Board of Trustees: Welcome to Welcoming!

In a vote taken at the Annual Meeting in June 2015, FUSN committed to engage in the process of renewing our status as a congregation recognized as Welcoming. Many hoped that this would be a step toward salving bad feelings and mending rifts in our community created by the tumult during the previous winter.

A Welcoming Congregation assessment team conducted a survey and presented it findings last winter. In response to subsequent inquiries from the Minister and the Board of Trustees, a small group of FUSNites assembled and began meeting to plan what steps to take next. Following some uncertainty about our status and role, we’ve settled on the label, “Welcoming Congregation Implementation Team”—WCIT for short (you could say “wicket,” or possibly “wicked,” but so far I’m the only one that does.)

As a group, the WCIT is noticably monochromatic: all white, men and women near or past retirement age, and –as far as we know—all straight. Some congregation members were very vocal in wanting to be included on whatever group or committee was formed to address “welcoming,” but apparently instead grew disillusioned with FUSN and have left.

The group reviewed a lot of materials from the UUA and talked a great deal about the state of our congregation. As noted in this space last spring, the UUA’s Welcoming Congregation program focuses exclusively on issues of inclusion and support for members who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, or queer. This constituency is usually abbreviated as “LGBTQ;” sometimes the “Q” is translated as “questioning.” At first, this focus seemed too narrow to some members of the WCIT, and of the Board, because the rifts in our congregation arose over tangential issues—polyamory, most notably—and wanted the ideal of “welcoming” to include broader issues such family structure, race, class, and social status.

Some FUSN members are satisfied with our acceptance of LGBTQ folks in the congregation, but we aren’t so sure that we should be. The WC assessment team’s report found that FUSN did not live up to its ideals, particularly in the areas of gender identity and expression. We have come to see that working on this issue is a stream parallel to other initiatives, such as Multicultural Ministry, Criminal Justice, and the Black Lives Matter groups, any of which can open us making sure there is room here for all despite our differences.

FUSN is made richer by its LGBTQ members. But cis-gendered, monogamous, or otherwise majority members don’t know how those members experience life in our community, nor how welcome they really feel. And it’s not easy to ask: perhaps FUSN is a haven, where they don’t have to represent or defend a particular way of life. Inquiring directly about these matters involves acknowledging a difference, and might be an intrusion. If anyone is willing to share comments, in public or private, it would be helpful.

The primary goal of WCIT is to guide FUSN to re-certification as a Welcoming Congregation, within the strict UUA definition of being open and supportive to LGBTQ members. While working toward that goal, we hope to begin defining our shared vision of a welcoming congregation—one of the central questions posed by the assessment team’s report. Please let us know.

WCIT members are: Chris Krebs [chair], Linda Ross, Walter Graham, and Mark Leicester.

Eric Haas, Board liaison to WCIT