As we celebrate LGBTQIA+ Pride Month and our legacy as an Open and Affirming Congregation, it is a good time for us to reflect on the ways we live out our values as a community. We recognize that there is a difference between saying “All are welcome” and “This was created with you in mind.” We have experienced that in our own community as we have worked to make visible our covenant commitment to worship God in unity and diversity.
In his new book Made, Known, and Loved: Developing LQBTQ-Inclusive Youth Ministry, author Ross Murray has a chapter titled Should I Set Up a Program Exclusively for LGBTQ Youth or Just Practice Inclusivity? Ross is the founder and camp director of The Naming Project, a faith-based church camp for LGBTQ youth. He opens the chapter with a question from one of his campers: “Is it OK to invite a straight friend to come [to camp] with me?”
Are we functioning as a heteronormative organization that welcomes queer folks into straight spaces? Do we intentionally seek queer perspectives in our Bible studies, worship services, partnering organizations? Are we actively cultivating relationships within Seattle, or do we rest on the legacy of past work? Do we consistently say trans men are men and trans women are women? Do we have a trans-friendly building? Do we create intentional space for UCUCC members that are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer to gather for mutual support and spiritual care?
Some of these questions can be answered with a resounding “Yes!” Others may require deeper reflection. All of us – gay and straight – might ask the question, “Is it OK to invite a friend from the LGBTQ community to come to church?” We know that churches have been – and often still are – places of explicit harm and hatred. How expansive would our community look before we would also ask, “Is it OK to invite a straight friend to UCUCC?”
Our welcome statement says, “We are an inclusive church, open to diverse people and beliefs, rooted in God’s extravagant love, mercy and justice. We are an open and affirming church where we celebrate our diversity in religious background, sexual orientation, race, and abilities.” We name our intention to be diverse and our ongoing work is to ask the probing questions about what such an intention means in terms of action. We know our values, we know what we seek to cultivate. How do we move beyond a statement toward actions that create unity amidst our diversity? It isn’t enough to talk about our LGBTQIA community in June and Black Liberation Theology in February and Disability Rights in October. By the grace of God we are called to do it all, all the time. Let us create a space that moves beyond “All Are Welcome” toward a Beloved Community made with you, and others, and each of us in mind.
Pastor Amy is currently on vacation and will return July 6