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Reuters, May 9, 2007

Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Sexual and Gender Diversity

Multifaith coalition calls for religious leaders to embrace sexual and gender diversity as a blessing.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK, MONDAY, JUNE 4, 2007- A coalition of national faith leaders announced today that they have issued an Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Sexual and Gender Diversity that calls for a faith-based approach that affirms diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.

The Open Letter, released in conjunction with pride services throughout the United States, will be sent to more than 20,000 clergy, heads of faith groups and institutions across the country. Published by the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing, this Open Letter is the first of its kind by a multifaith group of religious leaders. Every members of the US Congress will also receive a copy as an important reminder that progressive people of faith expect justice.

The historic proclamation challenges religious leaders to use the pulpit to address the complex realities of diversity and to advocate in secular and faith-based contexts for justice and the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. That includes advocating for the ordination of LGBT clergy, family recognition and marriage equality.

“Sexual and gender oppression can no longer be portrayed as virtuous and morally defensible,” said the Rev. Debra W. Haffner, Director of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing. “While religious denominations continue to debate issues of sexuality, the silence and condemnation of clergy have led to destroyed relationships, suicidal despair and discrimination and violence against LGBT persons. Denying that God created diversity as a blessing is denying Biblical teaching”

The Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Sexual and Gender Diversity was developed at a colloquium of theologians sponsored by the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing. The participants at the colloquium included theologians and ordained clergy from Jewish, Baptist, Brethren, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, United Church of Christ and Unitarian Universalist traditions.

The creators of the Open Letter are Rev. Steve Clapp, Christian Community Inc.; Ann Thompson Cook, God Loves Each One Ministry; Rev. Dr. Marvin M. Ellison, Bangor Theological Seminary; Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell, Pennsylvania Council, Union for Reform Judaism; Rev. Dr. Horace L. Griffin, The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church; Rev. Debra W. Haffner, Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing; Dr. Mary E. Hunt, Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER); Rev. Dr. Jay Emerson Johnson, Pacific School of Religion; Rev. Barbara K. Lundblad, Union Theological Seminary; Dr. Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, William Paterson University; Rev. Irene Monroe, Harvard Divinity School; Timothy Palmer, Religious Institute; Dr. Judith Plaskow, Manhattan College; Rev. Michael D. Schuenemeyer, Wider Church Ministries, United Church of Christ; Rev. Dr. William G. Sinkford, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.

The Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing is a multifaith organization dedicated to advocating for sexual health, education and justice in faith communities and society. Over 2,600 religious leaders from more than 40 faith traditions endorse its Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing.

Click here to read a copy of the Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Sexual and Gender Diversity.

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