Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Praise God. SCOTUS declares DOMA Unconstitutional

We are living history. 

And this clergy woman ally cried when the Windsor and Perry decisions were announced.  This mom of a gay son cried.  This friend of more same gender loving people than I can count cried.  This 35 year advocate for sexual justice wept with joy. 

The Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.  Same sex couples in California can get married.  Legalized same sex marriages will be recognized by the federal government.

Same sex couples in 38 states still don't have the right to marriage.  We're not done with fighting for equality -- but for now, we celebrate.  And I have no doubt the next cases will expand these rights for all. 

Here's the statement the Religious Institute just released:


As religious leaders, we celebrate the Supreme Court decisions on marriage equality and that the Defense of Marriage Act has been declared unconstitutional. 

The faiths we affirm challenge us to speak and act for justice for all who seek to express their love in the commitment of marriage.  We find support for marriage equality in our scriptures and our traditions in their overriding messages about love, justice, and inclusion of the marginalized. Many religious traditions already perform marriages for same-sex couples; at least a dozen Christian denominations and Jewish movements, allow their clergy to perform marriage or union ceremonies for same-sex couples.  As religious leaders, we affirm that persons of all sexual orientations should have the right to civil marriage and its benefits.  As our traditions affirm, where there is love, the sacred is in our midst.

The United States is one of the most diverse religious countries in the world. We affirm that religious denominations must have the right to discern who is eligible for marriage in their own tradition. In addition, all clergy should be free to solemnize marriages without state interference based on their own traditions and conscience.  Same sex couples in every state must have the right to legal marriage. 

We join with millions of people of faith in celebrating today.  We pledge to continue our work for marriage equality and relational justice for all.   


Monday, May 20, 2013

Meditations on the Good News: Awe Came Upon Everyone

Yesterday, Pentecost was celebrated by Christians worldwide as the birthday of the Christian Church, and so I wanted to share with you this Pentecost reflection from my book Meditations on the Good News: Reading the Bible For Today.

Awe came upon everyone.
Acts 2:43

Later on that Pentecost day, “awe came upon everyone,” and all had the “goodwill of all the people” (Acts 2:47). No one is left out. All the people, no matter how different, receive the grace of being alive, of sharing the possibilities of being filled with reverence and the joy of living.

As I write this, the birds outside my window are singing different songs, some in their own robin language, some in their own wren language, some their own sparrow language. At first, I only hear it as birds singing, a single blended note. But when I slow down and really listen, the different songs emerge. I hear the robin, the sparrow and the wren individually. They are singing to their mates, but for right now, it feels like they are singing to me.

I look outside my window, and at first my mind only registers that there are tall green trees. But, as I slow myself down, I differentiate the evergreen, the pine, and the maple. I watch a bird fly from one to the other. By slowing down for a moment and really looking, really listening, I feel awe for the nature that I too often overlook.

The day is dawning, and I am given the gift of seeing today.

We have the opportunity to be awed, in our everyday surroundings, every day. Take a moment, right now, and look outside your window. Look, really look, at the nature that is right outside your window. Open your ears and listen, really listen. Take a deep breath and be in awe that you are created in a body that breathes for you without your needing to do anything at all.

Take a few minutes throughout today just to be and observe. Let today be a day, to paraphrase e.e cummings’ words, when the ears of your ears awake and the eyes of your eyes are opened.

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Meditations on the Good News. Please feel free to forward it to anyone you think may be blessed to read it.

For those of you who have read and enjoyed Meditations on the Good News, please consider leaving a review on its Amazon page.

Thank you!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Tell ESPN Anti-Gay Is Not Christian/Support Jason Collins

NBA Basketball Player Jason Collins inspired so many — including me — with his courage in coming out as a gay man and citing his Christian faith as a core reason for being public about his sexuality.

But hours after the news broke, ESPN sportscaster Chris Broussard’s said to millions of viewers: "I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I don't think the Bible would characterize them as a Christian."

Since that moment, ESPN only tepidly apologized.

