CLERGY AGAINST BULLYING (CAB)
FAITH COALITION CALLS FOR ACCOUNTABILITY
AND TIME OF HEALING
IN WAKE OF GAY TEEN SUICIDES AND ANTI-GAY VIOLENCE
Released: 13 October 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
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
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
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,
HEADS OF COMMUNIONS
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
NATIONAL FAITH STAFF OF LGBT ADVOCACY ORGANIZATIONS
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)
NATIONAL STAFF OF FAITH BASED ORGANIZATIONS
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.
NATIONAL STAFF OF LGBT DENONMINATIONAL GROUPS
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
THEOLOGICANS AND ACADEMIC LEADERS
Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University.
Mary E. Hunt & Diana Neu, Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER)