A Selected Chronology of Relevant Actions and Events
The Executive Council of the UCC recommends that local churches, associations and conferences “initiate programs of study and dialog with regard to the implications (meanings) of human sexuality, in all its mystery, at its broadest and deepest levels in the theological context.” (EC, October 1973, Cited in “Human Sexuality: A Preliminary Study,” 1977)
The Tenth General Synod asks the Executive Council “to commission a study concerning the dynamics of human sexuality…to be presented to the Eleventh General Synod.” (75-GS-65, Minutes, 1975, p.68.)
The eleventh General Synod receives the report, “Human Sexuality: A Preliminary Study”; commends it to congregations, associations, conferences and instrumentalities for study and response; and asks the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries “to continue to provide leadership in developing resources concerning human sexuality for appropriate use by various age groups in local churches and to provide consultative services and training for conferences, associations and congregations who wish to sponsor programs concerned with human sexuality and family life.” A minority report is also issued. (77-GS-64. Minutes, 1977, pp. 65-66. Also: pp. 75-76.)
Human Sexuality: A Preliminary Study—United Church of Christ is published by the UCBHM. (New York: United Church Press, 1977. ISBN 0-8209- 0341-6.)
The Twelfth General Synod forms a “National Task Force” on human sexuality to “encourage and facilitate the continuing study of human sexuality by all congregations, associations, conferences and other groups within the church,” to “identify, test, and publicize various models of study” and to report to the Synod in four years. (79-GS-40. Minutes, 1979, p.60.)
The Thirteenth General Synod names “Family Life” one of four “priorities” in the UCC and designates UCBHM as coordinator of this work in the national setting.
The Fourteenth General Synod adopts the report of the National Task Force and asks UCBHM to “develop resources on human sexuality for use in local churches” and to “collect and continue to update information about the nature of human sexuality, including variations in sexual orientation and behavior, seeking to provide material appropriate for use with all age groups and making this information available for study by churches.” (83-GS-34. Minutes, 1983, 47.)
At its January meeting, the Executive Committee of the UCBHM Board of Directors commits the UCBHM to a three-year initiative to fulfill the request of the Fourteenth General Synod.
A UCBHM survey, “Ask the Churches About Faith and Sexuality,” receives responses from some 3,000 members of 75 local churches within 11 U.S. areas, chosen in cooperation with UCC conferences. Respondents answer questions about their sexuality-related needs, past and present; availability and adequacy of sources of help in meeting these needs; their beliefs concerning the role of the church; specific recommendations regarding helpful programs and resources; and desired kinds of assistance. Eighty-three percent say they want help from their church in addressing human-sexuality questions and concerns.
The Fifteenth General Synod of the UCC called upon United Church of Christ congregations to declare themselves open and affirming by encouraging congregations to adopt a policy of non-discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual people, and to adopt a Covenant of Openness and Affirmation of persons of lesbian, gay and bisexual orientation.
UCBHM develops and field-tests a new human-sexuality learning program for adults, Created in God’s Image—A Human Sexuality Program for Ministry and Mission.
Sensing common ground and overlapping needs for resources on human sexuality, the UCBHM and the Unitarian Universalist Association convene a Sexuality Education Task Force “to create a vision for a positive and comprehensive life-span sexuality education program.” Throughout its work, the Sexuality Education Task Force was guided by these words from its philosophy statement: “We come together as representatives of two denominations to create a vision for a positive and comprehensive life-span sexuality education program… a safe environment within which people can come to understand and respond to the challenges facing them as sexual beings.”
At the Eighteenth General Synod, a Resolution is voted, affirming the ministries of gay, lesbian, and bisexual Christians. An amendment, offered from the floor by a conference minister and approved, “urgently calls upon the local churches, associations and conferences to engage in a disciplined dialog” on the biblical and theological foundations for being open-and-affirming, and requests that instrumentalities “provide study resources for the United Church of Christ.” (91-GS-66, Minutes, p. 71.)
