We are aware that ministers who identify themselves as white, heterosexual, and able-bodied have more pre-candidating opportunities than other ministers. We have committed to ongoing discussion of our openness and commitment to diversity through our congregation self-study and ministerial search.
Results of our congregational survey indicated that while an overwhelming majority of BUUF members and friends would be enthusiastic or comfortable calling a minister who is: non-white, gay, lesbian, has a disability, or is from a working class or rich background, our survey revealed we have some work to do to increase the comfort level of members and friends with the bisexual and transgender community. Nearly 21% of survey respondents indicated they would be uncomfortable with calling a minister who is transgender, and approximately 11% indicated they would be uncomfortable with a bisexual minister.
To expand our horizons when thinking about ministers we might call to serve our congregation we participated in the UUA’s Beyond Categorical Thinking program on October 5, 2014. Lunch was provided after our second service to allow time for socializing, then we dove into the workshop exercises. Representatives from the UUA, Gil Guerrero and Jo Victoria facilitated conversation and exercises about the expectations we all have about the minister we might welcome this spring. Approximately fifty people participated in the workshop including members of the Board and the Ministerial Search Committee. While we were pleased with the attendance, especially on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, we recognize that attendees represent fewer than 20% of BUUF members and friends.
During the workshop, attendees participated in exercises focused on exploring how human difference impacts how people move through and experience the world. We were exposed to stories of problematic interactions among UU congregants and ministers from diverse backgrounds. Addressing the conundrums was enlightening and led to thoughtful discussions. We were able to openly discuss what benefits a minister of a diverse background might bring in addition to the expectations (many unrealistic and unfair) we might place on ministers from diverse backgrounds. We discussed how we might respond to a minister with a disability, a minister who is a person of color, a gay man, a lesbian, a bisexual person, a man, a woman and/or a transgendered person.
Workshop participants committed to sharing what they learned through the BCT experience with other members. We plan to explore ways to continue to broaden our understanding and acceptance of diversity and have asked our Board to help us develop strategies and plans for further discussion and growth in this area.