Now, more than ever, your donation to the Religious Institute is vital.
We need you to help us confront those who misuse religion to hurt people’s sexuality. We watch every day as religion is misused to deny women access to abortion and even family planning services; to lobby against marriage equality and the full inclusion of LGBT people; to control young adults’ sexuality; and to instill shame about non-marital sexuality in young people and adults.
Too often, conservative religious leaders replace love and inclusion with exclusionary, shame-based policies.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The Religious Institute confronts the religious voices of intolerance, hatred and exclusion, and we need your help to continue to do this important work.
Please make your gift today. As a small organization, every gift adds to our ability to amplify your prophetic voice for sexuality education, reproductive justice, and full inclusion of LGBT people.
Click here to make your donation.
Our colleague Rabbi Dennis Ross at Concerned Clergy for Choice writes about the Supreme Court’s decision to hear two cases related to employer exemptions to covering contraceptive services under the ACA and whose religious liberty is really at stake. Click here for the article.
Two major court decisions impacting abortion access were given on Tuesday, November 19th, with New Mexico defeating a late-term abortion ban and a Texas abortion restriction being allowed to stand.
Voters in Albuquerque, New Mexico have convincingly defeated a ban on late-term abortions by 55 percent to 45 percent in an unprecedented election that followed an emotional and graphic campaign that attracted national attention. Read more here.
The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to leave in effect a Texas provision requiring doctors who perform abortions in clinics to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Opponents note that this provision has effectively closed more than a third of the state’s clinics. Read more here.
The Religious Institute is deeply saddened at the guilty verdict given Monday in the trial of Pastor Frank Schaefer for officiating at the wedding of his son to another man. Repercussions could range from losing his ordination credentials to being suspended for a time determined by the jury, as the penalty phase began earlier this morning.
Schaefer, a pastor in the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual (regional) Conference officiated at the same-sex wedding of his son five years ago. A complaint was filed one month before the statute of limitations ran out, and word of the trial became public Sept. 20. Schaefer said he “followed his heart” when his son, Tim, asked him to officiate at his wedding. Read more here.
Updated November 20th: Frank Schaefer has been suspended for 30 days, and warned that he will lose his credentials if he violates any of the church’s rules in that time. He was also told to surrender his credentials if he is unable to “reconcile his new calling to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community with the laws from the church’s Book of Discipline.”
Schaefer told reporters afterward that he had no intention of changing his mind and said he expects to lose his credentials in 30 days.
The Religious Institute announced today that all seminaries affiliated with the United Church of Christ (UCC) have now met a majority of the criteria of a sexually healthy and responsible seminary, making the UCC the first Protestant denomination to achieve this distinction.
“We are proud of our long partnership with the United Church of Christ,” said the Rev. Debra W. Haffner, President of the Religious Institute. “Through their leadership in sexuality education and the welcome and inclusion of LGBT persons, the UCC has a strong track record of advocacy for sexual justice. That all UCC affiliated seminaries are meeting this high standard for sexual health and responsibility underscores their denominational commitment to build on this legacy for future religious leaders and congregants alike.”
Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, General Minister and President of the UCC, noted “I’m proud of our UCC-related seminaries and seminarians, who take these matters seriously, make the connections between religion and sexuality, work to be inclusive communities of justice and peace, and have put in place policies and practices that create safe space and combat stigma, discrimination, sexual abuse and violence. [This accomplishment] bodes well for the future of the church and for the ministries of health and wholeness to which we are called as persons created in the image of an ever-engaged God.”
Thirty diverse U.S. seminaries now meet at least two thirds of the criteria for a sexually healthy and responsible seminary, compared to just ten in 2009. United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities and McCormick Theological Seminary are the two most recent additions to the list of Sexually Healthy and Responsible Seminaries.
“Today at least thirty seminaries are helping future clergy deal with the realities of sexuality issues in the lives of their congregants and have a demonstrated commitment to the overall sexual health of their institutions. Religious leaders with training in sexuality help their congregants make important connections between sexuality and spirituality and have the skills to respond to the sexuality-related needs of those they serve,” stated Religious Institute Deputy Director Marie Alford-Harkey.
Additional information on this project, including a full list of the institutions designated as Sexually Healthy and Responsible Seminaries, is available at religiousinstitute.org/healthyseminaries.