Working with our amazing partners at Groundswell/Auburn seminary, we created a petiton that
More than 800 people of faith have already signed demanding that ESPN not allow anti-gay speech to go unchallenged – 

 Will you join our campaign? Click here to tell ESPN that Christian doesn't equal anti-gay.

When NBA player Jason Collins came out as gay, he noted “My parents instilled Christian values in me. They taught Sunday school, and I enjoyed lending a hand. I take the teachings of Jesus seriously, particularly the ones that touch on tolerance and understanding.”

After years of hiding who he was, this courageous basketball player needs our support.
Click here to take action. 

More about the Religious Institute:
The Religious Institute applauds Jason Collins' courageous public witness, and our network of religious leaders affirms sexual and gender diversity as a blessed part of life. The Religious Institute is a national nonprofit advocating for sexual and reproductive justice, education and health in faith communities and in society. Click here to check it out. 
About Groundswell 
Groundswell is a place for people of faith, the seeking, and the secular to advocate for change they want to see in their communities. Together, we echo, amplify, and empower each other’s calls for justice. It's where anyone, like you, can easily set up a petition, recruit your friends and colleagues through social media, email whoever signed the petition, and get campaign support from Groundswell headquarters in New York City to make your campaign successful. Click here to check it out.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Marriage Equality:Personal is Political, Political is Personal

It's not often that we get to watch history being made. But as I watched the news this morning and saw colleagues standing in front of the Supreme Court, my heart thrilled knowing that inside the Justices were hearing the first arguments in a Supreme Court case that the Religious Institute was participating in as an "amici"--a friend of the case. Today, the Court will hear a case on the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the California law that bans same sex marriage. Tomorrow, the Court will hear the case on the constitutionality of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, the bill that Bill Clinton now wishes he had never signed.

I've been working on marriage equality for more than a decade, although I remember distinctly that after the attempt to legalize marriage in Hawaii was turned down, it seemed more realistic to work for civil unions than marriage.  The first version of the Religious Declaration on Sexuality Morality, Justice, and Healing called for clergy to support "the blessings of same sex unions" because civil marriage seemed like too remote a possibility. That was only 13 years ago.

My commitment to marriage grew when I went to New Paltz, New York in 2004, under threat of arrest, to perform marriage ceremonies for same sex couples. Two of my Unitarian Universalist colleagues had been arrested the week before, standing outside of Mayor Jason West's office in the tiny upstate New York town. This week, six of us went, fully garbed in clerical robes and stoles, prepared to be arrested to marry six more couples.

The first couple we married were two men in their late sixties in matching ties and blazers. They had been together 35 years. One of their 93-year-old mothers had flown up from Florida. Clutching her purse in a borrowed winter coat, she cried as my colleague pronounced them married. She said to me, "I've waited all my life to see my son married."

I knew at that moment that civil unions would never be enough.

That same year, I led a meeting of theologians to develop the Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Marriage Equality. It declared, "where there is love, the sacred is always in our midst." The Open Letter has now been endorsed by more than 2800 clergy from more than fifty faith traditions. It's been used in historic battles in California and Maine, and echoed by religious leaders in states across the country. The Religious Institute has played an active role in educating faith leaders about marriage equality and providing them with the theological framework to use in their pulpits and in the public square. 

I cheered when Massachusetts became the first state to have marriage equality in 2004. I was thrilled when I finally got to say the words, "by the power vested in me by the state of Connecticut" when I marriage two women shortly after Connecticut made marriage legal. I had the honor of marrying two 87-year-old men who had been together for 57 years when marriage became legal for them in New York.

And one day, I hope to officiate at the legal marriage of my son and his to-be-chosen future partner, knowing that he will have the same rights as my daughter and her soon-to-be husband, as I have had with my partner of now 31 years. And that those rights won't only be in Connecticut and New York and 7 other states (plus the District of Columbia), but will be recognized everywhere.

My prayers today and tomorrow will be with the lawyers and the Justices and all those who have worked so hard to get to this day. Where there is love, the sacred is in our midst.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Meditations on the Good News: God will again have compassion upon us

I’ll be posting excerpts from Meditations on the Good News over the next few weeks.

