Welcoming and Inclusion
LGBTQIA stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual or Androgynous.
Sexual orientation is one’s inherent and enduring emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction to other people.
Gender identity is one’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither–how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One’s gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.
Some congregations are interested in taking the important step of learning more about the LGBTQIA community. Others have already followed the process to become “Believe Out Loud” congregations, discerning as congregations to fully welcome and affirm individuals of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Some are ready to begin this process now. Others have begun celebrating same-sex marriages. Wherever you are on your journey, we hope these resources will serve you well in your ministry.
We recognize the work of living more deeply into our faith and widening our circle of welcome is not linear in nature. It is a rich and complex journey of ongoing transformation as we live still more fully our baptismal covenant and welcome our LGBTQIA family members by:
- Seeking and serving Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves, and
- Striving for justice and peace among all people, respecting the dignity of every human being.
Who Can Help Us in this Work?
Faith Formation Team
We welcome your comments and questions at any time. Please reach out to anyone on the Faith Formation team:
Communications Support, including Websites
Mike Orr, Director of Communications
Mentors, Coaches, Advisors
(LGBTQIA Advocates in the Episcopal Church Colorado)
The Rev. Nancey Johnson-Bookstein, Deacon, St. Brigit’s, Frederick
The Rev. Kate Bradsen, Rector, St. Stephen’s, Aurora
The Rev. Cynthia Espeseth, Rector, All Saints, Loveland
The Rev. Reagan Humber, Pastor, House for All Sinners and Saints, Denver
The Rev. Susan Merrin, Priest and Pastor, St. Andrews, Manitou Springs
The Rev. Jeffrey Nelson, Priest in Charge, St. Barnabas, Denver
Bill Oliver, Integrity USA Liaison for Colorado, St. Michael the Archangel, Colorado Springs
The Rev. Dana Soloman, Assisting Priest, St. Stephen’s, Longmont
The Rev. Bonnie Spencer, Priest in Charge, Holy Reedemer, Denver
The Rev. Bill Stanton, Priest in Charge, St. Alban’s, Windsor
The Rev. Laura Stephenson, Associate Rector, St. Matthew’s, Grand Junction
Realities Intensive: LGBTQIA Welcoming and Inclusion
This event, originally scheduled for April 2020, has been postponed until the fall. For more information, please contact Tracy Methe.
This is a weekend foreducating, empowering, and equipping LGBTQIA leaders and advocates to provide radical welcome and fully include LGBTQIA people in the life of our congregations. The weekend is hosted by the Office of the Bishop and guest leader The Rev. Canon Susan Russell, Canon for Engagement Across Difference, Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, and Assisting Priest at All Saints Episcopal Church, Pasadena. This is a great weekend for clergy and lay leaders from congregations to attend together.
About The Rev. Canon Susan Russell: A life-long Episcopalian and native of Los Angeles, Susan Russell is the Canon for Engagement Across Difference in the Episcopal Diocese of L.A. and is part of the clergy staff at All Saints, Pasadena. A long time activist in LGBTQ and women’s issues, Susan was a founding member of the HRC (Human Rights Campaign) Religion Council, served on the National Clergy Advisory Board for Planned Parenthood and as a member of the Task Force for the Study of Marriage for the Episcopal Church. She currently (2018-2021) co-chairs the national Task Force for Communion Across Difference for the Episcopal Church. She and her wife Lori share four grown children between them and are the proud grandmas of first grandchild Hayes Anthony. They also share a love of animals (three dogs and three cats), theater, music and baseball.
Cost: $150 per person + $75 for optional Saturday overnight
Resources for Learning and Discovery
The following resources are organized in an order we hope proves useful–an order of increasing complexity that allows you to delve deeper as you learn about the lives of LGBTQIA people, become knowledgeable about the joys and challenges they experience, and begin to understand the areas congregations may need to address in order to fully welcome them.
We recommend the following resources for those desiring a better understanding of the issues around inclusion and affirmation.
- This Far by Grace: A Bishop’s Journey Through Questions about Homosexuality by Alexander, J. Neil. An exploration of the author’s journey through the theological, scriptural, and pastoral aspects of the questions surrounding homosexuality and Christian faith. 85 pages. Read more or order >
- A Letter to my Congregation by Ken Wilson. Ken Wilson, a pastor of Vineyard Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan, wrote this candid letter to his congregation to help them understand how his non-affirming (love the sinner, hate the sin) attitudes shifted through his work and relationships with gay parishioners and how he came to believe that non-affirmation of the homosexual community is antithesis to Jesus’ teaching. He carefully reviews the Bible passages typically used to condemn homosexuality. 193 pages. Read more or order >
- Unclobber: Rethinking Our Misuse of the Bible on Homosexuality by Martin Colby. Unclobber reexamines what the six passages in the Bible, often called the “clobber passages” because they are often used in churches’ stances against full inclusion of the LGBTQIA community, say (and don’t say) about homosexuality. 175 pages. Read more or order >
- The Tedx Talk The Baptist Pastor and His Transgender Friends tells one pastor’s journey of becoming one of the transgender communities’ most unlikely spokespersons, and the human connections that resulted from his willingness to listen.
