decision to not select the minister who would be the best fit for their ministerial needs. Unitarian Universalist ministers who identify as people of color; as Latina/Latino/Hispanic; as bisexual, gay, lesbian, and/or transgender; or as a person with a disability often have a more difficult time in the ministerial search process because of unconscious congregational biases. Even in congregations that have called a minister, interim minister, or intern from one of the aforementioned identity groups, new biases have arisen because the congregation mistakenly assumed that the presence of these ministers means that they have adequately addressed diversity issues and need no further work. The Beyond Categorical Thinking program creates opportunities for conversations and reflection for the congregation to identify issues related to identity. In the process, congregations explore some of these biases, learn more about the search process, and begin to think about next steps, such as further consultation, education, or training beyond the BCT program. The Beyond Categorical Thinking program began in the late 1980s. Ministers of color; ministers who were gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender; ministers with a disability; and women ministers all had more difficult times in finding settlements in congregations than white, heterosexual, able-bodied, male ministers. The UUA, through its Department of Ministry (now called Ministry and Professional Leadership), created the Beyond Categorical Thinking program to improve the odds that all qualified ministers, regardless of identity, would have equal opportunities in the settlement process. Congregations were encouraged to undertake the Beyond Categorical Thinking program during their ministerial search process. As the number of successful congregational settlements for women Unitarian Universalist ministers increased, the primary focus became issues of race, sexual orientation, and physical ability. Recently, gender identity (transgender issues) and disability issues (such as depression, lupus, attention deficit, and alcoholism/substance abuse), have surfaced more frequently as considerations. In some congregations, issues of gender, class, and age may be of particular interest. Theological diversity is a continuing concern for congregations in the search process. While this issue is important, Beyond Categorical Thinking is not intended to address this concern. Congregations are strongly encouraged to reflect on these issues through other avenues. ***Note: over the years the anxiety over theological diversity has lessened in Unitarian Universalist congregations as we have realized that there has always been significant theological diversity among our members. The Weekend Visit The visit includes a Sunday morning worship service and three-hour workshop. The program may also include a meeting with the search committee and other congregational leaders prior to the service and workshop. Visits are made by a team of two facilitators, though occasionally there will be a single highly experienced facilitator. As schedules allow, the facilitators reflect on one or more of the identities addressed in the three hour workshop. Facilitators may be ministers, seminary students, Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) staff, and/or experienced lay leaders within Unitarian Universalism. Each of these facilitators has received training in leading the workshop, and many have done so for numerous congregations. The facilitator team provides the sermon and usually chooses the hymns and reading(s). The congregation takes responsibility for the welcome, announcements, and candles of joy and concern, and all choral and instrumental pieces of music. Opening words, time for all ages, chalice lighting, offertory and benediction can be done by the team if they have particular interest in any of these. Details should be worked out between the search committee contact and the team leader. Sample orders of service are often very useful for team leaders to examine ahead of time. If there is more than one service, the team is prepared to lead both services. SCHEDULING: Often the Beyond Categorical Thinking workshop follows the Sunday service. The workshop lasts 3 hours, though occasionally it may run slightly shorter. NOTE: In a few cases, based on the cultural norms of the congregation, the search committee decides that attendance will be stronger on Saturday as opposed to Sunday after the service. If the workshop follows the Sunday service, the congregational organizers of the event usually provide lunch for workshop participants and the facilitators. Even if a meal is not provided for participants, a lunch must be provided for the facilitator team. PRE-EVENT MEETING (Optional): Sometimes, facilitators meet with congregational leaders and/or the search committee ahead of the worship and workshop to talk about the life of the congregation, the work of the search committee, and to give those involved a chance to know one another better. Pre-event meetings give the facilitator team a sense of the congregation as well as underscore the importance of the weekend for the church leadership. These advance meetings are not required, and it is up to the team and search committee to decide what is best for the congregation. COSTS: Travel costs are paid for by the UUA. Each congregation contributes $250 towards honoraria paid to team members. Team members may accept home hospitality or stay at a nearby hotel. They may or may need transportation assistance.
This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.
Last updated on Tuesday, July 26, 2011.
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