Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Resistance and Transformation: An Adult Program on Unitarian Universalist Social Justice History


The program presents the problems of the invisible minority as they face a society where the majority view homosexuality with confusion, fear and hostility. The emphasis throughout is on understanding and accepting all people as human beings of worth and dignity. — from the 1972 Leaders Manual for The Invisible Minority: The Homosexuals in Our Society, published by the Unitarian Universalist Association

The fight for marriage equality has been a success of modern Unitarian Universalist activism, which has been instrumental in changing marriage laws in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Iowa, and Washington, DC. Unitarian Universalists' work for marriage equality continues across the country, extending our history of working for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) rights. In 1969, Unitarian Universalist minister James Stoll was the first United States clergyperson affiliated with a religious denomination to publicly "come out." Unitarian Universalists ordained openly gay and lesbian ministers and officiated at same sex unions long before many other religious groups. In 1970, at General Assembly, the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) became the first religious denomination to decry discrimination against "homosexuals and bisexuals" and to acknowledge the presence of bisexual, gay, and lesbian clergy. By 2006, more than half the Association's congregations were designated as Welcoming Congregations—congregations with a commitment to be "inclusive towards bisexual, gay, lesbian, and/or transgender people."

Nevertheless, there are still Unitarian Universalist congregations, which, in practice, will not consider calling a LGBT minister or allow LGBT youth advisors. This workshop invites participants to reflect on their own congregation's work for LGBT rights and inclusion—the work that was necessary in the congregation to change attitudes about LGBT members and leaders, and the work which still needs to be done. Participants explore how the UUA's public position on LGBT rights has influenced the nation overall and strengthened the ability of the Association and its member congregations to advocate for social change.

The title of this workshop, Beyond Binaries, emphasizes that the movement for LGBT equality is, in part, about persuading people to think beyond the simplistic notions of gender and sexuality that pervade the dominant culture: male/female, gay/straight. Full, fair inclusion of LGBT people requires an understanding that expressions of sexuality and gender identity fall along a continuum and are fluid in nature.

To ensure you can help adults of all ages, stages, and learning styles participate fully in this workshop, review these sections of the program Introduction: "Accessibility Guidelines for Workshop Presenters" in the Integrating All Participants section, and "Strategies for Effective Group Facilitation" and "Strategies for Brainstorming" in the Leader Guidelines section.


This workshop will:

  • Explore the history of the LGBT movement in Unitarian Universalism
  • Explore the prophetic stance taken by the UUA and its member congregations in advocating for LGBT equality and inclusion
  • Consider ways in which the Unitarian Universalist LGBT movement offers a model for cultural change in our congregations.

Learning Objectives

Participants will:

  • Become familiar with the history of the LGBT movement in Unitarian Universalism
  • Examine the relationship between the public stances of the Unitarian Universalist Association and individual congregational life and practices
  • Discover the difference the Welcoming Congregation program and openly LGBT clergy have made in the ability of Unitarian Universalist congregations to welcome LGBT people
  • Explore the importance of public witness in creating welcoming community.