Introduction to Assessing Sexual Health
The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) has a long standing commitment to be a sexually healthy and responsible denomination. During the past three years, the UUA has been working with the Religious Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing sexual health, sexuality education, and sexual justice in America's faith communities. The Religious Institute published Toward a Sexually Healthy and Responsible UUA in 2009, and recommended that congregations receive additional information and assistance on how to create sexuality policies and programs.
A sexually healthy congregation promotes the integration of sexuality and spirituality in worship, preaching, pastoral care, children, youth, and adult religious education, and social action programs in the community. It makes a commitment to a sexual ethic that is not based on double standards and understands that dealing with sexuality is an issue of spiritual wholeness. It is a congregation that addresses sexuality openly and holistically.
A sexually healthy and responsible Unitarian Universalist congregation has nine central building blocks.
- Congregation policies and procedures which support these goals, including visible signals that this is a congregation that addresses sexuality issues openly and justly
- Sexually healthy religious professionals with training and experience in sexuality issues
- Worship and preaching periodically on sexuality issues
- Pastoral care on a wide range of sexuality issues
- Sexuality education for children and youth
- Sexuality education and support for adults
- Welcome and full inclusion for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals and families with LGBT members
- A commitment against sexual exploitation of all kinds, including sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct by staff and clergy
- Social Action Efforts for Sexual Justice in Society
This online assessment tool can be used by the ministerial and/or lay leadership of the congregation to identify both the strengths and areas where there is a need for improvement on sexuality issues. It provides an opportunity for planning on how to address each of the areas thoroughly and comprehensively. It includes links to other online resources that may help a Congregation improve their policies, procedures, and programs. It is not expected that any congregation will do all of these activities or have all of these policies but rather that these items represent best practice for congregations to consider.
There are a number of ways that a congregation or clergy person can use this online assessment. UU ministers do not need permission to obtain additional training in sexuality issues or to preach about a sexuality topic. Other areas, such as developing a new safe congregation's policy or an adult sexual education program, may need the support of the board or key lay committees. Not all of these suggestions will make sense in every community; take what is useful and discard what is not.
Some UU congregations have developed a steering committee on sexuality issues to conduct an overall assessment and develop an overall plan to address the sexual health of the community. Others divide up the assessment to the relevant staff professional or congregation committee which creates its own plan. Others have had the board create its own subcommittee.
Ultimately, a commitment to developing a sexually healthy faith community needs to permeate every aspect of a community. It is not enough to offer OWL to our middle school students and go through a Welcoming Congregation Program once. Instead, UU ministers, religious educators, the Board, key committee members, youth, and parents must share the commitment to sexual and spiritual wholeness. We are called as Unitarian Universalist communities to promote sexual morality, justice, and healing. This online guide will assist in that process.
The Religious Institute is available to provide intensive technical assistance and training to congregations, districts, and UUA professional groups as their work on implementing or improving their plans as a sexually healthy and responsible congregation. Please direct your inquiries to info [at] religiousinstitute [dot] org.
This online assessment was developed by Rev. Debra W. Haffner, and reviewed by the following members of the UUA staff Rev. Terasa Cooley, Rev. Judith Friediani, Rev. Harlan Limpert, Rev. Sarah Lammert, Alex Kapitan, Kay Montgomery, Robert Molla, John Hurley, Rev. Craig Roshaven, and Rev. Ned Wight. We are grateful for their review. I am also grateful to Blanca Godoi for her careful preparation and research for this publication. The development of the online assessment guide was funded by the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock.
Assessing Sexual Health: Table of Contents