Press

Article of Faith: Religious leaders praise statement calling for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inclusion in the church

Date: 
September 18, 2006

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Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 18 —  The National Religious Leadership Roundtable today strongly praised the joint statement put forth by the Council of Bishops, Elders and Christian Leaders on Sept. 11, 2006 denouncing hostility that uses Christianity against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. They deplored the “portrayal by Christian extremists of the tragedy of Sept. 11 as God's judgment on America for the presence of gays and lesbians and all political manipulation in the name of Jesus.”

The statement was adopted at the national gathering of more than 25 Christian leaders, who represent organizations that reach over 98 million Americans. They included delegates from a wide spectrum of groups, ranging from liberal and moderate groups such as More Light Presbyterians and Soulforce to conservative groups such as the Evangelical Network.

The resolution adopted at the Council of Bishops, Elders and Christian Leaders calls for five critical steps to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people:

  • Realize that “the relationships of same-gender loving couples are equal” and are worthy of both the right to civil marriage and the rites of Christian marriage.
  • Reaffirm the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to full equality under the law, including adoption rights, employment and housing protections, and the right to serve openly in the military.
  • Refute the “ex-gay notion that sexual orientation and gender identity can and should be changed.”
  • Refuse to cooperate with or support political or religious leaders who condemn the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
  • Reclaim faith and speak boldly on “God’s call for justice, wholeness and peace,” working on behalf of all oppressed people.

Responses from National Religious Leadership Roundtable Members:

I rejoice over the strength of the marvelous statement by the Bishops and Elders Council. The clear commitment to advance the central message of welcome found in the Gospel is encouraging to all who seek authenticity in their faith. Release of this inclusive message will undoubtedly inspire the growth of additional worship spaces that “nurture spiritual lives in communities that celebrate and welcome all of God’s creation.”

It is my hope that all oppressed and marginalized persons will encounter the love, welcome and acceptance in communities of faith so beautifully articulated by the Bishops and Elders Council’s statement and be free of the hostility and rejection too often experienced by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in the name of Christianity.
Rev. Cedric A. Harmon
Washington, D.C.

The Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation applauds the truth-speaking of the Council of Bishops and Elders for not only proclaiming their support for the basic human rights of LGBT people but also moving further to take action to redress the damage that has been done by the religious right by saying to their many Christian brothers and sisters to stop using fear and hate in the name of God to attack lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. It is a weighty task to sail opposite the tide of years of religious attacks on LGBT people and their families, especially when it means going against members of your own religious family. We thank the Bishops and Elders Council for making this brave proclamation.

Reform Judaism supports the civil rights of same-gender couples to marry, the sanctity of same-gender relationships which are filled with holiness, and the right to then have those relationships affirmed in a religious ceremony. The Bishops and Elders Council lifts up these truths as well as others, saying that it is time to take a stand and shout out these foundations of social justice and God's love.

As an Institute of Hebrew Union College, the seminary of the Reform (Jewish) Movement, we teach these values to rabbis, cantors, Jewish educators and communal professionals who will be future leaders in the Jewish world. It is our hope that the Council's message of support, advocacy and truth will be picked up by other denominations and religious faiths to make it heard around the world by all those who need to hear its critical message.
Dr. Joel L. Kushner
Director
Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation
Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion

Catholics welcome this statement so infused with gospel virtues of compassion, justice and reconciliation. Despite negative messages from some in the church’s hierarchy, Catholic people in the pews are willing and indeed eager to welcome and embrace LGBT people in the wide tent of diversity that is the true church.

True and lasting change comes only from the “bottom up,” not the “top down,” and so as Catholic laypeople continue to advance in their acceptance of LGBT people, the hierarchy will eventually have to follow. The process may be slow, but it is the only way to bring change that lasts. It is through these slow and sometimes arduous struggles that God, little by little, changes hearts and even institutions.
Francis DeBernardo
Executive Director
New Ways Ministry

Bigotry, discrimination, hatred, violence and prejudice find no home in any religion worthy of the name. The Council of Bishops and Elders has made it clear that continued oppression of LGBT persons cannot be supported by any who hold sacred the central tenets of Christianity. We join them in calling on all followers of Christ Risen to oppose the false use of scripture and doctrine against LGBT persons.
Emily Eastwood
Executive Director
Lutherans Concerned/North America

On behalf of the Pagan Alliance, a religious interfaith organization devoted to understanding and tolerance, we applaud the Council of Bishops, Elders and Christian Leaders’ call for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inclusion in the church and full equality under the law.

As a transgender woman who is bisexual and a pagan priestess, rooted in the Wiccan tradition, it is my tradition's understanding that all living beings are blessed creations. There is not room for any ifs, ands or buts. This statement recognizes the affirmation of qualities that create and heal. We do not confuse the harm of fear and discrimination with love and divine life. We oppose any power above and power below, but recognize power between which is cooperative and nurturing.

Those of us in the pagan tradition, in collaboration with the leaders of other faith-based traditions, look forward to a world in which faith-based traditions work arm in arm with each other. We stand in support of this statement with conviction and eternal steadfastness.
Patricia Kevena Fili
Pagan Priestess, The Pagan Alliance
Executive Director, The Lighthouse Community Center

On the fifth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, foreign terrorists’ attacks against the United States in New York City, Washington, D.C., and in the countryside of Pennsylvania, it is appropriate that the Council of Bishops, Elders and Christian Leaders denounce domestic religion-based political attacks against same-gender-loving American citizens. Faith In America, Inc. condemns bigotry against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, especially when it is disguised as religious truth. Such religion-based bigotry has manipulated the American political process in the past to support slavery, racial segregation and the denial of women’s right to vote. Using religion to deny lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people the rights and protections guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution is no less a violation of both the Christian ethic of love and the democratic principles upon which this country is founded. We stand with the Council of Bishops, Elders and Christian Leaders in its rejection of “fear-based religion” and its “commitment to work actively for an end to discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons.”
Rev. Jimmy Creech
Executive Director
Faith In America, Inc.

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.