Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A Time to Speak

On Monday, the Religious Institute brought together an outstanding group of religious leaders who are committed to full inclusion of women and LGBT persons in the life of the faith community and society at large, comprehensive lifespan sexuality education, and a faith based commitment to voluntary contraception, abortion, and HIV/STD prevention and treatment.

They included Rev. Steven Baines, People for the American Way; Rev. Ignacio Castuera,
National Chaplain, Planned Parenthood Federation of America; Rev. Steve Clapp, Christian Community; Rev. Dr. Larry Greenfield, American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago; Ann L. Hanson, United Church of Christ; Rev. Cedric Harmon, Americans United; Rev. Dr. Joseph Hough, Union Theological Seminary; Rev. Jennifer Kottler, Protestants for the Common Good; Harry Knox, Faith and Religion Program,Human Rights Campaign; Rev. Peter Laarman, Progressive Christians Uniting; Rev. Meg Riley, Unitarian Universalist Association; Dr. Sylvia Rhue, National Black Justice Coalition; and Rev. John Selders, Amistad United Church of Christ.

The meeting was off the record, so that participants could be forthright and candid and so we could develop strategies together. But, at the end of the day, we agreed that there were overarching messages from the meeting that could be shared. We agreed that progressive religious leaders can no longer be allowed to distance themselves from sexual justice issues and call themselves progressive or prophetic. That we would individually and collectively call on our more reluctant colleagues to understand that racism, poverty, sexism, and homophobia are interconnected and that as progressive religious leaders, we must address them all. That we would call out our colleagues who, at best distance themselves from sexual justice and, at worst dismiss these issues as unimportant – and be willing to take them on publicly for turning their back on the sexual and reproductive rights of women and LGBTQQI people.

So much more happened at the meeting that I cannot share – but I am grateful beyond words to each of the participants for their brilliance, their motivation, and their inspiration. There is more we can and must do – stay tuned.

1 comment:

glendenb said...

Debra -
Ann Hanson is one of my heroes! But them, I'm UCC and in UCC circles she's a rock star. Especially to queer folk - Ann is an amazing and gifted leader for our denomination. She is neither lightning rod nor milquetoast. Enough hero worship.

I love this line: we agreed that there were overarching messages from the meeting that could be shared. We agreed that progressive religious leaders can no longer be allowed to distance themselves from sexual justice issues and call themselves progressive or prophetic.

For far too long, we've allowed our leaders to parse issues of sexual justice, to find carefully bland ways of not opposing and not taking action on issues of sexual justice. And because they're better than the "opposition" on most issues, we've given them a pass. It's long past time that we stopped doing that.

When I was in college, one of the more controversial professors liked to start her class by shouting "Oppression is a system. Just because you realize some benefits doesn't mean you aren't in the system." It took me a long time to realize what she meant. As a well-educated, white male in our society, I benefit from the system - it is only my experience as a gay man that I experience and see oppression.

I have known for years that unless I claim my identity, I am assumed to be in the "club" - the straight club. (Coincidentally, I've always thought my gayness was visible from space - but I am constantly amazed at how many people don't realize unless I tell them.) This ability to pass for straight is a complicated gift of privilege - the price for access to the inner circle is very often systemic dishonesty. Which I believe is the root of why so many people have permitted our leaders to equivocate on issues of sexual justice - we ourselves equivocate.