The Religious Institute is delighted to announce the addition of McCormick Theological Seminary to its list of seminaries that meet the criteria of a sexually healthy and responsible seminary.
This brings the number of qualifying institutions to twenty-nine, compared to just ten in 2009.
The Religious Institute is pleased to announce its new online workshop on preventing clergy sexual misconduct. This online workshop was created for Unitarian Universalist clergy, candidates, and seminarians. It explains the new UUMA code of conduct on sexual relationships and the UUMA standards related to it. In addition, the workshop helps participants understand the difference between sexual harassment and sexual misconduct, and provides information on handling attraction and boundaries in ministry.
1 RESOLUTION AGAINST BULLY AND DISCRIMINATION
2 Approved As Amended
4 A Resolution of Witness
6 TEXT OF THE MOTION
7 WHEREAS, the United Church of Christ supports the right of students to attend schools that are safe
8 and free from violence, harassment, bullying, and discrimination; and
9 WHEREAS, the United Church of Christ encourages and expects all churches of the denomination to
10 provide and enforce church policies to ensure the safety of all children and youth participating in church
11 activities; and
12 WHEREAS, providing safe learning environments in all settings, be it churches, schools, sports
13 complexes, etc., that ensure both the physical and emotional safety of students, and create the conditions
14 necessary to foster success in all endeavors where children and youth are involved; and
15 WHEREAS, bullying is one of the more common and vicious ways by which such success is imperiled;
16 WHEREAS, bullying is any behavior that happens when someone is subjected to negative actions from
17 one or more people and has a hard time defending him or herself. Moreover, bullying takes various
18 forms: teasing, taunting or verbal abuse, punching, shoving and physical acts, spreading rumors,
19 ganging up on others, or excluding someone from a group; and
20 WHEREAS, cyber-bullying occurs when a person uses the Internet, mobile phones, or other electronic
21 devices to bully, the impact can be more long-lasting. Some examples of cyber-bullying are: sending
22 mean or threatening texts, e-mail, or instant messages; posting damaging pictures or hurtful messages
23 online; tricking someone into revealing personal information and sending it to others; and creating
24 websites to make fun of someone; and
25 WHEREAS, children ache to be considered a viable and vital part of their community and yearn to be
26 treated with dignity; and
27 WHEREAS, some significantly effective practices are being developed around the country, increased
28 collaboration among schools, churches, community service organizations, and civic clubs needs to be
29 encouraged and those various entities need to be equipped to develop strategies to enhance their
30 effectiveness in reducing bullying; and
31 WHEREAS, the United Church of Christ supports communities that develop, implement and monitor
32 policies and programs that address the prevention, intervention and elimination of violence, harassment,
33 bullying, and discrimination.2
34 NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Twenty-ninth General Synod of the United Church
35 of Christ encourages all Conferences of the United Church of Christ to work with a broad spectrum of
36 local community stakeholders, clergy, coaches, instructors, parents, staff, students and teachers, and to
37 develop, implement, and monitor policies and programs that foster and support a positive learning
38 climate free from violence, harassment, bullying, and discrimination based on, but not limited to, age,
39 race, ethnicity, language, national identity, political or theological perspectives, appearance, gender
40 identity or expression, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability, economic status or class.
41 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call for further education for all people in all settings of our
42 church about the definition, causes and effects of bullying, so that we foster climates of greater safety,
43 and so that we grow in our capacity to love our neighbors as ourselves in word and deed.
44 BE IT ALSO FURTHER RESOLVED that the Twenty-ninth General Synod of the United Church of
45 Christ urges all settings to invest in, promote, and support comprehensive, coordinated, and
46 collaborative strategies to prevent violence, harassment, bullying, and discrimination in places of
47 learning so that all students have the opportunity to attend school, engage in the classroom, achieve
48 academic success, and participate in other school activities.
50 Funding for the implementation of the resolution will be made in accordance with the overall mandates
51 of the affected agencies and the funds available.
