Thursday, August 26, 2010

Denominations Support Sexual Justice

I thought you’d enjoy this report from Juliana Mecera, the Religious Institute’s 2010 summer intern.

This summer I researched seventeen different Jewish and Christian denominations, exploring their policies and programs on sexuality education, reproductive rights, women’s programs, and the full-inclusion of LGBT persons—and was pleased to find that denominations are active and even vibrant in engaging and responding to sexuality concerns. As I met—over the phone and in person—with many church and synagogue leaders, I appreciated their familiarity with sexuality issues and was encouraged to learn that many had worked with the extensive resources of the Religious Institute to improve the quality of sexual information and care they provide to their congregants.

Impressively, all of these denominations (see list below) are active in at least one of these areas pertaining to sexuality! As children begin school and religious education courses start-up again, I was especially attuned to educational issues. A large majority—14 of these 17 denominations—have either developed their own sexuality education curricula or promote another denomination’s resources. Furthermore, 11 of these denominations support
sexual education being taught in public schools.

Support for the full-inclusion of LGBT persons is fairly strong among this group as a whole. Ten have an official policy for full-inclusion, and of the 7 that do not, 3 have unofficial organizations that work for the full-inclusion of their LGBT members and offer them support. Unfortunately, even those denominations which formally support LGBT persons often lack an official denominational office to help congregations become welcoming and affirming. Even more striking is that 14 denominations—all but 3—have a national women’s program, and 11 denominations have an official statement that advocates for reproductive rights.

It’s truly heartening to see this amount of engagement by religious communities in sexuality-related issues. The numbers of these prominent denominations, however, indicate that there is still work to be done, particularly in advocating for LGBT inclusion. I am thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to further this work at the Religious Institute this summer.

• African Methodist Episcopal Church
• Alliance of Baptists
• American Baptist Church
• Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
• Church of the Brethren
• Evangelical Lutheran Church of America
• The Episcopal Church (USA)
• The Fellowship
• Jewish Reconstructionist Federation
• Metropolitan Community Churches
• Presbyterian Church (USA)
• Reformed Church in America
• United Church of Christ
• The United Methodist Church
• Union for Reform Judaism
• United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
• Unitarian Universalist Association

Juliana M. Mecera

Monday, August 23, 2010

Clergy Sexual Misconduct is Preventable Not Inevitable

This Saturday's Belief Column in the NY Times began:

"Sooner or later, every traditional faith has to confront sexual impropriety by its spiritual leaders: extramarital sex, or sex with the wrong people (members of the congregation, minors) or, for supposedly celibate clergy, any sex at all."


It is NOT inevitable that religious leaders will sexually act sad that we have come to a place where that is viewed as a statement of fact.

Yes, dear readers, I know that there are legions of stories throughout the ages where spiritual leaders have done just that. But it doesn't have to be so.

In our classes and materials, the Religious Institute has defined the characteristics of a sexually healthy religious professional. In part, a sexually healthy religious professional uses power justly and recognizes the potential for the abuse of that power, and knows how to deal with sexual feelings appropriately, recognizing boundaries for relationships with those he or she serves. The Religious Institute recommends that every seminary REQUIRE a course in sexual misconduct prevention for every student studying for the ministry, and that denominations require such a learning experience for every ministerial candidate.

Sexual misconduct by clergy is preventable not inevitable. It's past time for seminaries and denominations and lay leadership to assure it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Marriage is SO GAY.

It was a big week for marriage equality.

Judge Walker decided not to stay his decision, except for a week. Unless something unexpected happens, same sex couples will again be able to marry in California as of August 16th.

The Governor of Maryland said he would sign a marriage equality bill if passed by the legislature.

The Mexico Supreme Court said that same sex marriages performed in Mexico City must be recognized in every Mexican state.

For the first time in a national poll, a majority of Americans supported the right of same sex couples to marry.

That's just in this past week.

I believe it was Nietzsche who said, "there's no greater power than an idea whose time has come."

It's time.

This morning, I purchased a T Shirt that says "Marriage is so gay." I'll post pictures. I can't wait to wear it out when I'm with my husband.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

C'mon, Let's Celebrate: Prop 8 Found Unconstitutional

When we look back at the history of marriage equality, yesterday will surely be a milestone.

Judge Vaughn Walker, chief justice of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California overturned Prop 8. The decision in part said:

"Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license."

From this minister's perspective, not a moral or religious one as well. The Religious Institute has supported marriage equality since its founding in 2001. More than 2200 ordained clergy have endorsed our "Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Marriage Equality." Several faith traditions have policies that support marriage for same sex couples, and more than two dozen denominations urged Congress to defeat the Federal Marriage Amendment way back in 2004.

There is surely to be much hand wringing by conservative religious groups this morning, and there is no doubt there will be an attempt to appeal Judge Walker's ruling (maybe even by the time you are reading this!) This is very likely to the first step in the sure to come Supreme Court ruling on marriage for same sex couples. What it is important for us is to keep reinforcing that many religious leaders, congregations, and denominations support marriage because we know that where there is love, the sacred is in our midst. As I wrote in my last blog, good marriages are based on responsibility, equity, and love, without restrictions based on biological sex, procreative potential, or sexual orientation of the partners.

So, for today, let's celebrate this latest decision and move toward equality! And know that tomorrow it's time to get back to work.