Report encourages pastors, faith communities
to be sexually healthy, just and prophetic
The Layman, February 19, 2010
Associate director of Institute
speaks to PCUSA committee
Dr. Kate Ott, associate director of The Religious Institute, spoke at a recent meeting of the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns (ACWC), an entity of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
According to ACWC’s agency summary, Ott, who was the director of the study “Sex and the Seminary,” spoke about “her work regarding the importance of religious professionals having been educated in sex and sexuality.”
The summary continued that “The Thea-ologies work group of ACWC is continuing to work with Dr. Ott and consider ways in which the PCUSA might improve the sex/sexuality education of those preparing to lead the denomination.”
Integrating sexuality education and sexual justice in the curricula and institutional cultures of seminaries is a goal of the Sexuality and Religion 2020 report.
Commenting on the name of ACWC’s work group, the Rev. Carmen Fowler, president of The Presbyterian Lay Committee said “the entire idea of thea-ology is anti-Biblical. The God who is self-revealed through the Word, is self-described as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Had God chosen to identify Himself in some other way, He would have done so. We are not at liberty to re-imagine God nor ascribe to God characteristics of our own choosing. What is conceived of here is a god of human making, not God.”
The Religious Institute, a multifaith organization dedicated to advocating for sexual health, education and justice in faith communities and society, has released its “Sexuality and Religion 2020: Goals for the Next Decade Report.”
The report lists 10 goals to help all faith communities “be sexually healthy, just and prophetic,” by 2020.
The report was announced during a Feb. 9 conference call between a panel of religious leaders and reporters.
“This is a kairos moment,” the report states. “In the Christian Scriptures, kairos signals ‘the appointed time in the purpose of God,’ the moment when God acts, and long-needed change at last is made possible. In broader faith terms, it is a time of opportunity, when the world opens itself to movement and transformation. In this moment, we are witnessing a new willingness, in religious communities and society at large, toward transforming traditional understandings of sexuality and religion.”
The report was based on the “Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing,” published in 2000. Updated in 2010, the Religious Declaration states that “culture needs a sexual ethic focused on personal relationships and social justice rather than particular sexual acts. … It accepts no double standards and applies to all persons, without regard to sex, gender, color, age, bodily condition, marital status or sexual orientation.”
It states that almost all of the world’s religions understand sexuality as “a divinely bestowed capacity for expressing love and generating life, for mutual companionship and pleasure. They teach that sexuality calls for responsibility, respect and self-discipline; they honor loving, ethical relationships.”
But, the religious teachings vary and the report condemns many: “Whether through silence, condemnation or exclusion, religious leaders and institutions have contributed to the suffering that many people have experienced regarding their sexuality.”
The report notes that “ethicists, clergy and scholars” have challenged longstanding religious teachings and promoted new teachings recognizing the “scientific insights and sociological realities of the modern world.” And that “feminist, queer and liberation theologians” have developed new ways of “reading and interpreting religious texts and derived richer understandings of sexuality from the Bible and other sacred sources.”
Commenting on the report, the Rev. Carmen Fowler, president of The Presbyterian Lay Committee, said, “To think that this report is going to guide the instruction of pastors in our seminaries is ludicrous. The authors come right out and admit that they are developing ‘new ways of reading and interpreting religious texts.’ That is openly contrary to the vows taken by Presbyterian officers who pledge themselves to the essentials of the historic Reformed faith and commit themselves to interpret scripture specifically through the historic Confessions of our church.”
“When the report speaks of ‘feminist, queer, and liberation theologies’ its authors reveal their true intent: a subversion of the authority of the Bible. What they call ‘scientific insights and sociological realities’ is just humanistic relativism dressed up for a post-modern generation,” Fowler said. “What they are promulgating is no different than the purely pagan religions against which God speaks throughout the Old Testament. But, as in the days of the Judges, everyone today simply does what is right in their own eyes.”
The goals of the report state that by 2020:
- “the nation’s clergy and religious professionals will have the education, skills and commitment to be sexually healthy and responsible leaders.”
- “seminaries and other schools entrusted with preparing future religious leaders will integrate sexuality education and sexual justice in their curricula and institutional cultures.”
- “the nation’s religious congregations will be sexually healthy faith communities.”
- “the nation’s religious denominations will demonstrate a commitment to sexual health, education and justice.”
- “multifaith coalitions will be actively engaged in the sexual justice movement.”
- “sexual justice will be central to the social justice agenda of progressive religious leaders.”
- “sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] advocacy organizations will recognize collaboration with religious leaders and people of faith as essential to their success.”
- “progressive religious leaders will be the prominent voice in national and local media on issues of sexual justice.”
- “federal, state and local policy makers will recognize that there is an authentic, progressive religious voice on sexual justice.”
- “The Religious Institute calls upon people of faith to join together as the Faithful Voices Network in support of sexual health, education and justice.”