Friday, May 18, 2007

Thank you, Clergy Consultation Service

People often ask me if the work we are doing at the Religious Institute, organizing progressive religious leaders who will speak out for sexual justice, is new.

I always answer "no". That it continues a tradition that goes back to the Bible (think of the persons who spoke for the Song being included in the canon), the early church (think of Jovinian and Julian who argued for the virtues of marriage not virginity), think of Martin Luther speaking out against a required celibate clergy.

But, you may not know about Rev. Howard Moody and the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion. Forty years old on May 21st, Rev. Moody organized clergy, first in New York, and then across the country, to provide counseling and support for women with unwanted pregnancies when abortion was illegal.

Their press release, covered in a front page story in the NY Times, read:

“Therefore believing as clergymen that there are higher laws and moral obligations transcending legal codes, we believe that it is our pastoral responsibility and religious duty to give aid and assistance to all women with problem pregnancies. To that end we are establishing a Clergymen’s Consultation Service on Abortion which will include referral to the best available medical advice and aid to women in need.”

Ultimately, according to the Religious Coalition on Reproductive Choice, more than 1400 ministers and rabbis joined the Clergy Service, risking arrest to provide women with the pastoral support and services they needed. Rev. Moody has said that at one point he was offering counseling to women from around the country, six hours a day, five days a week.

Tomorrow, Rev. Moodyand the Consultation Service will be honored at a service at Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South, New York, NY from 4 - 6 p.m. I was honored to be asked to be a speaker, but cannot attend because it is my daughter's graduation from college this weekend (more on that on Monday.)

What would I have said? Thank you. Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for your bravery. Thank you for your commitment to women's lives. Thank you for the risks you took. Thank you for setting the foundation for organizing religious leaders to speak out for sexual justice. Thank you for being the shoulders we stand on.


juffie said...

Thanks for highlighting this. I was one of those clergy, and saw over 450 women in the six months I was keeping records for a major hospital (they were getting ready for what they hoped would be a legalization of abortion, and wanting to know how many folk to prepare for!

I'll say more in my blog tonight at

Debra W. Haffner said...

Thanks for sharing, Juffie. I look forward to reading more about your experiences. I think it's so important for clergy today to know this history.

ms. kitty said...

Debra, I remember when Howard Moody started this. At that time I was still an American Baptist and so proud of him for his understanding and courage. I had met him personally when I was a staffer at the Green Lake American Baptist Assembly grounds in Green Lake, Wisconsin, the summer after I graduated from college in 63. He and his liberal ideas really changed my approach to my faith.