NARAL honors UCC leader as 'champion of choice'

NARAL honors UCC leader as 'champion of choice'

September 24, 2009
Written by Bennett Guess
The Rev. Lois M. Powell of the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries accepts the 'champion of choice' award at the NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio breakfast banquet in Cleveland. (photo: J. Bennett Guess)

The Rev. Lois M. Powell, a team leader with the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries in Cleveland, was one of two UCC members honored by NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio at its seventh annual 'champions of choice' breakfast banquet on Sept. 25 in downtown Cleveland.

"With too many considering religion an excuse for hatred, the Rev. Loey Powell is a refreshing and important voice for tolerance and for reproductive choice," said Wendy Leatherberry, board president, to a crowd of about 100 attendees. 

Powell, who co-leads JWM's Cleveland-based program staff, is the immediate past chair of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice in Washington, D.C.  A longtime advocate for legal and accessible reproductive services, she has spoken openly about her own decision to have an abortion in 1970, three years before the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, and her own experience of traveling to New York to have one.

"Loey provides an important voice by openly discussing her own abortion," Leatherberry said.

"I believe those of us who can speak from a perspective of faith for choice need to use that voice," Powell said. "The majority of people who are religious in this country are in favor of keeping abortion legal and offering a full range of reproductive health services. Together and only together are we going to broaden our understanding of reprodutive justice."

Powell earned her M.Div. degree from UCC-related Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif., in 1977. In 1989, when named pastor of United Church in Tallahasse (Florida), she became the first openly lesbian or gay pastor in the UCC to be called to serve a local church through the denomination's regular search-and-call process. In 1997, she became executive director of the UCC's former Coordinating Center for Women in Church and Society, one of the agencies that joined together to form JWM in 2000.

Along with Powell, Ohio State Senator Dale Miller, a member of Archwood UCC in Cleveland, also received the 'champion of choice' honor. Miller's commitment to protecting a women's right to choose, he said, is rooted in honoring the dignity of women, respecting their decisions, and being concerned about the health and well-being of women and children. 

"It is important that we bring children into this world that, as Jesus said, not only have life but have it abundantly," he said.

Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, is a member of First Grace UCC in Akron, Ohio.

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