Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Another Religious Leader Weighs In

My post from Monday has engendered lively discussion among some of my progressive colleagues who are religious leaders. Here's a note from the Rev. Meg Riley who is the Director of Justice Ministries for the Unitarian Universalist Association.

Dear Deb, I think it's a complex discussion. I stand unequivocably for full glbt equality, including marriage equality, and for women's reproductive choice including choosing abortion. I work with many groups, both within the UUA and in interfaith coalitions, that agree with me about those.

But I also work on issues such as Darfur, economic justice, racial justice, peace, religious liberty, the environment, and the death penalty, with a number of groups who disagree about sexual justice issues. As Bernice Johnson Reagan wrote in an essay in coalition building, "Coalition work is done in the streets. You do not go to a coalition seeking mothers' milk..."

While I'm privileged to work for a religious group (UUA) which supports my own convictions on most issues, I work in many justice arenas to find the broadest group possible which shares my view. I never pretend to be anyone but myself--an open lesbian partner/ mom / UU minister. I don't feel that I am backing away from sexual justice issues by focussing elsewhere; I think there are other issues which demand commitment and attention. Over the years, in coalitions, I have watched a number of areas of disagreement--notably about the Middle East, abortion, and gay rights, take down too many good efforts. I think it is key to leave room for disagreement on some issues while moving forward on others.

This doesn't mean that I need to say "All points are equally valid." I have moral convictions. But I do need the discipline to say, "The nature of coalition work is that we are here because we agree about X and want to be strategic and effective in taking action about X" and let go of Y, Z, and A B C. Where I think any group hits morally troubled waters is when it purports to have 'the answers A-Z' to the religious right. Complexity isn't popular these days, but I have to hold on to my conviction that any adult, regardless of public declarations of a simplistic manner, understands that it is descriptive of the essence of life. All the best, and thanks for your provocative questions.

Of course, I agree with Meg that there are times we need to put aside our own issues to work in coalition on pressing human concerns. When I attend meetings on hunger or Iraq or poverty and so on, I don't enter those rooms carrying any agenda but the one that I am there for. But, what I don't do is turn away from or put down other people's commitments either. I understand that not every mainstream or progressive religious leader will embrace sexual justice issues -- but when some of my colleagues deliberately marginalize them or worse speak out against women's moral agency and the full inclusion of GLBT people, I am called to speak out.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

I think the issue is really one of call. I am not always called to work for every issue that I agree with. I don't have enough time in the day. I have been called to work on sexual ethics issues at different times in my life ... when I was an education volunteer with Planned Parenthood when I was in seminary, most recently when I stuck my neck out in starting a ministry to the GLBT community in my hometown (which cause much too much pain, but accomplished what God intended, I'm sure). But I'm not always called to take up the fight for these issues.

I am careful to listen to where and when God is calling me to take action in specific ways at specific times regarding specific issues.

I've learned that I can't try to do it all, I only have to be obedient to my calling.