Are We as Inclusive on the Outside as We Are on the Inside?

Do people outside the congregation – LGBT people, in particular – know that you are welcoming and inclusive? Or are you one of the community’s best-kept secrets?

Many congregations get serious about full inclusion only after LGBT people come through the doors. But keeping in mind how many in the LGBT community feel estranged from religion – and suspicious of religious people – it is important for inclusive congregations to invite them in.

For some, this may require “coming out” – making a public statement of inclusion through community outreach and advocacy. Putting advertisements in the LGBT community newspaper, placing brochures at the local LGBT community center, and having a table at LGBT Pride Day will directly tell people they are welcome.

Congregations can be a vital conduit between congregants’ needs and community resources. Do you maintain a referral network of counselors, therapists, medical practitioners, social workers and other professionals who specialize in serving LGBT clients? Do you open your facilities to LGBT-supportive organizations?

It is also important for LGBT people – both inside and outside your congregation – to know that you stand publicly on their side. Are you involved in promoting full equality for LGBT persons within your denomination, and in the broader community? Do you speak out for LGBT equality, and engage the issues with your fellow clergy and congregations?

This section presents a five-step program of LGBT advocacy and outreach.