Why is this resource needed?
First: While many congregations profess to “welcome all,” LGBT people have learned the hard way that welcome means different things in different places.
A 2007 survey by Christian Community found that 71% of clergy across 32 denominations believed that lesbian and gay people would find welcome and acceptance in their congregations. But for many, that welcome had strings attached – an insistence on celibacy or, worse, the expectation that lesbian and gay congregants would work to change their sexual orientation. Only 41% of clergy in the survey affirmed an unqualified welcome for lesbian and gay congregants.
Similarly, a broad survey of mainline Protestant clergy by Public Religion Research reported that nearly all (94%) said gay and lesbian people are welcome in their church. But only 13% of the clergy indicated that their congregations had completed a process of becoming “welcoming congregations” with regard to gay and lesbian people.
Second: Too often, clergy and congregants are silent friends: they welcome LGBT persons in their hearts, but don’t necessarily express this welcome in their preaching, programs and worship.
Another Christian Community survey revealed that 64% of clergy in mainline and evangelical Protestant denominations believe protecting lesbian and gay civil rights is a matter of religious concern – but only 7% have ever said so publicly.
Even among progressive clergy, welcoming attitudes do not always translate into inclusive action. A 2008 survey by the Religious Institute found near-unanimous support among self-identified progressive clergy for LGBT equality in civil society and faith communities. However, among these same clergy, four in 10 had not preached on sexual orientation issues in the last two years; nearly half had not been active in their denomination’s work on LGBT concerns; and only a third of their congregations had organized for LGBT rights or offered study groups on LGBT issues.
Turning welcome into inclusion is an ongoing commitment to recognize the lives and experiences of LGBT people. Deliberate action and vocal advocacy – ACTING. OUT. LOUD. – mark the difference between welcome and full inclusion. That’s the gap that this guide is intended to bridge.
What you’ll find here
ACTING OUT LOUD is organized around five topics:
The diversity of LGBT people and their pastoral concerns, including youth who are developing their sexual self-concept. (Is Everyone Included?)
How faith communities address the intersection of sexuality and religion. (Do We Talk Openly About Sexuality?)
Becoming a Welcoming Congregation. (Yes, We’re Welcoming. Should We Make It Official?)
Moving beyond welcome toward full inclusion of LGBT people. (What’s Next? How Do We Turn Welcome into Full Inclusion?)
The role of faith communities in advocacy for LGBT issues and outreach to LGBT people. (Are We as Inclusive on the Outside as We Are on the Inside?)
Each section of ACTING OUT LOUD provides an overview of the topic, links to resources and references, and checklists and ideas you can put to use right away. Within each section, the Resources pages provide four types of content:
Quick Reads, links to articles, essays, sermons and online publications that offer an immediate overview of a given topic;
Bookmarks, a short list of recommended sites to look to for the latest information and resources;
Downloads, direct links to valuable toolkits, curricula, sermon and worship materials, and other resources; and
References, a bibliography of books, films and other content. ACTING OUT LOUD is a living resource, with new content continually added.
If you have an idea or know of a resource not represented here, let us know.
Finally, immediately following this Introduction is a list of definitions of many of the gender and sexuality terms you will find throughout ACTING OUT LOUD.