Recognized by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), a Welcoming Congregation supports and affirms persons who identify as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender). BUUF was recognized as a Welcoming Congregation in 2006. From 2001 to 2006, guided by the Welcoming Congregation Handbook, BUUF made an organized and documented effort to become a Welcoming Congregation. The effort focused on three areas: education, congregational life, and community outreach. Examples of BUUF’s actions in the process of becoming a Welcoming Congregation help define what it is to be a Welcoming Congregation.
Becoming a Welcoming Congregation: Education
- Including a “Welcoming Congregation Corner” in the monthly newsletter article by the Director of Religious Education.
- Six BUUF members attending Together in Faith, a two-day conference of LGBT issues, and publishing reports of the conference in the monthly newsletter.
- Sunday services on GLBT issues and the Welcoming Congregation presented by leaders in the local lesbian and gay community, gay and straight UU ministers, student ministers, and by members of the BUUF congregation.
- Two six-hour workshops created and conducted by Stephen Jukuri, Ph.D., one at the First Unitarian Church of Hobart and one at BUUF, with attendees from both congregations.
- Three two-and-one-half hour Welcoming Congregation workshops conducted for members of the BUUF congregation.
Becoming a Welcoming Congregation: Congregational Life
- Formation of a Welcoming Congregation Committee to offer programs and monitor progress.
- Adjusting BUUF bylaws and other relevant documents to include an affirmative nondiscrimination clause concerning membership, hiring practices, and the calling of religious professionals.
- Use of inclusive language and content as a regular part of worship services.
- Providing for LGBT rights of passage.
- Including a welcoming statement in the BUUF brochure that affirms the full participation of all people.
- A vote by the congregation to seek Unitarian Universalist Association recognition as a Welcoming Congregation. (During a February 12, 2006, congregational meeting, twenty-two of the thirty-six voting members voted unanimously to seek recognition.)
Becoming a Welcoming Congregation: Community Outreach
- Presenting a community form titled “The Gift of Sexuality: Homophobia is a Curable Disease.” Moderated by a BUUF member, the eight-member panel presented homophobia from several distinct perspectives: personal, psychological, legal, moral, and religious.
- Providing leadership for the creation of a PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) Chapter, start-up funding, and a meeting place.
- Supporting the creation and operation of the YWCA Out & Affirmation Center, which became the OutCenter in Benton Harbor.
- Votes by the board and congregation to approve placing the rainbow flag on the BUUF sign.