53 The Collegium of Officers, in consultation with appropriate ministries or other entities within the United
54 Church of Christ, will determine the implementing body.
1 The Executive Council recommends this resolution be sent to a committee of the General Synod
3 RESISTING ACTIONS SEEKING TO UNDERMINE THE STATUS
4 OF WOMEN IN SOCIETY
6 Submitted by The Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ
8 A Resolution of Witness
12 This resolution is in response to increasing legislative activity that has taken place in states
13 across the country and at the national level, which is aimed at undermining women’s rights
14 gained over the past thirty years. Systematic attempts to undermine the status of women can be
15 seen in: efforts to deny women reproductive rights which are the law of the land, the passage of
16 legislation that inserts government into health care choices which should be personal and private;
17 state legislation which overturns equal pay laws, failure at the national level to renew equal pay
18 laws. All of these issues are issues on which previous Synods have taken stands. This resolution
19 asks the Twenty-ninth General Synod to reaffirm those positions and values and to draw upon
20 them in resisting social and political actions that lead to the subjugation of women.
22 BIBLICAL, THEOLOGICAL AND ETHICAL RATIONALE
24 In the Creation story, scripture affirms that all people are created in the image and likeness of
25 God, that male and female, God created them establishing a partnership of equality between
26 them (Genesis 1:27-28). The United Church of Christ has demonstrated an understanding of this
27 biblically established partnership of equality to mean that societal distinctions which create an
28 inferior-superior relationship between genders is contrary to the will of God.
32 Since 1969 General Synods of the United Church of Christ have studied social issues that led to
33 and maintained gender inequality. As a result previous Synods have passed resolutions calling
34 for equality in educational opportunities, equal pay, reproductive rights, and end to domestic
35 violence. Consistently Synod resolutions have acknowledged that matters of reproductive health
36 are matters of conscience and therefore personal decisions. Now, political conversation and
37 legislation actions taking place across the country have led to the loss of basic health care
38 services for women of limited means, have intruded in doctor/patient relationships and have
39 interfered with women’s ability to make their own health care decisions. Organized efforts are
40 underway to undermine the equality for women achieved over the past 30 years.
41 In a recent op-ed article in the New York Times that outlines the consequences of this activity,
42 columnist Gail Collins notes that this activity “…is basically about imposing one particular
43 theology on the rest of the country.” (The Woes of Roe; www.nytimes.com; January 9, 2013).
44 We believe it is important for the United Church of Christ to again bear witness to the presence
45 of another theological perspective on these issues – one that challenges the assumption of
46 inferior-superior relationships between genders.
48 TEXT OF THE MOTION
50 WHEREAS previous General Synods of the United Church of Christ have affirmed the value
51 and dignity of women in the church and society and called for an end to sexism and the
52 consequences of patriarchy (1969, 1983, 1989, 1991, 1995) and
53 WHEREAS recent and ongoing political conversation and legislative action across the country is
54 leading to the loss of many of the significant advances toward full equality for women;
55 THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Twenty-ninth General Synod of the United Church of
56 Christ calls on National Staff of the United Church of Christ, Conferences, Associations, and
57 Congregations to reaffirm the belief that societal distinctions which create an inferior-superior
58 relationship between genders is contrary to the will of God; to bear witness to that belief by
59 standing vigilant with and actively supporting women; to resist the reemerging cultural forces
60 working to subjugate women.
61 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that recognizing that the political conversations and legislative
62 actions often begin with groups that attribute their attempts to subjugate women to Christian
63 beliefs, the Twenty-ninth Synod of the United Church of Christ calls on the National staff of the
64 United Church of Christ, Conferences, Associations and Congregations to
65 • publicly challenge such attributions
66 • proclaim the biblical vision of partnership and equality
67 • work with other denominations, ecumenical, and interfaith partners to do the same
68 • empower conference, state and national UCC policy advocates to ensure legislation
69 which assures women a full range of health care choices and services, including Title X
70 and Planned Parenthood, and recognizes a woman’s right to make decisions about her
71 own reproductive health.
75 Funding for the implementation of the resolution will be made in accordance with the overall
76 mandates of the affected agencies and the funds available.
80 The Collegium of Officers, in consultation with appropriate ministries or other entities within the
81 United Church of Christ, will determine the implementing body.
The Association declares and affirms its special responsibility, and that of its member congregations and organizations, to promote the full participation of persons in all of its and their activities and in the full range of human endeavor without regard to race, ethnicity, gender, disability, affectional or sexual orientation, age, language, citizenship status, economic status, or national origin and without requiring adherence to any particular interpretation of religion or to any particular religious belief or creed.