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Seminary Spotlight is a feature in the Religious Institute’s newsletter Sexuality: From the Seminary to the Sanctuary. Each edition, we ask a different scholar about their work at the intersection of religion, gender, and sexuality. This edition we interview Rev. Leonard Curry.

Religious Institute’s Seminary Spotlight with Rev. Leonard Curry

Tell us about your research and/or your current project.

I am currently thinking about the murders of the nine men and women at Emanuel AME Church (“the Emanuel 9”) in Charleston, South Carolina. In thinking about them, their murder, and our loss, I want to craft a work which narrates how contingency, vulnerability, structural racism, affect, black (academic and ecclesial) theology, and black theological ethics are all brought into conversation with one another. My ultimate goal is to add another tool to the fight against anti-blackness/white supremacism. Analyzing these things together may allow me to do so.

How did you come to focus on this topic?

Coming to this topic has something to do with my ordination as an elder in the AME Church; with my deep-seated suspicion that black theology (academic, church, lived) has and will always have an intimate, structural relationship with grief; with the promiscuous particularity of my desire (need?) to mourn several loves (the Emanuel 9, the Pulse shooting victims, Nevadan teen Giovanni Melton) and my embarrassment with the failure to mourn these loves publicly or in private; and finally with my suspicion that something more than interest brought these loves, these objects of mourning, into my life. …


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For millions of Americans, this rule is a threat to their religious freedom and the vision of a just society their faith traditions put forth.

Yesterday, the Trump administration released two final rules upending the birth control coverage provisions of the Affordable Care Act. We know the rules will lead to more people being denied birth control coverage. But does will they also protect people of faith? The rules claims to protect “religious or moral objection[s] to health insurance” that includes to birth control coverage, but does that claim check out? Or is this simply an attack on birth control coverage cloaked in religion?

First, it’s worth noting majorities of most religious groups say privately-owned corporations should provide employees with health care coverage that includes contraception. Even among white evangelical protestants, the sole group without majority support, forty-two percent agree with the requirement. This religious support for birth control is not new. …


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Seminary Spotlight is a feature in the Religious Institute’s newsletter Sexuality: From the Seminary to the Sanctuary. Each edition, we ask a different scholar about their work at the intersection of religion, gender, and sexuality. This edition we interview Min. Aisha R. Thomas.

Religious Institute’s Seminary Spotlight with Minister Aisha R. Thomas

What’s your theology of sexuality in 10 words or fewer?

Sexuality is a way to express being and embody love.

Growing up, what did you learn about sexuality in religious spaces? And how, if at all, has that influenced your approach as a scholar?

I was in church as a young person until I was about 11 and then not again, consistently, until I was in my late 20’s. In my upbringing, sexuality didn’t exist in religious spaces. When I reflect on the period that I was in church as a young person, I only hear silence. However, my home life was in chaos. I was regularly confronted with sexuality at home, albeit in unhealthy ways. This created a bifurcated way of being for me that continued into my adulthood. As a believer, I have struggled to marry my church and home life in ways that don’t leave me feeling that I ever have to leave parts of me home when I worship corporately. …


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Welcome to RI Staff Talk, where the staff of the Religious Institute weigh in on religion, current events, social issues, and even political matters affecting progressive people of faith. This edition, we discuss the 2018 Midterm Elections.

Why is it important for people of faith to be engaged around the midterm elections?

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Rev. Marie Alford-Harkey: As people of faith, we are rooted in something beyond our own self-interest. So it’s important for us to speak about the responsibility to vote and make our voices heard at the local, state and national levels. We must also be outspoken about the faith and values that inform our voting.

This election cycle is particularly important because lawmakers at all levels will be deciding issues that will impact people’s lives: what’s to become of the Affordable Care Act, whether access to abortion and contraception will be further restricted, whether children and parents will continue to be separated at the border, whether LGBTQ people can be discriminated against — and so many more. …


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Seminary Spotlight is a feature in the Religious Institute’s newsletter Sexuality: From the Seminary to the Sanctuary. Each edition, we ask a different scholar about their work at the intersection of religion, gender, and sexuality. This edition we interview Rev. Dr. Cheryl Anderson.

Religious Institute’s Seminary Spotlight with Rev. Dr. Cheryl Anderson

What’s your theology of sexuality in 10 words or fewer?

Sex makes God tangible.

Growing up, what did you learn about sexuality in religious spaces? And how, if at all, has that influenced your approach as a scholar and teacher?

