In 1987 a UUA committee was formed to collect information about how welcomed and accepted gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual persons felt in their UU congregations. Many individuals reported that they felt unaffirmed, unwelcomed and unsupported in their liberal religious communities. Though much of this exclusion was very subtle and most of it was quite unintentional, many people felt that they didn't really belong and either drifted away or stayed "in the closet," hiding basic aspects of who they are from other members of their congregations. This finding troubled many UU's who have committed to making our congregations welcoming and inclusive places for all people, especially minority groups who have traditionally experienced exclusion, discrimination, and misrepresentation within our society.
Citing the principles of our UU faith-especially the first, that affirms the inherent worth and dignity of very person-the 1989 General Assembly voted to initiate the Welcoming Congregation Program, a process of study and reflection to prepare to become a recognized Welcoming Congregation. A few other faith traditions have similar programs. A congregation that is designated a Welcoming Congregation commits to being inclusive and expressive of the concerns of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons at every level of congregational life-in worship, in programs, and in social occasions-welcoming not only their presence, but also the unique gifts and particulars of their lives as well.
In the summer of 2004, the UUFC Board agreed to begin the adult education curriculum of the Welcoming Congregation program, from August through May. The monthly workshops involved people from the larger community, including other faith traditions and representatives of Clemson University, exploring the issues and questions through discussion, films, exercises and testimony. Following a three week written advisory vote (Parish Poll), which indicated by a vote of 108 in favor, three abstentions and one negative vote, the decision to become a designated Welcoming Congregation was affirmed on September 25, 2005 at a congregational meeting with a vote of 74-0.
Being a Welcoming Congregation means that we commit to the following efforts:
1. A Welcoming Congregation does not assume that everyone is heterosexual. Vocabulary of worship reflects this awareness, and worship celebrates all types of diversity through inclusive language and content.
2. An understanding of the experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons is fully incorporated throughout all programs, including religious education.
3. A Welcoming Congregation seeks to nurture ongoing dialogue between lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and heterosexual persons, and to create deeper trust and understanding.
The Welcoming Congregation is important to all of us, regardless of sexual orientation. Gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual persons are not the only ones who may feel alone in our community. Persons of color, the physically challenged, various ethnic and national minorities, persons of low income or educational status, those recovering from addiction or suffering from mental illness, and other groups may feel excluded by some congregations. Although each group experiences the "chill" in a congregation differently, and the steps required to warm the chill will vary from one congregation to another, there is a universal imperative to end the pain and exclusion. Only when our congregations are truly open to the diversity of all persons who come to our doors will the principles of Unitarian Universalism speak with a large and lasting voice.
(This statement was adapted, with appreciation, from the UU Church of Augusta web site)
Read More about the UUA LGBTG Ministry: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Ministries