WASHINGTON (BP)–More than 850 religious leaders have endorsed a declaration sponsored by the country’s primary sex-education organization calling for same-sex unions, ordination of homosexuals and abortion rights.
Unsurprisingly, leaders from liberal religious groups dominate the endorsement list, which contains a large number of Unitarian Universalist, mainline Protestant and female ministers, as well as Jewish rabbis.
The document, which was released Jan. 18 by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, calls for the “[f]ull inclusion of women and sexual minorities in congregational life, including their ordination, and the blessing of same-sex unions.” It also calls for a religious commitment to “sexual and reproductive rights,” including abortion, and “[l]ifelong, age-appropriate sexuality education.”
Instead of calling for faith communities to depend on the Bible, the “Religious Declaration on Sexuality Morality, Justice and Healing” calls for “[t]heological reflection that integrates the wisdom of excluded, often silenced peoples, and insights about sexuality from medicine, social science, the arts and the humanities.”
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, called the document “yet one further sign of the increasing paganization of our culture sexually.”
“[T]o the extent that its sub-biblical, pagan sexual mores are endorsed by those claiming to speak from a Judeo-Christian tradition, it illustrates the significant apostasy of many within formerly Christian traditions which have made that paganization possible,” Land said.
Christians, Land said, should address the Bible’s teaching on sexuality, which he called “clear, forthright and substantial.”
“In so doing, we must reject all sub-biblical views, including those that would seek to repress sexuality and those which rebel against and deny the parameters and limits around sex established by God in Holy Scripture,” said Land, who was teaching his annual elective on the Bible and human sexuality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary when the SIECUS statement was released.
“God created us as sexual beings,” Land said, “and [he] intends for us to express our sexuality within the confines of a lifelong covenant marriage relationship between one man and one woman in which we are designed by him to experience an intimacy and a knowing and being known that is beyond all other human relationships.”
Bill Merrell, vice president of convention relations for the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, told Associated Press the SIECUS statement was “not new ground for liberal religious leaders.”
“There has been a history of radical departure from the teachings of the Scriptures on these topics,” Merrell said. “I do not believe that the moral confusion and the moral incoherence that characterizes the time is relieved by such statements. Rather it is made worse.”
SIECUS President Debra Haffner denied the declaration is “a statement of anything goes. It is, I believe, a rigorous standard for promoting morality, justice and healing,” she told Baptist Press.
Not only does the document affirm homosexual relations, but Haffner would not deny sexual intercourse between single heterosexuals might fit within this ethic. “Marriage is not the only criteria for an ethical sexual relationship,” she said. The statement recognizes “single adults also can have ethical sexual relationships,” she said.
When asked if that includes sexual acts that traditionally have been considered appropriate only for marriage, Haffner said she was “reluctant to go beyond this statement,” citing a sentence in the document that says all people “have the right and responsibility to lead sexual lives that express love, justice, mutuality, commitment, consent and pleasure.”
The ethic promoted by the endorsers “accepts no double standards and applies to all persons, without regard to sex, gender, color, age, bodily condition, marital status or sexual orientation,” the declaration says.
The two-year project resulting in the statement was initiated because “many religious denominations have been quite concerned and, in some cases, fractured by the discussion of sexuality,” Haffner said. “It was felt that it was important to bring together people who have been” considering this issue to offer a “vision of sexuality justice,” she said.
Among those endorsing the statement are Nancy Hastings Sehested, a former Southern Baptist pastor; Peggy Campolo, a council member of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists and wife of well-known author/speaker Tony Campolo; Steven Baines, a former Southern Baptist church staff member, an acknowledged homosexual and staff member of Equal Partners in Faith; and George Cummings, academic dean at American Baptist Seminary of the West.
Other signers include Edmond Browning, retired presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church; Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and a United Church of Christ minister; Harvey Cox, Harvard University divinity professor; Jimmy Creech, a United Methodist minister who was defrocked for performing same-sex unions; David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism; Mel White, cochair of Soulforce Inc. and an open homosexual; James Cone, Union Theological Seminary professor; Troy Perry, founder of the largely homosexual Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches; Paul Sherry, former president of the United Church of Christ; Virginia Mollenkott of the Evangelical and Ecumenical Women’s Caucus; Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice; Katherine Ragsdale, chair of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice; Mark Justad, associate dean of Vanderbilt University Divinity School; and Herbert Valentine, executive presbyter in Baltimore for the Presbyterian Church (USA) and founding president of The Interfaith Alliance.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky., joined the SBC’s Land and Merrell in noting, “The arrogance of this ‘Declaration’ is breathtaking. These self-appointed moral revolutionaries will reject the clear teachings of Scripture in order to justify sexual perversions and destructive behaviors. In utter arrogance they claim a ‘religious’ mandate for their declaration. In a cloak of distortions they seek to overthrow biblical morality and put a humanistic ethic of sexual liberation in its place.
“The result will be ruined lives and devastated marriages, lost innocence and broken hearts,” Mohler said.
Mohler noted that the signers of the declaration “represent a very thin slice of the radical religious left. They are certain to gain media attention, but most persons have enough common sense and biblical memory to see this for what it is — a publicity stunt by theological liberals. Nevertheless, it is a horrible sign of the times that 850 ‘religious leaders’ would add their names to this declaration of sexual immorality.
“The most radical part of the document is its call for no sexual restrictions based upon age,” Mohler commented. “These people intend to sexualize childhood and send our adolescents on a free experiment of sexual expression. Debra Haffner and the SIECUS organization have been pushing free adolescent sex for years, calling for condom distribution and opposing abstinence-based sex education. Now she has arranged for a crowd of religious cronies to stand behind her sexual agenda.”
The declaration and the list of endorsements are available on the Internet at www.religionproject.org.