Staff reports of UCBHM’s Divisional Committees for the Division of the American Missionary Association and Division of Education and Publication begin to include updates about action concerning the work of the ecumenical Sexuality Education Task Force.
After drafting, field-testing and revision, Created in God’s Image—A Human Sexuality Program for Ministry and Mission is published and in consultation with conferences, UCBHM continues to offer regional and conference trainings for the teaching of this resource. Copies of the resource are mailed to all UCC resource centers. The program, for adults, is led by trained facilitators.
The original UCBHM-UUA Sexuality Education Task Force completes its work and issues its findings. It recommends that the two denominations jointly publish a life-span learning program in human sexuality for use in local churches. In the UCC, the recommendations are shared with the Executive Vice President, General Secretaries, and Boards of Directors of the American Missionary Association and the Division of Education and Publication. Reports of findings, and/or announcements about a new sexuality education program in development, are shared at Created in God’s Image regional and conference trainings.
UCBHM Board authorizes staff to pursue a jointly published human sexuality learning program with the Unitarian Universalist Association and grants permission to seek outside funding sources.
A new UCBHM-UUA Sexuality Education Task Force is formed to develop new materials which eventually come to be identified as Our Whole Lives. Funds are raised (including grants from the Martin Foundation, Ford Foundation, Turner Foundation and others); authors are interviewed and hired; and details of production, field testing, revision and other steps are planned.
Program Values and Assumptions are shared in a workshop at the UCC “Children and the Church” event at Eden Theological Seminary, Webster Groves, MO.
An author is engaged to write Junior High and Senior High religious companion materials.
Two presentations are made to the Educational Advisory Committee on Our Whole Lives and religious companion materials, concerning its implementation and future plans. Among the committee members present for the presentations are two UCC conference ministers.
An author is engaged to write religious companion materials for Grade K-1 and Grades 4-6.
Thirty-four local church people received training and 10 UCC congregations field-test the Grades 7-9 and Grades 10-12 portions of Our Whole Lives. The learning programs are revised, based on evaluations from the test sites. Updates are given in many settings of the UCC using various methods of communication: Calendar of Prayer, United Church News, brochures, workshops, letters, General Synod, etc. A selection procedure to find trainers begins. Ethnic ministries and conferences are contacted for suggestions. The pieces of the resource are developed and continue to be revised.
Communication with conferences continues, United Church News carries an in-depth article (May 1999, p. 5.) Twenty-six UCC trainers are carefully selected and trained in all grades of the resource. In addition, several community people and UUA members are trained. The final training is held in March of 2000.
May—the children, youth and adult resources of the comprehensive Our Whole Lives—Sexuality and Our Faith program are published and training of local churches begins. July—Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ becomes the ministry that continues the work of UCBHM in the area of human sexuality education. August—all Conference Ministers received a full set of Our Whole Lives—Sexuality and Our Faith. They are encouraged to house these resources in a resource center where folk could review them. September—Minister for Children, Families and Human Sexuality Advocacy, Justice and Witness Ministries, begins work in the national setting of the UCC.
Communication continues between all settings of the UCC—training continues for UCC churches. Interested people are encouraged to be in dialog with their associations and conferences in organizing training events. Trainings are held and more are being planned. The UUA and UCC continue to work together to facilitate trainings and have had additional trainings for trainers.
The Young Adult Our Whole Lives Resource (ages 18-35) is published by the UUA. Six UCC people are trained as trainers as well as 16 UUA. The Young Adult Our Whole Lives UCC companion resource, Sexuality and Our Faith, is written by Rev. T. Michael Rock and Ms. Lynn Young.
The Adult Our Whole Lives UCC companion resource, Sexuality and Our Faith, is written by Rev. T. Michael Rock and Ms. Lynn Young. Over 1100 UCC adults have been trained as facilitators in the use of Our Whole Lives resources.