Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Clergy Against Bullying Call for Action

This statement was released on October 18. It includes the signature of Emily Eastwood, Executive Director of Lutherans Concerned/North America. We give thanks to all individuals and organizations represented here.  


For Immediate Release: October 18, 2010

Today, as leaders of Christian communions and national networks, we speak with heavy hearts because of the bullying, suicides and hate crimes that have shocked this country and called all faith communities into accountability for our words or our silence. We speak with hopeful hearts, believing that change and healing are possible, and call on our colleagues in the Church Universal to join us in working to end the violence and hatred against our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters.

In the past seven weeks, six young and promising teenagers took their own lives. Some were just entering high school; one had just enrolled in college. Five were boys; one, a girl becoming a young woman. These are only the deaths for which there has been a public accounting. New reports of other suicides continue to haunt us daily from around the country.

They were of varying faiths and races and came from different regions of the nation.

The one thing these young men and women had in common was that they were perceived to be gay or lesbian.

Each in their own way faced bullying and harassment or struggled with messages of religion and culture that made them fear the consequences of being who they were.

In the past two weeks, cities like New York have seen major escalations in anti-gay violence. Two young men attacked patrons of the Stonewall Inn, legendary birth place of the LGBT rights movement in the United States, locking them in the restroom and beating them while hurling anti-gay epithets. Men on a Chelsea street, saying goodnight after an evening out, were attacked by a group of teens and young adults, again hurling anti-gay slogans and hurting one person badly enough to require emergency treatment. And nine young men in the Bronx went on a two-day rampage beating, burning, torturing and sodomizing two teenage boys and their gay male adult friend for allegedly having a sexual relationship. "It's nothing personal," one of the now arrested said. "You just broke the rules."

What are the "rules" of human engagement and interaction that we, as people of faith, want to teach our congregants, children and adults alike, to live by?

Many have responded from within and beyond the faith community offering comfort and support to the families and friends of Billy Lucas, Seth Walsh, Asher Brown, Tyler Clementi, Raymond Chase and Aiyisha Hasan. Our hearts, too, are broken by the too soon losses of these young and promising lives, and we join our voices to those who have sought to speak words of comfort and healing.

Many others, however, have responded by adding insult to injury, citing social myths and long-held prejudices that only fuel division, hatred and violence – and sometimes even death.

We, as leaders of faith, write today to say we must hold ourselves accountable, and we must hold our colleagues in the ministry, accountable for the times, whether by our silence or our proclamations, our inaction or our action, we have fueled the kinds of beliefs that make it possible for people to justify violence in the name of faith. Condemning and judging people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity can have deadly consequences, both for the victims of hate crimes and those who commit them.

There is no excuse for inspiring or condoning violence against any of our human family. We may not all agree on what the Bible says or doesn't say about sexuality, including homosexuality, but this we do agree on: The Bible says, "God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God and God in them." Abiding in love – together – is the rule we must all preach, teach, and seek to live by.

People of faith must realize that if teens feel they will be judged by their church, rejected by their families and bullied by their peers, they may have nowhere to turn.

Too many things go unspoken in our communities. It's time to talk openly and honestly about the diversity of God's creation and the gift of various sexual orientations and gender identities – and to do that in a way that makes it safe for people to disagree and still abide in love.

It's time to talk openly and honestly about the use and misuse of power and authority by those we entrust with our spiritual well-being. It's time to make it safe for our clergy colleagues who are struggling to live what they preach, to get the help and support we all sometimes need.

The young people who took their lives a few weeks ago died because the voices of people who believe in the love of God for all the people of God were faint and few in the face of those who did the bullying, harassing and condemning. Today we write to say we will never again be silent about the value of each and every life.

To that end, we pledge to urge our churches, our individual parishes or offices, our schools and religious establishments to create safe space for each and every child of God, without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity. And we ask you to join us in that pledge.

Today, we personally pledge to be LGBT and straight people of faith standing together for the shared values of decency and civility, compassion and care in all interactions. We ask you, our colleagues, to join us in this pledge.

We want our children and the children of the communities we serve to grow up knowing that God loves all of us and that without exception, bullying and harassment, making fun of someone for perceived differences, and taunting and harming others is wrong. The Golden Rule is still the rule we want to live by.

We pray today that you will join us in being the faces of a faith that preaches and demonstrates God's universal acceptance and offers to one and all safe space to live, to learn, and to love and be loved.

In faith and solidarity,

  • The Rev. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches
  • The Rev. Geoffrey Black, United Church of Christ General Minister and President
  • Elder Cynthia J. Bolbach, Moderator, 219th General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (USA)
  • The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church
  • The Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk, 219th General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (USA)
  • The Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, Moderator, 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA)
  • The Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary, Reformed Church in America
  • The Rev. Peter Morales, President, Unitarian Universalist Association
  • Bishop Yvette Flunder, Presiding Bishop of The Fellowship
  • The Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson, Moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches
  • Bishop Tonyia M. Rawls, Vice President of the National Board and Regional Prelate, Unity Fellowship Church
  • Archbishop Carl Bean, Founder and Presiding Prelate, Unity Fellowship Church Movement
  • Carol Blythe, Alliance of Baptists President
  • Paula Clayton Dempsey, Minister for Partnership Relations, Alliance of Baptists
  • The Rev. Harry Knox, Director of Religion and Faith Program, Human Rights Campaign Foundation
  • The Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, Director of Institute for Welcoming Resources, National Gay & Lesbian Task Force
  • Dr. Sylvia Rhue, Director of Religious Affairs, National Black Justice Coalition
  • Ann Craig, Director of Religion, Faith and Values, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)

  • The Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, Executive Director of UCAN, Inc., United Church of Christ
  • The Rev. Robert Chase, Founding Director, Intersections International
  • Macky Alston, Director, Auburn Media, Auburn Theological Seminary
  • The Rev. Mark Hostetter, Chair of the Board, Auburn Seminary
  • Sung Park, Program Director, Believe Out Loud
  • The Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of The Interfaith Alliance
  • The Reverend Debra W. Haffner, Executive Director, Religious Institute
  • Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL, Executive Coordinator, National Coalition of American Nuns (NCAN)
  • The Rev. Neal Christie, Assistant General Secretary of the United Methodist Board of Church & Society
  • The Rev. Cynthia Abrams , Program Director, General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church ,
  • Linda Bales Todd, Director, General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church
  • The Rev. Dr. Cindi Love, Executive Director, Soulforce, Inc.

  • Emily Eastwood, Executive Director, Lutherans Concerned/North America
  • Lisa Larges, Minister Coordinator, That All May Freely Serve, Presbyterian
  • Dr. Michael Adee, Executive Director, More Light Presbyterians
  • Troy Plummer, Reconciling Ministries Network, United Methodist
  • Marilyn Paarlberg, National Coordinator, Room for All, Reformed Church in America
  • Rev. Thomas C. Goodhart, Co-president, Room for All, Reformed Church in America
  • Phil Attey, Acting Executive Director - Catholics for Equality
  • George W. Cole, Senior Vice President, Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons
  • David Melson, President, Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons
  • Dr. Joseph Palacios, Board Member, Catholics for Equaltiy
  • Phil Attey, Executive Director, Catholics for Equality
  • Yolanda Elliott, President, Seventh-day Adventist Kinship International
  • Pastor Dave Ferguson, Church Relations Director, Adventist Kinship International
  • Rev. Marvin M. Ellison, Ph.D., Co-Convener, Religious Coalition Against Discrimination, Maine
  • Anne Underwood, Catholics for Equality
  • Max Niedzwiecki, Ph.D., Executive Director, Integrity USA

  • Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University.
  • Mary E. Hunt & Diana Neu, Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER)


  1. Dear friends,

    I highly welcome your concern about what happened and that you put together a message about this.
    I don't want to play the events of the teenagers and the young adults that happened in the last weeks down and I highly welcome that you write this letter.

    Nevertheless, wouldn't this be the occasion to look at the obsession of this society about Sexuality and at the discrimination of all sorts of relationship with an ultimately destructive view of hate?
    Why not indicating how this is only yet one other example of how this Christian society hurts itself in talking about sexuality, a problematic heritage of Victorian times, as Michel Foucault has pointed out. How about pointing out what Lutheran faith has to say about healing ways of talking about physical interactions, including intimacy, and about tolerance?
    Why using deliberately always "gay" "Lesbian" even if you know that these designations are a also part of exactly this code that has hurt our intimacy, our bodies and our feelings so much?
    Why not working on getting more people who live in more classical 'female-male' relationships in the boat in such debates? I might be wrong, but I get the impression that LCNA isolate themselves if they use this language and that this does not help to get more allies in the ELCA. How about working more creatively on integrating the concerns of those who support the August 2009 decision, but who themselves are not living in a male-male or a female-female relationship?

    klaus-peter adam

  2. Thanks for your note, Klaus-Peter. You bring up some important questions. As you point out, Christian society has often stigmatized all aspects of sexuality—even the concept of “sexuality” itself—thus creating a hostile environment for those who even dare to bring up the subject, much less those who might be seen to deviate from what’s deemed the “norm.” In this instance, those of us who are working to end bullying are trying to focus public attention on a particular aspect of this much broader problem. I hope LC/NA and other similar organizations will be able to find opportunities to broaden the discussion. LC/NA’s hosting of the Theologians’ Roundtable at the Let Justice Roll conference this past July was a way to foster such discussions. We will continue to host the Roundtable in various ways, and we look forward to seeing what fruit that will bear.

    My first response to your second concern, that of the language of “gay,” “lesbian,” etc . . . is simply a personal witness: I am a married, straight man working with LC/NA (I’m on the staff) to embody, inspire, advocate and organize for the acceptance and full participation of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities within the Lutheran communion and its ecumenical and global partners. I very much know the importance of straight allies working for the full participation of all. We have more and more straight folks like me joining our work all the time.

    However, your point is well taken: it’s important to continue working to demonstrate to straight people that LC/NA’s ministry of reconciliation is for the benefit of people of ALL sexual orientations and gender identities. This is why we very often use the terms “all sexual orientations and gender identities,” and it’s why we use this language in our mission statement. Sometimes, however, the broader terms are not appropriate. For instance, as you and I both know, to suggest that “everyone” suffers the evils of bullying to the same extent is simply not true. So, we also use the terms “gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender” when it seems that such language is needed for accuracy.

    Thanks again for your comments.

    Tim Fisher
    Lutherans Concerned/North America

  3. It's a wonderful letter and that so many denominational leaders and leaders of spiritual judicatories have signed is very encouraging. Thanks for extending the opportunity to others to join in.


All comments will be reviewed before they are posted. To comment, you may use the anonymous setting (under Comment as: select profile") to leave a comment, but please, include your real name with your comment.