Religious Institute News Summer 2012

Posted: August 8, 2012 by Ty in Current Events, Musings, Spirituality
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Religious Institute

Summer 2012 Newsletter

From the President

When I tell people what I do for a living, sometimes people respond by saying, “Wow, you work on the most controversial issues of our time.”  People use phrases like “hot button issues” and “wedge issues” to describe the movements for full inclusion of LGBT people, marriage equality, and recently, contraceptive coverage.

Except these issues aren’t really controversial to most.  At July’s London Summit on Family Planning, sponsored by the Gates Foundation and the British Government, donor governments and foundations promised to provide an additional $4.6 billion so that an additional 120 million women can receive family planning services.  The vast majority of people in the U.S., including women of all faiths, use and support contraception.  The trumped up Fortnight to Freedom campaign by the U.S. Catholic Bishops tried to make contraception a controversial public policy issue failed to garner much public attention, especially as compared to the U.S. Nuns on the Bus campaign against proposed draconian budget cuts.

Last month’s 19th International AIDS Conference demonstrated that those with significant political differences can find common ground on hopes of ending the AIDS epidemic. This event brought together scientists, activists, medical professionals and politicians, all working to create an AIDS-free generation. Many noted the extraordinary scientific gains made since the conference was last held in the United States, over two decades ago. What was once unmentionable is now being targeted for eradication by a broad coalition of people, nations and organizations, all working together. Sometimes, we can find common ground, even on sexuality issues.

The American public is also increasingly in favor of LGBT rights.  Recent polls show that the majority of Americans now support marriage equality, and more than three quarters support legislation protecting lesbian and gay people from employment discrimination. We also have seen incremental progress coming out of the summer meetings of various religious denominations—more on that is covered in the newsletter below. It is indeed shameful that the Boy Scouts of America just reaffirmed its position against openly gay Boy Scouts or Boy Scout leaders, at a time when the vast majority of young people the ages of those engaged in those programs support gay rights. The Democratic National Convention has even included marriage equality as a plank in its platform. There simply is no justification for discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity—and most Americans agree.

We need to actively resist those who would marginalize issues of sexual justice by labeling them as “too hot to handle.”  One can only hope that the platform committees of both parties are listening.

Take Action!

One Billion Rising
V-Day, a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls, is inviting one billion people to walk out, dance, rise up, and demand an end to this violence on February 14, 2013, V-day’s 15th anniversary. One Billion Rising is intended to activate women and men across every country, demonstrating collective strength and solidarity across borders and protesting violence against women and girls. The Religious Institute is proud to be a co-sponsor. Join us!
Learn more and take action here . . .

Make April 10th National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day
Young activists have called on President Obama to recognize April 10th each year as National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day. This action would empower youth activists, government agencies, and the HIV and AIDS community to mobilize young people and their communities towards creating an AIDS-free generation.
Learn more and take action here . . .

Summer Denominational Update

Episcopal Meeting Brings Same-Sex Blessing Rites Among Other Sexuality Issues

The 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, held July 5-12, 2012, resulted in many resolutions on sexual justice issues, including HIV/AIDS, same-sex marriage, abortion, sexual ethics, transgender clergy and laity, and many more.
See the new Episcopal statements on sexuality issues here . . .
Read a firsthand account of these debates and resulting statements here . . .

Methodists Approve Sexual Ethics as Integral Part of Formation for Ministerial Leadership, But Remain Divided on LGBT Issues
Many sexuality issues were debated at the 2012 United Methodist Church General Conference, held April 24-May 4, 2012, notably including adopting a rigorous program of ministerial readiness regarding professional ethics, sexual ethics, healthy boundaries and self-care as a standard aspect of clergy education, with reference to Religious Institute research in the resolution language.
Read more . . .
The denomination also voted to retain language calling homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching” and to sanction only marriage for heterosexual couples.
Read more . . .

