“This project seeks to identify heteronormative unconscious biases and implicit organizational processes within open and affirming congregations explicitly committed to the equality and inclusion of LGBTQ+ members and leaders. ”
In 2013 the Supreme Court officially legalized same-sex marriage in the United States. This decision has pushed religious congregations to explicitly discuss and make decisions related to a wide spectrum of topics such as ordaining LGBTQ members and ministers, permitting membership and leadership of LGBTQ people, allowing pastors to marry same-sex couples, being welcoming versus being affirming of LGBTQ members, and hiring LGBTQ pastors. Subsequently, denominational entities and congregations began splitting or creating more inclusive or exclusive policies related to the membership, ordination, and hiring of LGBTQ people. Despite the adoption of more LGBTQ+ inclusive and equitable policies in some congregations, findings from my previous study on gender equality within congregations also revealed that implicit heteronormative assumptions and heterosexist outcomes persist even in open and affirming congregations explicitly committed to the equal leadership and inclusion of LGBTQ+ members and ministers. Acker's theory of sexualized organizations and subsequent empirical research demonstrate how heteronormativity is patterned throughout even "LGBT-friendly" workplaces and organizations in ways that result in inequitable outcomes for organizational actors who identify as LGBTQ. Building on my preliminary findings, this study partners Acker's theory of sexualized organizations with critical ethnography to investigate ways congregations reinforce heteronormativity and heterosexist outcomes despite the good intentions of congregational actors. Open and affirming churches represent only a small percentage of congregations in the U.S. Therefore, it is particularly important that these congregations identify ways to more effectively reach their organizational goals of inclusion and equality so that LGBTQ leaders have a higher likelihood of being fully included and ultimately hired as pastors.