New Report: More Sex in the Pulpit

The Religious Institute report notes much progress on its progressive agenda in the last decade. Women's ordination has expanded, three times as many congregations welcome gays and lesbians, and same-sex marriage is gaining support and is now legal in five states.

Even as the Religious Institute is at odds with the religious right on many issues, particularly LGBT and reproductive rights, Haffner sees important common ground between progressives and more moderate and even conservative faith communities on many sexuality issues, including the need for marriage counseling, clergy education on sexual violence, and HIV and child abuse prevention. The Institute's Rachel Sabbath campaign to reduce maternal mortality worldwide is drawing a broad spectrum of support.

But the road to consensus on other sexual justice issues, including reproductive rights, will be longer. While conservative clergy and politicians dig their heels in on birth control and abortion rights, it's young women, and the poor, who suffer the most when they are denied safe, affordable methods to prevent unwanted pregnancy -- or, if necessary, to terminate it. In fact, Haffner and her fellow progressives argue that all sexual justice issues are integrally linked to economic justice. People who are victims of sexual violence, or denied adequate maternity care, or who are denied rights on the basis of their sexual orientation, too often suffer related economic consequences. In times of crisis, many Americans still turn to their place of worship for support. The many caring clergy who hear about this suffering first hand need to break the silence barrier and speak out in their congregations and communities about the need for sexual justice.

Because of the urgency of these issues for people's lives, they are ill-served by protracted theological debates. "We don't have the luxury of 200 years of fighting on this one," Marty argued, "because the stakes are so high."


Jeanne Carstensen is a San Francisco-based freelance writer. She is the former managing editor of Salon.

This article was first published at Religion Dispatches, a Patheos Partner, and is reprinted with permission.

4/13/2010 4:00:00 AM
  • Religion and Sexuality
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