““We hear them knocking, but we don’t know how to let them in: How does our congregation become open and affirming to LGBT people?” ”
The church in North America continues to grapple with how to be inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Although many congregations are making efforts to become open and affirming (OAA) congregations, very little research has been conducted to better understand what facilitates or creates barriers to this process. Thus, in the proposed project we will use ethnographic methods where we will conduct interviews with 20 congregational and denominational leaders engaged in OAA congregational efforts to better understand key barriers and facilitators to this work. We also will conduct field work with two partner congregations, engaging in multiple visits across a year and conducting interviews with 15 people per congregation. Throughout the project we will focus on facets of the congregational setting (e.g., leadership, activities, resources, and culture) to guide our inquiry and to address our primary question of what facilitates or creates barriers to congregations becoming an OAA congregation for LGBT people. We will disseminate our findings to religious and academic audiences to make these efforts more visible, and to share what we learn as a resource to denominations and congregations engaging in this work. Broadly, this project will advance scholarship and practical understanding regarding processes of congregations becoming OAA; strengthening not only congregations but also promoting the wellbeing of LGBT congregants.