I did not have a religious upbringing and, as strange as it might seem, I think it may be an advantage as a scholar. My research area is the HIV and AIDS pandemic, and I try to give people who are of African descent and Christian a biblical basis for adopting effective prevention methods. Wherever Black people are, whether on the African continent or in the diaspora, we have disproportionately high HIV infection rates. However, sex can seem to be a taboo subject in our churches. Of course, that’s not unique to African-American churches, but an unwillingness to deal with the issue could contribute to our infection rates. …


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Congregations that embrace bisexual+ people can help heal the suffering caused by the invisibility of bisexual+ people.

Many mainstream denominations, movements, and congregations have made significant progress in welcoming and affirming lesbian and gay people. Some congregations have begun responding to the needs and concerns of transgender people, but the “B” in the LGBTQ acronym is still largely ignored.

This Bisexuality Awareness Week, do you know if your faith community is bisexually healthy? Ideally, a faith community is a place where people can be whole and authentic, whatever their sexual orientation. Here are some ideas for making your faith community safer and more welcoming for bisexual+ people.

1. Intentionally celebrate the diversity of sexual identities in preaching and worship.

Often, even in LGBTQ-affirming faith communities, there is an enduring silence around bisexuality. The “B” gets a passing mention as part of the acronym, but the experiences and perspectives of bisexual+ people are rarely centered. Sacred texts are analyzed for how they address same-sex relationships, but the possibility of bisexual+ characters or themes is rarely mentioned. That’s why it is so important that faith communities break the silence. When you include LGBTQ people and issues in worship, be aware that bisexuality is a distinct sexual orientation. When preaching about LGBTQ issues, faith leaders can say all the words in the acronym. Mention bisexuals as a distinct identity group. Lift up sexuality and divinity beyond binaries. …


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(Photo: NARAL Pro-Choice America)

Kavanaugh’s nomination may seem inevitable, but justice is possible if we join together. Now is not the time to give up.

The hearings on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court are well underway, with much sound and fury. Two things are true about this process and this person. One is that his confirmation seems inevitable, and the other is that he will surely turn the court away from values that many people of faith and conscience hold dear.

From what we know of him, Kavanaugh poses a threat to women’s rights, immigrant rights, LGBTQ rights, worker’s rights, and the rights people of color. If confirmed, he will hear and rule on cases that could decide the future of Roe v. …


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(image: Canva)

by Darryl W. Stephens

On August 14, 2018, a Pennsylvania grand jury released a report detailing decades of child sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests across the state. The narrative of abuse and cover-up is horrific. The actions, harrowing. As Roman Catholic leaders seek various ways to respond, religious leaders of all denominations and faiths are searching for appropriate, faithful responses to share with their communities. As a United Methodist clergyperson and a Christian ethicist, I offer the following ten truths we as religious leaders of all faiths must tell in the wake of this report.

1. The problem of sexual abuse by ministerial leaders is not unique to the Roman Catholic Church and its priests. This is a problem facing all denominations and religious communities. The FaithTrust Institute, a leader in addressing sexual violence in faith communities, has drawn attention to this fact through its forty years of providing resources for prevention, education, and response in numerous denominations. …


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by Rev. Kentina Washington-Leapheart

For a long time, I wasn’t quite sure I would ever be ordained.

When I enrolled in seminary, it was not because I felt called to be a pastor. Rather, I felt called to be in a place where I could satisfy my hunger for theological inquiry and engage my curiosity about life and death, joy and suffering, love and pain, and all of the ways that we try to make sense of these elements of the human experience.

I didn’t know what to expect from seminary other than that I would be changed — and I was. I am not the same green seminarian who stepped foot on campus in the fall of 2010. I am not the same person who graduated in the spring of 2013 or who completed a chaplaincy residency in 2014 during one of the hardest years of her life. I am not even the same person who moved to Philly 2 years ago, starting a new life in a strange city, blending my family, and making a significant vocational shift. …


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Seminary Spotlight is a feature in the Religious Institute’s newsletter Sexuality: From the Seminary to the Sanctuary. Each edition, we ask a different scholar six questions about their work at the intersection of religion, gender, and sexuality. This edition we interview Elyse Ambrose.

Religious Institute’s Seminary Spotlight with Elyse Ambrose

What’s your theology of sexuality in 10 words or fewer?

God calls humanity toward individual and communal wholeness, including sexuality.

Growing up, what did you learn about sexuality in religious spaces? And how, if at all, has that influenced your approach as a scholar?

I was not raised in religious spaces but garnered a sense of certain Christian understandings through our Southern culture. Relationships that were honored before God were those between a “man” and “woman,” and the proper context for sexual expression, especially for women, was marriage. Teenagers were to choose abstinence, and all forms of intimate touch, with self and others, were off limits. I carried many of these repressed notions into my adulthood and into my practice of Christianity which I adopted in my early 20s. …

About

Religious Institute

The Religious Institute is a multi-faith organization dedicated to advocating for sexual, gender, and reproductive justice in faith communities and society.

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