- Together at the Table: Diversity without Division in the United Methodist Church by Karen Oliveto. This is the story of the first openly LGBTQIA bishop in the United Methodist Church. She poses the questions, “How do we stand before one another and relearn the art of conversation through empathy” and “How do we tell our own truth without denying the truth of another.” Together at the Table focuses on healing and building community, ending with the chapter We Eat with People We Love. Read more or order >
- The Hymn Society’s Songs for the Holy Other is an extensive collection of hymns for congregations doing the work of dismantling walls between “in” and “out,” “us” and “them,” “normal” and “other.” It is a “toolbox of hymns by and for those who identify as members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, transgender, nonbinary, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, aromantic, two-spirit, and other sexual/gender minority community and their allies.”
- The GLAAD Media Reference Guide includes a helpful Glossary of Terms relating to transgender people.
- Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric. This 90-minute video explores the stories of intersex and transgender individuals, allowing viewers to hear the stories and challenges of people of all ages with different gender identities. The video looks at a full range of topics: family support, biology, cultural norms, options, the transition process, and societal attitudes and fears. An excellent resource for individuals and groups wishing to explore what it means to be transgender or intersex (having sex characteristics that don’t fit the typical definitions for male or female bodies. Available from Netflix, or watch online >
- For the Bible Tells Me So (Video), Daniel Karslake. A 2007 documentary about homosexuality and its perceived conflict with Christianity. The video discusses interpretations about what the Bible says about homosexuality. Highlighted are interviews with several sets of religious parents, who have raised homosexual children, including the the parents of Bishop Gene Robinson. Read more or order >
- A Brief Guide to Ministry with LGBTQIA Youth by Cody Sanders. What are the challenges of LGBTQIA youth? How does an affirming stance toward LGBTQIA people affect the day-to-day experience of teenagers in a church setting? In what ways can a church’s youth ministry have a positive impact on the lives of LGBTQIA youth who want to fully live out their Christian faith and their gender identity? How can a rector, youth minister, or youth ministry volunteer embrace, nurture, and provide skillful care for LGBTQIA youth in a congregation or community? This is an important resource for clergy, church leadership, and youth ministers. Read more or order >
- The Building Faith article 5 Ways to Support LGBTQ+ Youth in Your Church details the ways a church can embrace and support LGBTQIA young people. It provides links to further resources, including the American Academy of Pediatrics resource page for caring for LGBTQIA children and youth.
- Gender Born, Gender Made: Raising Healthy Gender-Nonconforming Children, Diane Ehrensaft. How can we help gender-nonconforming children thrive in a “society that still subscribes to a binary system of gender”? This is a book for parents, clinicians, and educators, offering guidance for the philosophical dilemmas and practical concerns. Read more or order >
- Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity by Elizabeth Edman. In the introduction, Edman defines “queer” as something that has at its center an impulse to disrupt any and all efforts to reduce into simplistic dualisms our experience of life, of God. Queer theory is historically rooted in the urgent need to rupture, or disrupt, binary thinking about gender and sexual identity–and very specifically, to dismantle rigid attachment to male and female as definitive poles. Queer Virtue can help congregations move past tolerance to a place recognizing the unique and God-given gifts of queer Christians. Read more or order >. Queer Virtue has a free, five-session downloadable study guide for small groups.
- Several thought-provoking short films challenge assumptions and can be used for individual viewing or serve to help foster group discussion.
- Gifted by Otherness: Gay and Lesbian Christians in the Church by William Countryman and M.R. Ritley. A series of reflections by the authors, Gifted by Otherness explores what it means to affirm, not merely accept, being gay or lesbian, as well as Christian, focusing on the unique spiritual journey and gifts of gay and lesbian individuals. Read more or order >
Becoming a Welcoming Congregation
What does it mean to be a welcoming congregation? A welcoming congregation welcomes and affirms people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions. We also call these congregations “Believe Out Loud” congregations because they have written and publicly promote a statement of welcome. The on-line Believe Out Loud community, a leading platform for Christian faith and LGBTQIA advocacy endorsed by the Episcopal Church, states that “privately believing that LGBTQIA persons should have an equal share in our church and society is not enough; we must publicly proclaim that belief.” Download Believe Out Loud brochure >
At the 2018 meeting of the General Convention Deputies and Bishops approved a resolution giving all Episcopalians the ability to be married by their priests in their home churches. The Resolution (Resolution B012) gives full access to two trial-use marriage rites for same-sex and opposite-sex couples approved by the 2015 & 2018 meetings of General Convention.
