I led one congregation that grappled with, prayed about, and tried to discern whether they should join the More Light movement of the Presbyterian Church (USA), an advocacy group striving for full inclusion of LGBT...persons in our denomination. An elder entered my office, heartsick over the decision. He was progressive in his views on LGBT persons, but as a part of a small church, he was afraid that a couple of members would leave, and he grieved over that loss. He tried to work it out, saying, "But we are an open and affirming congregation--just look at our membership. Do we have to become part of a particular organization to prove it?"
With this question in mind, I had lunch with John Gage, a young and extraordinarily gifted UCC pastor who left the Presbyterian Church (USA) because of their exclusion of LGBT persons...and now serves...as his denomination's first openly gay senior minister...I posed the question to him, "John, we're an open and affirming congregation, why do we need to become a part of a particular organization to prove it?"
"Because," he answered firmly, "gays and lesbians have been rejected by the church time and time again, and if we want to minister to our whole community, we need to confirm our stance as clearly as possible. We have to welcome them time and time again."--from Tribal Church: Ministering to the Missing Generation by Carol Howard Merritt (my emphasis)
This is too important a step to be allowed to be glossed over by inattention. Insert any oppressed or ignored population into the start of that italicized pair of sentences--"Women," "Immigrants," "The disabled," "Former convicts," "The poor," "People with mental illness," "The homeless"--and the sentences retain their meaning and their strength. Howard Merritt writes, "In this crucial point in church history, we are called to drown out the centuries of denials, dismissals, and refusals with unambiguous inclusion. The decision to include [otherwise rejected people] affects...an entire generation." She is right. In Unitarian Universalism we call it Radical Hospitality but I would be glad to call it what she names it: unambiguous inclusion. If we would practice unconditional love--and that is what every religion calls itself to do--then we must practice this too.