Sexuality and Religion 2020: Goals for the Next Decade

The “Religious Institute” have marked the tenth anniversary of their Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality with a vision for the next decade: Sexuality and Religion 2020 Goals for the Next Decade.

There are strong religious reasons for a more affirming attitude to sexuality and gender.

Virtually all 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. They understand that sexuality may be celebrated with joy, holiness and integrity, but that it is also vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

All the major faiths, we are reminded, have rich histories and traditions celebrating sexuality and sexual diversity:  the Song of Songs in the Hebrew Bible, the Christian emphasis on embracing the stranger and the explicit welcome to Philip the eunuch, Islam’s recognition of the erotic dimension of spirituality, and Hindu deities that transcend sex and gender categories.

The report notes remarkable progress over the past decade in several areas:

  • Women’s ordination
  • The growth of welcoming organizations to promote full LGBT inclusion
  • Following the lead of the Unitarian Universalist Association in 2000, at least 12 denominations now have sexuality education curricula
  • Whereas the original declaration called merely for the “blessing of same-sex unions”, today five American states (as well as eight countries and some other jurisdictions around the world) now have full marriage equality, while several Christian denominations and Jewish movements allow their clergy to perform marriage or same sex blessing ceremonies.

Yet much remains to be done. A new kairos moment is at hand. In the summer of 2009, the Religious Institute convened the 2020 Colloquium, calling together 23 clergy, theologians and religious leaders from Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Unitarian Universalist traditions. (See page 42 for a list of participants.) Their task was to consider updates to the Religious Declaration, assess progress to date, and determine priorities for sexuality and religion for the next 10 years. Colloquium participants established an overarching vision – that by the year 2020, all faith communities will be sexually healthy, just and prophetic.

The new goals identified by this colloquium are:

  • Goal 1: By the year 2020, the nation’s clergy and religious professionals will have the education, skills and commitment to be sexually healthy and responsible leaders.
  • Goal 2: By the year 2020, seminaries and other schools entrusted with preparing future religious leaders will integrate sexuality education and sexual justice in their curricula and institutional cultures.
  • Goal 3: By the year 2020, the nation’s religious congregations will be sexually healthy faith communities.
  • Goal 4: By the year 2020, the nation’s religious denominations will demonstrate a commitment to sexual health, education and justice.
  • Goal 5: By the year 2020, multifaith coalitions will be actively engaged in the sexual justice movement.
  • Goal 6: By the year 2020, sexual justice will be central to the social justice agenda of progressive religious leaders.
  • Goal 7: By the year 2020, sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and LGBT advocacy organizations will recognize collaboration with religious leaders and people of faith as essential to their success.
  • Goal 8: By the year 2020, progressive religious leaders will be the prominent voice in national and local media on issues of sexual justice.
  • Goal 9: By the year 2020, federal, state and local policy makers will recognize that there is an authentic, progressive religious voice on sexual justice.
  • Goal 10: The Religious Institute calls upon people of faith to join together as the Faithful Voices Network in support of sexual health, education and justice.

These may appear ambitious, but no doubt, ten years ago the same may have been said of the original declaration. It is probably unrealistic to expect that they will all have been achieved in all faiths within ten years, but it is likely that substantial progress will be made.  We need to do our part, in identifying the ways in which we, individually and collectively, can help.  Joining the Faithful Voices Network is one way to start.

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