I hope you enoy this excerpt. There is a special offer at the end of this post for those interested in reading the whole book. 

God does not retain his anger forever....God will again have compassion upon us
Micah 7:18–19

I once gave a talk at a major university on sexuality and religion. At the end of the speech a teenage girl and her mother waited in the line where I was signing copies of my books until everyone else had left.

The (about) sixteen-year-old came forward and whispered, “Do you think God forgives the sins that people commit as teenagers?”

I asked her if she believed in a God of love and forgiveness. She answered “Yes.” I told her I did too, and that I believed that there is nothing we could do — young or old — that would alienate us from God’s love.

I wish I had remembered this passage from Micah in that moment. It not only doesn’t imply that all people are sinners, but that God forgives people when they do sin and shows mercy and compassion to us.

Some of you have a different idea of sin than I do. My theology does not believe in original sin, the idea that all people are born as sinners, or that sin is transmitted by the very act of sex that brings us into being. I often talk about “original blessing” to illustrate that all of our births are miracles, beginning with a sexual act and hopefully conceived in a loving relationship. How different the history of religion might be if St. Augustine had conceived of “original blessing” rather than original sin! My own concept of sin is about broken relationships, causing suffering, and not honoring the gifts of life. Almost all faith traditions teach that there is always a possibility for love, healing and restored relationships.

This passage from Micah emphasizes healing, forgiveness and compassion from God. I also think it’s a call to us not to stay angry, to forgive, to show mercy and have compassion for those who have angered, crossed or hurt us. It reminds us when we have been hurt by another to reach for compassion rather than return the anger.

My own senior minister, Rev. Frank Hall, often ends his service with these words from poet Miller Williams:
“Have compassion for everyone you meet even if they don’t want it. What seems bad manners, an ill temper or cynicism is always a sign of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen. You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone.”
I often remind myself of these words when I’m behind an angry passenger at the airport or a person who pushes me in the supermarket line or a driver who cuts me off cursing me because I’m driving the speed limit. I don’t really know what is going on with them, so rather than responding with returned temper or ill manners, I try to remind myself, “Compassion. I don’t know what else is going on in their lives today.”

It can even be with someone you think you know well. Perhaps a dear friend or even your spouse is insensitive to your feelings or rude or sarcastic to you. Before getting upset with him or her, it may be useful to ask what else happened that you don’t know about. You could say something like, “You are usually so loving. I feel hurt (or angry) by what you just said, but I wonder what I don’t know is going on in your life.” I once had a major falling out with a dear friend. Months later, as we met to reestablish our friendship, we learned that we had both been going through deep stress during that time that we had taken out on each other. We chose to forgive each other and move on in order to reclaim our friendship.

A minister friend of mine taught me the spiritual practice of saying “fascinating.” She told a story of one person blowing up at another person at a staff meeting and walking out of the room. The woman who was the recipient of the anger said aloud, “Fascinating,” and continued on with the meeting. When my friend asked her how she could respond so neutrally, she explained that when faced with such situations, she had trained herself to say “fascinating” aloud and wonder with intention what could be going on behind the other’s behavior.

What if for today, like God in the Micah passage above, you responded to every negative interaction with forgiveness, mercy and compassion? What if you trained yourself to think and say “fascinating” in such circumstances, being curious about what causes a person to act that way? How might that change your way of being in the world?

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Meditations on the Good News. Please feel free to forward it to anyone you think may be blessed to read it.

Special Offer: For a limited time, you can get a signed copy of Meditations on the Good News for just $12, shipping and handling included. If you like, I will personalize your copy to you. Click here to order your copy.

For those of you who have read and enjoyed Meditations on the Good News, please consider leaving a review on its Amazon page.

Thank you!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Meditations on the Good News: Joy Comes With the Morning

I’ll be posting excerpts from Meditations on the Good News over the next few weeks. This section feels particularly appropriate to me as we enter the Lenten season.

I hope you like it. There is a special offer at the end of this post for those interested in reading the whole book. 

Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

Psalm 30:5

There are times in everyone’s life when our sorrow is so deep that it seems like we will never be happy again. A loved one has died, a child or a lover is seriously ill, a dear friend moves away, a child leaves home, someone tells us that they no longer want to be in a relationship with us. We may actually feel sensations of grief, deep in our chest, that our heart is breaking. At the beginning we may be wracked, sobbing great tears, crying from a place so deep inside us that just moments prior we didn’t even know existed. A little later, little reminders of that person cause us to break into tears at unexpected moments.

You may be feeling that way now. Surely most of us have had this experience by our mid- to late twenties, some of us much earlier. When we love, truly love, other people — children, friends, family members, partners — when they leave us, whether through moving or death or just moving on, our hearts break.

Yet, Psalm 30 teaches that God can turn “mourning into dancing” (Ps. 30:11) and that “joy comes with the morning” (Ps. 30:5). This is no hollow platitude, a “you’ll get over it” as too many parents counsel their teens getting over first love. It is instead God’s promise. Joy will return.

Why? The passage reminds us that our sorrow is so deep precisely because we have allowed ourselves the vulnerability, the intimacy of truly loving another. We would not hurt so much if we hadn’t loved so much. And the experience of that lost love affirms that we have the capacity to love again.

If you are feeling deep sorrow now, be with it. Don’t wish it away, don’t hurry your grief. Cry, talk about it, allow yourself to be overwhelmed. Look at photos, collect your memories. Sit with your loss.

If you are a friend of someone who is mourning, just be with him or her. You don’t have to “do” anything. Sit together. Listen. Be present. You only need to say, “I’m sorry” and mean it.

Remind yourself that happiness can and will return. Some of us may need medical or psychological help to get through these periods; all of us will need time.

Even in your grief, try to do one little thing that pleases you today. Breathe in a flower. Drink a good cup of coffee. Stretch your body. Go for a walk. Allow yourself a few moments to remember that life is good. Joy will come again.

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Meditations on the Good News. Please feel free to forward it to anyone you think may be blessed to read it.

Special Offer: For a limited time, you can get a signed copy of Meditations on the Good News for just $12, shipping and handling included. If you like, I will personalize your copy to you. Click here to order your copy.

For those of you who have read and enjoyed Meditations on the Good News, please consider leaving a review on its Amazon page.

Thank you!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Meditations on the Good News: Valentine's Day Edition

I’ll be posting excerpts from Meditations on the Good News over the next few weeks, starting today with one that is particularly apt for Valentine’s Day. I hope you like it!

Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.
Genesis 2:24–25

Thus ends the second chapter of Genesis, the second chapter in the Bible, and an alternative to the creation story in Genesis 1.

In Genesis 1, God creates humankind on the sixth day, creating a male and a female in God’s image (Gen. 1:27). The very first thing God says to these new human beings? “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28) or in other words, “Go have sex and make babies.”

Genesis 2 is believed by most Biblical historians to have been written at an earlier time than Genesis 1 and is an alternative story of the creation. After creating Adam, God recognizes that Adam needs a companion and a helper: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner” (Gen. 2:18). This version goes on to say that God then formed every animal and every bird, and brought them to the man, but Adam did not find among them a suitable “helper as a partner.” It is only after rejecting the animals as partners that God put the man into a deep sleep, and created Woman.

And then the words of Genesis 2:24–25 follow. They tell us the man and the woman were naked, they engaged
in sexual intercourse, and they were not ashamed of their bodies or their sexuality. Procreation is never mentioned in this version of the creation story. 
What a joyful reminder of the gift of our sexuality. At the very beginning, in the Garden of Eden, humans enjoy their bodies without shame or guilt. We are made for each other, as helpers, partners and lovers. 

Side by side, the very two first chapters of the Bible emphasize the equality of men and women, recognize that we need a mate who is a helper, partner and lover, and affirm sexual acts as potentially procreative, but also joyous and re-creative without procreation. At the end of the sixth day, God “saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (italics mine; Gen. 1:31). Everything — including our sexuality. 