Presbyterians Debates Marriage, Ultimately 
The 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), held June 30-July 7, 2012, debated two different ways to include committed same-sex couples in their understanding of marriage, but both were ultimately defeated. Overture 13-04 would amend the Directory of Worship to change the characterization of marriage from a “man and a woman” to “two persons” but was defeated 308-338-2. The second overture would have issued an authoritative interpretation permitting ministers residing in states where marriage between same-sex couples is already legal to preside at same-sex wedding ceremonies, but it was defeated 24-26. The General Assembly did approve legislation to study the meaning of Christian marriage.
Read more . . .

Reformed Church in America Affirms Its Stance on Homosexuality
The Reformed Church in America General Synod, held June 21-26, 2012, affirmed a position that homosexual behavior is a sin according to Scripture, following more than three hours of debate. The RCA also called for the creation of a committee to study practical ways to ”move forward” on sexuality issues without changing the RCA’s official position.
Read more . . .

Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly Selects Reproductive Justice as its Next Congregational Study/Action Issue
Over the next four years, UUA congregations across the country will study, reflect, and act upon issues of reproductive justice as part of a denomination-wide Congregational Study/Action Issue, as a result of a vote of the UUA General Assembly, held June 20-24, 2012.
Read more here . . .

UUA Passing Study on Code of Conduct
The Unitarian Universalist Ministry Association voted at its annual meeting to study a revision to its code of conduct related to sexual misconduct. Religious Institute President Rev. Debra Haffner prepared the study guide that will be used.

Tracking Denominational Statements on Sexual Justice
The Religious Institute has just updated its Denominational Statements database. This resource has been created for those seeking up-to-date information about the official positions of major U.S. religious denominations on sexuality-related issues, and includes statements from 28 denominations covering official positions on marriage, gender identity, abortion, sexuality education and many more issues. Newly updated statements reflect The United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church 2012 stances, with other denominational stances being added and updated regularly. Access this resource here.

New Resources
benefits of contraception in the USBenefit of Contraceptive Use in the United States
This new video by The Guttmacher Institute presents factual information about U.S. contraceptive use and its benefits.
See the full video here
Read the fact sheet here

Making Love JustMaking Love Just
The modern understanding of sexual sin is about the misuse of power and exploitation of vulnerability, not just sex itself. It’s time to redraw the ethical map—but how should a contemporary Christian ethic of sexuality be formulated? This book uses provocative questions to increase readers’ skills and confidence for engaging in ethical deliberation about sexuality, building personal clarity and a mindful approach to relationships, and participation in respectful moral debate. Religious Institute President Rev. Debra Haffner calls this book “A helpful guide for the theologian, seminarian, and person of faith who is seeking to understand and integrate a truly redemptive Christian ethic of sexuality.”
Read more here . . .

A Guide to the Supreme Court’s Affordable Care Act Decision
This new policy brief from the Kaiser Family Foundation explains the key issues in the Supreme Court’s recent ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act, and looks ahead to the implementation of health reform now that questions about the constitutionality of the law have been resolved.
Read more here . . .

newlywed's guideThe Newlywed’s Guide to Physical Intimacy
This easy-to-read guide can help Conservative or Orthodox chassan (grooms) and kallah (brides) to navigate questions around marital sexuality issues. It is written in clear and descriptive language suitable for teachers, rabbis, and Jewish couples with questions about sexuality.
Read more here . . .

Rainbow BridgesRainbow Bridges
Rainbow Bridges, a 48-page guide developed in a pilot project to resettle LGBT refugees in San Francisco, offers practical step-by-step guidance on welcoming LGBT refugees fleeing persecution in their home countries. It offers guidance to ensuring their mental and physical well-being, helping them find support in their new communities, and outlines the avenues for refugees to receive housing, employment, and federal assistance.
Download Rainbow Bridges here . . . 

Faithful Voices Network

Faithful Voices Network
by Marie Alford-Harkey, MDiv
Director of Education and Training

From July 2-10, I attended The Episcopal Church General Convention as an exhibitor for the Religious Institute and as an alternate lay deputy for the Diocese of Connecticut.

