Published in Newsday, January 21, 2024
Jim Merritt, Special to Newsday

In December, Pope Francis took a small but significant step toward making the Roman Catholic Church more welcoming to LGBT people when he formally approved letting Catholic priests bless same sex couples. This week’s clergy discuss traditional and evolving LGBT inclusiveness in rituals and other aspects or religious community life.

Rev. David Carl Olson, Associate Minister for Congregational Life responded:

In a way, Unitarian Universalism supports LGBT people by “taking care of our own.” All kinds of people—lesbian, bisexual, gay, straight—find a home in our congregations. People across the gender spectrum are our people. Together we are learning a new way. Unitarian Universalists have supported LGBT folk since the 1970s, when we created formal structures to welcome and minister to lesbian and gay members and friends. We authorized marriage services, ordained gay and lesbian ministers, cared for families during the AIDS crisis and created religious education curriculums that shared what we were learning about queer life. Today, we continue these efforts of education, support and ritual inclusion. And we acknowledge that we have much yet to learn. At the Congregation at Shelter Rock, we recently invited a panel of transgender New Yorkers to help us more fully understand their lives and their community. Our hope was not to study LGBT folk as an “other” to be examined objectively, but to be in relationships that acknowledge LGBT folk as people of inherent worth and dignity. On their terms, we hope to build the human family of ethical, spiritual and communal relationship.