These passages remind me of a moment in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. Shug says in response to Celie’s protest to an allusion about sexual response: 
“Oh, she say. God love all them feelings. That’s some of the best stuff God did. And when you know God loves ’em you enjoys ’em a lot more. You can just relax, go with everything that’s going, and praise God by liking what you like . . . . Listen, God love everything you love — and a mess of stuff you don’t.” 
Rather than viewing sexuality as sinful, these opening chapters of the Bible teach that sexuality is God’s life-giving and life-fulfilling gift to us. Many people mistakenly believe that the Bible only contains two messages about sexuality: “Don’t” and “Sex Is Only for Procreation in Marriage.” The Bible’s view on sexuality is much richer and more complex than most people know. Indeed, the Bible teaches that our bodies are wonderful and to be enjoyed, that there are many forms of blessed relationships and that we must not abuse or exploit this sacred gift. 
For a few moments, take the time to think about what this means to you. Growing up, did you learn that your sexuality was a blessing from God to be celebrated? Or did you learn that sexual feelings were wrong, needed to be confessed and subverted? Can you open yourself to feel deep inside your bones that your sexuality is a precious gift? What would it mean for you to “be naked and not ashamed” with yourself or with your partner? What might it mean for you today? 

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Meditations on the Good News. Please feel free to forward it to anyone you think may be blessed to read it.

Special Offer: For a limited time, you can get a signed copy of Meditations on the Good News for just $12, shipping and handling included. If you like, I will personalize your copy to you. Click here to order your copy.

For those of you who have read and enjoyed Meditations on the Good News, please consider leaving a review on its Amazon page.

Thank you!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Religious Leaders Support Family Planning!

I'm delighted to tell you that this morning, the Religious Institute released its new Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Family Planning, endorsed by more than 1000 religious leaders from across the theological spectrum.  

The new Open Letter  recognizes that all women must have equal access to contraception, and states that “the denial of [coverage for] family planning services effectively translates into coercive childbearing and is an insult to human dignity.” The release of this statement coincides with the recent Obama Administration release of proposed regulations, which affirmed its commitment to assure all women have birth control access without cost or administrative hurdles.

Too many of the press reports on the regulations equated the opposition of the Roman Catholic hierarchy to the inclusion of family planning services in the American Care Act with all religious institutions.  It is a critical misunderstanding to equate the minority of those religious leaders who have fought the coverage of birth control during the past year with threats and lawsuits, with the majority of people of faith in the United States who support access to contraception. Let us be clear that support for religious freedom means that women must have the right to accept or reject the principles of their own faith without restrictions, regardless of their place of employment or geographical location. It is unethical for any single religious voice to claim to speak for all religious people in this debate.

More than a dozen major religious denominations have policies that support contraception. In addition, more than 8 in ten women at risk of unintended pregnancy use modern contraceptive methods, regardless of religious affiliation.

The 1000 endorsers of the new Open Letter come from 45 states and more than 35 religious traditions, including each of the major mainline Protestant denominations, Southern Baptist, Roman Catholic, and Muslim traditions. Participating faith leaders include 8 current and former presidents of national denominations including the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black (United Church of Christ), the Rev. Wes Granberg-Michaelson (Reformed Church in America), the Rev. Peter Morales (Unitarian Universalist Association), the Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins (Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)), and the Reverend Nancy Wilson, (Metropolitan Community Churches); seminary presidents including Dr. Philip A. Amerson (Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary), the Rev. Dr. Serene Jones (Union Theological Seminary), and The Very Rev. Katherine Ragsdale (Episcopal Divinity School) and faculty from sixteen seminaries;  heads of more than twenty national religious organizations, including the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good (Dr. Richard Cizik), Women of Reform Judaism (Rabbi Marla Feldman), the Beatitudes Society (Rev. Anne Howard), Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (Rev. Harry Knox), Catholics for Choice (Jon O’Brien), the Methodist Federation for Social Action (Jill A. Warren) and Muslims for Progressive Values (Ms. Ani Zonneveld); and prominent theologians from diverse perspectives including the Rev. Dr. Tony Campolo, the Rev. Dr. Larry Greenfield, Dr. Mary Hunt, the Right Reverend Gene Robinson, and Dr. Elizabeth Schussler. The Reverends Jones, Watkins, and Wilson all recently were worship leaders at the National Prayer Service. 

