Monday, January 25, 2010

Celebrate: Tenth Anniversary of the Religious Declaration

Today is the tenth anniversary of the Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing.

The Religious Declaration first appeared as a full page ad in the New York Times on January 25, 2000. It was surrounded by the names of the 850 religious leaders who had endorsed it. It was the first ever multifaith call for sexual health, education, and justice in America's faith communities.

It was an amazing day. We received scores of calls, letters, and emails, thanking us for creating the Religious Declaration. I remember one person who said that the page became blurry as the tears rolled down his face as he read the names.

We've seen remarkable progress during the past ten years towards a greater vision of inclusivity in America's faith communities. Women are now the leaders of several mainline denominations, and bishops and elders in many others. In 2000, only a handful of denominations had welcoming organizations; now, nearly all do. More than 3000 congregations are official welcoming congregations. And more than a dozen denominations now have policies and programs supporting sexuality education.

Further, there has been some dramatic changes in society at large. The original creators of the Religious Declaration called for the "blessing of same-sex unions", not daring to imagine marriage equality. In 1999, only clergy from the UUA were sanctioned to perform such ceremonies; today at least a dozen Christian and Jewish movements allow their clergy to perform marriage or union ceremonies for same sex couples. The Religious Declaration spoke of "sexual minorities" rather than "transgender" because there was little understanding or awareness in either the religious world of the transgender community.

There is of course so much more to be done to create a healthier, more positive and inclusive relationship between sexuality and religion, and to assure that all faith communities are sexually healthy, just, and prophetic. On February 9, 2010, the Religious Institute will be announcing new goals for the next decade. I'll post more here.

But, today, we are celebrating those who created the Religious Declaration and those who work tirelessly each day to further its vision. Join with us.

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