Episcopalians made some very important statements this year. The Episcopal Church now has a provisional rite for the blessing of same-sex relationships. Because Episcopalians work out our theology through our practice of worship, this is a very large accomplishment. We also passed resolutions guaranteeing access to lay and ordained ministry to transgender persons. And we passed a resolution to “urge members of the U.S. Congress to repeal federal laws that have a discriminatory effect on same-gender civilly married couples…

Kori Pacyniak and Zena Link
It’s been a tumultuous stretch for Episcopalians since the election and consecration of the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. Because Bishop Robinson was the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, his election stirred up controversy over issues of sexuality and faith that had been brewing more quietly in the years prior. (Pictured at left: Kori Pacyniak and Zena Link, Episcopal Prophets for Sexual Justice).

What was refreshing at General Convention 2012 was the lack of controversy. The transgender inclusion resolutions passed with very little discussion and few dissenting voices. The liturgy entitled “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant” and its supporting materials garnered much commentary in a public committee hearing, but most of the opposition was organized from 3 dioceses. The support, on the other hand, was broad, deep, and passionate.

The Right Rev. Bishop James E. CurryDespite media attempts to portray it differently, the story at Episcopal General Convention 2012 was the gentle movement of the Holy Spirit. Episcopalians, it seems, are mostly ready to settle the question of who is included in God’s love, and move on to figure out how to participate in God’s mission of reconciliation, restoration, and healing the world. The attitude of deep listening that I observed did not develop overnight, however. It’s taken almost 40 years of prayer, education, courageous witness, and activism on the part of LGBT Episcopalians and our allies.  (Pictured at right: Bishop James E. Curry in the Religious Institute booth).

At the Religious Institute, we’re working to change the public conversation around religion and sexuality. We do this through education, activism, and advocacy, and we know that even though our progress can seem incremental at times, it is working. It is important for people of faith to present a voice to counter the voices of exclusion. We can’t underestimate the power of faithful voices joined together for justice. Thank you for staying involved.

Religious Institute News

Religious Institute 501c3The Religious Institute Receives Formal IRS Recognition
The Religious Institute has received official IRS recognition, and is now an independent 501c3 nonprofit organization. Thank you for your support during our reorganization and rebirth—with your help, we look forward to many more years of advocating for sexual and reproductive justice in faith communities.

Thanks to our Summer Assistants!
The Religious Institute welcomes Ben Herrington-Gilmore, who will be an Intern with us for the next several months. He joins us from Occidental College, where he majored in Diplomacy and World Affairs. The Religious Institute would also like to thank Alexa Sullivan for her invaluable work this summer as our interim Administrative Assistant, and wishes her well as she returns to Mount Holyoke College.

5500 Religious Leaders and Counting
This summer, the number of clergy and religious leaders who have joined the Religious Institute’s network has passed the 5500 mark. We are grateful to have your as partners in the movement for sexual justice in faith communities—thank you!

Thank You For Your Support!
The Religious Institute would like to thank The Mary Wohlford Foundation for their recent new grant award. We are grateful for their contributions to our shared work.

Religious Institute on the Road

  • August 12, 2012, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Simsbury, CT
    Director Marie Alford-Harkey will be preaching at 9am.
    Read more information here.
  • August 19, 2012, St. Mark’s Episcopal Chapel in Storrs, CT
    Director Marie Alford-Harkey will be preaching at 7:45 and 10 am.
    Read more information here.

Stay Connected with the Religious Institute


Endorse the Religious Declaration or an Open Letter

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  1. 17097 says:

    Greetings, I’m Calvin and I’m certainly pleased that I stumbled on wordpress.
    com. If you don’t mind, I just have one quick question. I was curious to learn about how you focus yourself and empty your mind before writing. Recently I just can’t get my
    head clear so that I’m ready to give attention to my ideas. I definitively do enjoy writing, however it just seems like the first ten to fifteen mins are lost merely just trying to figure out how to start off. Do you have any suggestions or tips?

    • Ty says:

      Go old school, with a pen and blank piece of paper. Simply spend the first fifteen minutes moving the pen on paper regardless of what comes out do not allow the pen to leave the paper.

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