The Open Letter was developed in 2012 as a direct response to increasing attempts to deny or restrict family planning access. The Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Family Planning was developed at a colloquium of a dozen renowned faith leaders and theologians sponsored by the Religious Institute. Participants included nationally prominent theologians and ordained clergy from Jewish, Roman Catholic, Protestant (evangelical and mainline denominations), Muslim and Unitarian Universalist traditions.

To read the entire letter, view the endorsers, or see the press release, go to

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My new book: Meditations on the Good News!

Dear friends and colleagues:

My new book, "Meditations on the Good News: Reading the Bible for Today" is (finally) available for sale at

The book is a series of meditations on Biblical passages that encourage the readers to lead a hopeful, joyful life.  It is a direct response to those who say that the Bible teaches that we are all sinners (it does not) and I hope that it re-introduces the Bible to those who believe it is irrelevant to life today.  And yes, I include many of the passages that celebrate our sexuality.

I say in the book, "You don't need to be Christian or Jewish or Unitarian Universalist or attend a church or synagogue to benefit from these Biblical insights.  You don't need to believe in a creed, or indeed believe in organized religion at all to apply these lessons in your own daily life....You can be "spiritual, not religious" or "religious and spiritual" and still find or make meaning."

I hope some of you may be interested in reading it (it's available on Kindle as well).  During the next few weeks, I'll run a few excerpts at this blog. 

Warm wishes to you all.


PS The direct link to copy and paste is 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Celebrating and Lamenting Roe (and Abortion) at 40

I was 18 when Roe v. Wade was decided.  I thought, as I walked that day to class, that abortion would now be legal and local and that the controversy would ebb away.  I could never have imagined that 40 years later, as a post-menopausal woman, I’d still be working to assure that abortion would be accessible to all, regardless of age, income, or geography.

I think my 18 year old self would have been appalled.  That 18 year old had already helped a friend get to New York City for an abortion because it wasn’t legal in Connecticut.  That 18 year old had already had a friend who had been sent to an “aunt” for a school year to have a baby and give it up for adoption.  That 18 year old had already had a high school classmate who had dropped out of school to have a baby.  That 18 year old already knew that her grandmother had had an illegal abortion.

I cheered that Supreme Court decision – and all those who had worked to make it happen.
On this 40th anniversary, I cheer that Roe has held, but despair that we still have to fight.  I loved the President’s line about Selma, Seneca Falls, and Stonewall, linking the civil rights and equality of all.  I wish he had something about women’s reproductive rights.  (As an aside to this blog, I also wish he had remembered the B ad the T in LGBT, as they were invisible yesterday, but that’s another blog this week!)

I applaud all those along the way who have stood for reproductive justice.  Let us hold in our hearts those who have gone before us in working to protect the rights of women.  Let us stand with those in every part of the globe who are working still to protect women’s access to services and to assure that no woman dies giving birth to the next generation.   On this 40th anniversary of the Roe decision, we remember in sorrow women around the world who have died because of dangerous or illegal abortions, and the providers who have been murdered providing women with these services. 

Let us applaud those clergy who have worked so hard to help people understand that there are religious foundations for affirming abortion as a morally justifiable decision and that women are moral agents who have the right and responsibility to make their own decisions about their reproductive health and futures.  We believe that the sanctity of human life is best upheld when we assure that it is not created carelessly.  It is precisely because life and parenthood are so precious that no woman, regardless of income or geography, should be coerced to bring a pregnancy to term.  We pledge our compassion and support for all who face these difficult decisions. 

Join with us.  Work with us on reproductive and sexual justice.  May there come a day when every child is planned and wanted; every pregnancy safe and supported by medical services; every abortion legal and safe and without unnecessary laws and restrictions; every woman able to make her own moral decisions about her fertility and family size. 

Celebrate Roe today.  Get back to work tomorrow.