Welcoming Church Spaces: Queer Inclusion in the Christian Church Building

Taylor Mortorff

Many things can signal that a space is LGBTQ friendly; displaying the rainbow flag is just a starting point.

Many things can signal that a space is LGBTQ friendly; displaying the rainbow flag is just a starting point.

Graduate Student Project

Introduction

LGBT Christians are limited in the places in which they can worship as their authentic selves.  Some churches self-identify as LGBTQ affirming, but a contentious history leaves many LGBTQ Christians unaware of whether they are welcome in church environments. As a student and researcher in the school of architecture, I'm using the first-hand experiences of LGBTQ Christians in Buffalo to explore the aspects of church environments.  Through focus groups with LGBTQ Christians, I gathered information about aspects of the church environment that are perceived as welcoming and unwelcoming.  The themes that emerged from the focus groups are currently being assessed by the broader church communities via surveys.  The results of the focus groups and surveys, along with existing research, will be used to develop a design guideline booklet with suggestions for creating LGBTQ-welcoming church environments.  How do you think features of the church building can better foster a queer-inclusive worship experience?

Abstract

The current socio-political climate in the U.S. has caused tension between Christian and queer communities.  Social politics and the fight for gay rights has exacerbated the apparent conflicts (Kreitzer, 2014).  Some churches self-identify as LGBTQ affirming, but a contentious history leaves many LGBTQ Christians unaware of whether they are welcome in church environments.

How can church features better foster a queer inclusive worship experience?  This question is first addressed through a three-part literature review on design strategies for creating welcoming spaces, precedents of queer spaces, and Christian church design tenets. Next, three focus groups were used to gather information about the queer perspective of their church environment. Surveys are currently being conducted to gauge how features identified in the focus groups are viewed by the broader church community. 

The results of the research will be used to develop a guidebook with researched-based suggestions for creating LGBTQ-inclusive church environments.

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