Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Be With Us Virtually At The 10th Anniversary Celebration!

Last week, I invited you to send in your picture to be part of the Religious Institute's 10th anniversary celebration and the commissioning of the Faithful Voices Network. If you get us your picture by noon today (Tuesday, March 29th), we can still include you: www.religiousinstitute.org/pics But, we've also just arranged for you to watch the worship service live from your home or office. It starts at 12:00 p.m. EST, and will feature several members of the Religious Institute advisory board and the world premiere of a new hymn by Patrick Evans, commissioned just for the 10th anniversary. You can watch it here at www.religiousinstitute.org/streaming Come join us for worship on Thursday, March 31st and celebrate with us!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Celebrate the Religious Institute's 10th Anniversary!

The Religious Institute was born in April 2001 in the Refectory at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. We sought to advance the goals and vision of the then-new Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing.

It has been an amazing ten years. Our network has grown to more than 5200 religious leaders from more than 70 faith traditions and thousands of people of faith support our Faithful Voices Network. Our ministry to clergy, congregations, denominations, and seminaries have helped create sexually healthy faith communities. What's more we have helped changed the dialog about sexuality and religion.

I began this blog in 2006, and although I now also blog for the Huffington Post and the Washington Post (as well as Facebook and Twitter @revdebra) my readers here have been a constant source of inspiration and encouragement (and some times hearty disagreement.) We'd like you to be able to be with us virtually at the 10th anniversary celebration.

Please go to www.religiousinstitute.org/pics and download a picture of yourself holding the Faithful Voices Network sign. Or "Like us" on our Facebook page and we'll do it for you with your facebook picture.

We'd love for you to also leave your message of support, either here or on Facebook.

Celebrate with us!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Oprah's Network "Pray the Gay Away" Reinforces Myths and Stereotypes

UPDATE: I have been contacted by the Naming Project, who let me know that the staff at the camp are Lutheran ministers and lay leaders who are openly gay. I am sorry that I missed that in my observations about the piece. Please see the Comment from Ross in the Comment section for more more information about the Naming Project.

I just happened to see an ad that the Oprah Winfrey Network Lisa Ling show was titled "Pray the Gay Away?" last night.

You can see a trailer at http://www.facebook.com/OurAmerica

The first 30 minutes of the program was filming of an Exodus ("ex-gay") conference, and an un-responded to statement that the Bible is anti-gay (although Ling does point out that there are only six explicit verses.) Two pieces examined the troubled childhoods of two gay individuals reinforcing the myth that parenting makes people gay. There was a short piece on the naming project, a camp for queer Christian young people. It wasn't until 55 minutes into the program that we heard an adult man who said he was gay, Christian, and happy.

I kept waiting for them to interview religious leaders who understand that sexual and gender diversity is part of God's blessing -- with the exception of the camp counselor, there was none. I was hoping that they might mention that many denominations in America, including the UUA, the UCC, and the Union for Reform Judaism, are fully welcoming and inclusive. They did not. I wanted them to talk with some of my colleagues from the large number of denomination groups working for full inclusion -- or someone from among the thousands of gay and lesbian clergy I know. They did not.

I tweeted to my followers (@revdebra) that it is a MYTH that you can't be happy, gay, and Christian (or any other faith.) I reminded my followers that God loves them, that we are all created in God's image, and that as one of our Open Letters, endorsed by more than 2700 leaders says, "sexual difference is a blessed part of our endowment."

Oprah and Lisa, I expected better from you.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Leading Evangelical Speaks Out With Rev. Haffner

Yesterday, Rev. Richard Cizik and I released an op ed column on our joint support for domestic and international family planning.

You may remember Rev. Cizik as the head of the National Association of Evangelicals, a position he became after Rev. Ted Haggard had to step down after being discovered having sex and buying drugs from a male escort.

Rev. Cizik has gone on to head a new organization, the New Evangelical Partnership, which is a coalition of more mainstream evangelical organizations committed to the common good. Here's a piece of part of what we said:

As religious leaders, we are both called to respond to the needs of the most marginalized, the most vulnerable, and the most likely to be excluded. Both of our organizations are committed to Goal Five of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, calling for improved global maternal health by reducing maternal mortality by three quarters and achieving universal access to reproductive health. Both of us are committed to helping create a just and equitable world where no woman will die giving birth to the next generation.

Although we hold differing moral values about abortion, we share a commitment that because life is sacred, it should never be created carelessly or unintentionally. That is why we both support the Title X family planning program, which helps avert nearly one million pregnancies in the United States annually. That is why we have a shared belief in international family planning programs, because we know that maternal mortality around the world could be reduced by more than 70 percent by improved access to reproductive health services. We support domestic and international family planning because we know it reduces neonatal and maternal morbidity and mortality, including deaths attributable to unsafe abortions--and it helps build strong families and lives.

As religious leaders, we are called to improve women's and children's lives. It is simply inconceivable to either of us that those who oppose abortion services also have voted to cut or eliminate family planning, prenatal care, mother and infant nutrition programs, and community health services. We stand together in calling on people of faith across the religious spectrum to stand up for the needs of low-income families and their children. We are pro-faith, pro-family, and pro-child.

As people of faith, we call on the U.S. Senate to reject the draconian and ultimately immoral cuts proposed by the U.S. House of Representatives. As religious leaders called by God to co-create a better world where all may flourish and thrive, we can do no less.

You can read the whole piece at www.washingtonpost.com/onfaith