Becoming a Believe Out Loud Episcopal Congregation means following six steps. Depending on how your parish currently understands its position, these steps can be easily accomplished in a couple of months, or they might take a year or two.
It is a process of discernment, as well as welcome. Neither LGBT people nor your parish community will be well served by advertising your welcome before you’re ready to fully include new and different people into the life of the church. Please take the time you need, and ask for resources and advice when necessary.
Step One: Assess
Does your congregation already have a history of publicly welcoming and affirming LGBT people? If yes, this can be a simple step of confirming your welcome with other church leaders.
Parishes that are not 100% sure that they’re “welcoming” will want & need to discuss things further. This may be a short process among the vestry and clergy, or it may be a process of many months.
To have a thorough conversation with the congregation, we recommend “Building an Inclusive Church” from the Institute for Welcoming Resources. You can download this for free from the Institute for Welcoming Resources.
Step Three: Adopt
Adopt a Welcoming Statement that explicitly welcomes LGBT people and/or mentions sexual orientation and gender identity.
There is often resistance to adopting an explicitly welcoming statement. The justification is often “We welcome everybody - why single people out?”
Unfortunately, the Christian church is THE institution that has done the MOST harm to the LGBT community in America, and it’s specifically excluded LGBT persons for many decades (if not longer). A specific welcome is needed to counteract that specific exclusion that so many have experienced.
Here’s a sample welcoming statement:
“St. Martin’s is a reconciling, affirming, and inclusive Christian community striving through worship, love and service to welcome all people just as God created you.
No matter where you are on your journey of faith, and whether you are single, married, divorced, separated, or partnered, our welcome knows no boundaries of age, race, ethnicity, culture, gender, sexual orientation, economic condition, physical or mental ability. We believe that God delights in the diversity of creation and so do we!”
— St. Martin’s, Fairmont MN
Step Four: Register
Click here to register your church and its welcome statement. Your parish will soon appear on our list and map, so seekers can find a welcoming home with you!
Step Five: Publish
It’s important that the statement be public. Visitors and potential visitors need to be able to see a clear sign that they will be welcome and comfortable in this church.
We recommend that the statement may be found easily on your website, a common “first stop” for potential visitors. Other common places will be newsletters, Sunday worship bulletins, brochures, and advertising.
Many LGBT people are looking for a welcoming and affirming faith community. Your inclusive congregation is good news!
Step Six: Continue
Continue to find ways to make your parish more welcoming. You may want to provide educational opportunities for parishioners about local or regional issues affecting LGBT people. The Episcopal Church is still deciding policies that affect them as well, and they need your voice.
Educating yourselves on transgender issues can be a fruitful area to explore. These and other issues are addressed in curriculum and resource materials that are readily available.