25 June 2006

General Assembly Workshop on 2005 Closing Ceremony Events

This was added to the Unitarian Universalist Assocation's 2006 General Assembly web pages today:
The Special Review Commission held this workshop as a forum for further conversation about events that occurred during and prior to General Assembly in Fort Worth, Texas in June, 2005. The Board of Trustees of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) formed the Commission following last year's General Assembly, charging the Commission "to review the trajectory of events which impacted the Unitarian Universalist community of color, especially the youth of color community, leading up to and during the Fort Worth General Assembly." This complex series of racially-charged events revealed racist attitudes among Unitarian Universalists.
The rest of the workshop summary can be found online here.

The Special Review Commission Final Report can be found online here (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader or other PDF reader software).

24 June 2006

Welcoming Congregation Failure -- Looking Back After One Year

I've been thinking about the Welcoming Congregation failure we experienced in Spring 2005 at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana.

I'm also curious about when or if we are going to re-examine the Welcoming Congregation program at All Souls.

The following text is copied from the June 2005 Advisory Commission Report on Welcoming Congregation conflicts (text pasted in as a graphic):

[Note: The entire report can be read online here. This file requires Adobe Acrobat Reader or other compatible PDF reader software.]

It's been over a year since report was released to the congregation and our settled minister has been at All Souls for nearly a year. I suspect that she has a good idea about who we are and what our congregational life is like.

I would suggest that we need to start talking about Welcoming Congregation again at All Souls.

As a congregation, we stumbled very badly in our internal reflection and study of homophobia, heterosexism, and oppression at All Souls.

I know that our retreat from this social justice issue has led to a loss of some members and the perception by some in the non-Unitarian Universalist Shreveport bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender communities that we're not living up to our ideals as a congregation that affirms the worth and dignity of every person along with justice, equality, and compassion in our relationships.

It's also hurt me personally as well and has caused me to question if I really fit in here as a member of this congregation.

I suspect that our failure is affecting our congregational growth in Shreveport ... especially when we compare ourselves to our nearest UU neighbors in Longview TX (who are growing at 10-15% a year and had to purchase a new worship space in order to comply with building fire code occupancy requirements on Sunday mornings).

In a larger sense, we may want to ask ourselves why we are not experiencing the sort of growth one sees in the Longview congregation. Perhaps we should send some of our folks to visit them on Sunday and see what they have done that is different from All Souls?

There is plenty of evidence that we still have work to do internally with our congregation's attitudes towards homophobia and heterosexism.

Here's a few additional quotes from All Souls members in the June 2005 report that provide us evidence of this homophobia and heterosexism (text from June 2005 report pasted in as graphics):

Folks, it's pretty disingenuous to say that we're not homophobic and we don't have a problem with gays, but we don't want to be known as the "gay church" in Shreveport.

To examine why this "gay church" concern may suggest that we still have some work to do, it's worth using a resource developed by psychologist Dorothy Riddle:
Riddle Homophobia Scale: Attitudes Toward Differences
In a clinical sense, homophobia is defined as an intense, irrational fear of same sex relationships that becomes overwhelming to the person. In common usage, homophobia is the fear of intimate relationships with persons of the same sex. Below are listed four negative homophobic levels, and four positive levels of attitudes towards lesbian and gay relationships / people. They were developed by Dr. Dorothy Riddle, a psychologist from Tucson, Arizona.

Homophobic Levels of Attitude
Repulsion: Homosexuality is seen as a "crime against nature." Gays/lesbians are sick, crazy, immoral, sinful, wicked, etc. Anything is justified to change them: prison, hospitalization, behavior therapy, electroshock therapy, etc.

Pity: Heterosexual chauvinism. Heterosexuality is more mature and certainly to be preferred. Any possibility of "becoming straight" should be reinforced, and those who seem to be born "that way" should be pitied, "the poor dears."

Tolerance: Homosexuality is just a phase of adolescent development that many people go through and most people "grow out of." Thus, lesbians/gays are less mature than "straights" and should be treated with the protectiveness and indulgence one uses with a child. Lesbians/gays should not be given positions of authority because they are still working through their adolescent behavior.

Acceptance: Still implies there is something to accept. Characterized by such statements as "You're not lesbian to me, you're a person!" or "What you do in bed is your own business." or "That's fine with me as long as you don't flaunt it!"

Positive Levels of Attitudes
Support: The basic ACLU position. Work to safeguard the rights of lesbians and gays. People at this level may be uncomfortable themselves, but they are aware of the homophobic climate and the irrational unfairness.

Admiration: Acknowledges that being lesbian/gay in our society takes strength. People at this level are willing to truly examine their homophobic attitudes, values, and behaviors.

Appreciation: Value the diversity of people and see lesbians/gays as a valid part of that diversity. These people are willing to combat homophobia in themselves and others.

Nurturance: Assumes that gay/lesbian people are indispensable in our society. They view lesbians/gays with genuine affection and delight, and are willing to be allies and advocates.
Source - http://www.d.umn.edu/~hrallis/professional/presentations/ally_training/riddle_scale.htm
My experience with the Welcoming Congregation process suggests that our congregation is stuck at the "tolerance" and "acceptance" positions on the Riddle Scale.

As a congregation, we are a long way from "support" ... especially if we are unwilling to be personally "uncomfortable" (e.g. not willing to be known as the "gay church).

We still have some unresolved work to do on congregational homophobia and heterosexism at All Souls.