Becoming a welcoming congregation engages the congregation in a thorough discernment process involving education, listening, and prayer. Discernment may take six months to two years depending on your congregation’s history of welcoming and affirming LGBTQIA people. IntegrityUSA, the LGBTQIA organization for the Episcopal Church, recommends the 11-step Building an Inclusive Church: A Welcoming Toolkit to guide you in the work of discernment. The toolkit draws upon 30 years of experience within a variety of Christian denominations and can be adapted to engage the wide range of congregational experiences and settings. Biblically and theologically based, it uses tools of relational organizing, congregational assessment, conflict management, and change theory.
Before getting started, read the diocesan Marriage Guidelines
- Leading the Process
Gather a group of 5-10 people who share a passion for inclusion. This team will lead the initial process. We recommend half vestry members and half non-vestry worshipers committed to the process. It is important to involve your vestry or bishop’s committee every step of the way. Update the Bishop with stories of how the process is going.
- Gathering Information
Have your team spend time looking at how your congregation handles change, talks about difficult topics, and responds to social and justice issues. Use the tools provided in the toolkit.
- Outlining your Process
Lay out the discernment process. The length of discernment varies by congregation.
- Building Relationships
This is a time of deep listening. Widen the circle. Meet with parishioners one-on-one or in small groups. Make sure everyone has a chance to listen and be heard.
- Making it Official
Now is the time for the core team to become an officially recognized committee of the congregation, sometimes called the Welcoming Task Force. The committee includes the core team but might be expanded to include additional stakeholders who are proponents and supporters.
- Setting the Frame and Providing Educational Opportunities
Schedule monthly meetings for education, prayer, and discussion. View sample agenda> Be sure to schedule times to meet as a committee to discuss how the process is going.
- Writing Your Welcoming Statement
Writing a welcoming statement shows that you have made a commitment to being a welcoming congregation. Statements should be customized to reflect your community.
- Conducting an Exploratory Survey
The Exploratory Survey helps ensure that all groups and individuals have had the chance to be heard and that you have done the work of addressing fears and anxieties.
- Holding the Vote
The vote is the opportunity for your congregation to publicly affirm your commitment to being a welcoming congregation. In the Episcopal Church, the vestry will take this vote on behalf of the congregation.
- Celebrating and Publicizing
Hold a special worship service, reception, or party. Publicize your welcome statement– on your website, in your bulletin, on your Facebook page. Register that you are a welcoming church with Believe Out Loud. See list of Episcopal Church in Colorado Believe Out Loud congregations >
- We’re Welcoming…Now What?
Provide ongoing opportunities for education and relationship-building. Being a welcoming congregation will hopefully increase your awareness of other forms of oppression and specific welcomes that need to be extended.
- Leading the Process
As you embark on your journey of inclusion, keep the following community partners in mind.
The Center on Colfax is Denver’s LGBTQIA center is the largest LGBTQIA organization in the Rocky Mountain region. Its mission is to engage, empower, enrich, and advance the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer community of Colorado. The center organizes events, supports a youth drop-in center (Rainbow Alley), and provides resources for health, legal issues, and family support. Visit website
The Love Has No Labels website states, “We believe we all have the ability to create a more inclusive world. Learn about the small actions you can take every day to make others feel loved and accepted.” The website includes stories, resources for promoting self-reflection and conversation, and steps to take to build inclusive community. Check out John Cena’s video for Love has No Labels: We Are America.
Visit website >
The Transgender Center of the Rockies offers counseling services and support for the transition process. Visit website >
The LGBTQIA community faces mental health conditions just like the rest of the population. However, LGBTQIA individuals may experience more negative mental health outcomes due to prejudice and other biases. These resources can assist you in understanding and supporting the mental health of LGBTQIA adults and youth.
The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQIA) community faces mental health conditions just like the rest of the population. However, individuals may experience more negative mental health outcomes due to prejudice and other biases. It is important to know the challenges of the LGBTQIA community and how to find and work with LGBTQIA-inclusive mental health providers that can help ensure more positive outcomes. (National Association for Mental Illness)
The Trevor Project is the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQIA young people. The organization offers a suite of 24/7/365 crisis intervention and suicide prevention programs, including TrevorLifeline, TrevorText, and TrevorChat as well as the world’s largest safe space social networking site for LGBTQIA youth, TrevorSpace. The Trevor Project also offers an education program with resources for youth-serving adults and organizations, a legislative advocacy department fighting for pro-LGBTQIA legislation and against anti-LGBTQIA rhetoric/policy positions, and conducts research to discover the most effective means to help young LGBTQIA people in crisis and end suicide. Trained crisis counselors are available 24/7/365 at 1.866-488.7386 and www.TheTrevorProject.org/Help.
Additional Topics for Exploration
- Does Jesus Really Love Me? A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America by Jeff Chu. An “intellectual, emotional, and spiritual pilgrimage” that shows the tension between faith, politics, and sexuality. Read more or order >
- The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man’s World by Alan Downs. Psychologist Alan Downs draws on his own struggle with shame and anger, contemporary research, and stories from his patients to describe the stages of a gay man’s journey out of shame. The author offers practical and inspired strategies to stop the cycle of avoidance and self-defeating behavior experienced by many gay men. Read more or order >