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LGBTQ inclusion, congregations, colleges, faculty, Reflective Structured Dialogue
The question of LGBTQ+ inclusion is a challenging one in a number of Christian denominations and extends beyond congregations to religiously affiliated higher education. Are LGBTQ+ students free to be open and “out” in their colleges and universities that are affiliated with religious groups, particularly those whose beliefs may include that sexual orientation and gender identity are spiritual matters of sin, repentance, and change? This is a particular challenge to social work faculty in accredited programs whose commitment to social justice and diversity is central to their mission. In one university affiliated with traditionalist, conservative denominational groups, the administration reached out to social work and law faculty to facilitate university faculty discussions about inclusion. Faculty met using Reflective Structured Dialog (RSD) in focus groups to examine faculty views about how best to provide both a loving and supportive educational environment to LGBTQ+ students and honor the university’s mission and affiliations. The process was essential to gather and value very divergent points of view without fracturing the faculty. The authors provide context and process as a model for other universities exploring difficult value laden conversations in Christian contexts.
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