A new resource to help faith communities understand bisexuality and bisexual people has been published today by The Religious Inistitute, a multi-faith ministry which deals with the topics of sexual morality, justice, and healing.
The 95-page booklet, entitled Bisexuality: Making the Invisible Visible
in Faith Communities, is authored by Marie Alford-Harkey and Rev. Deb Haffner. As stated in the Introduction to the work, the text is divided into three sections:
“Part One of the book, ‘Bisexuality Basics,’ begins by naming the harm that many bisexual people suffer, and includes definitions of terms, models to help understand sexual orientation, research on bisexuality, information on the prevalence of bisexuality in the United States, and myths and facts about bisexuality.
“Part Two, ‘Sacred Texts and Religious Traditions,’ intro-duces theological issues related to bisexuality, and includes a discussion of sexuality in the Hebrew and Christian Scrip-tures, essays authored by theologians from different tra-ditions, and the few denominational policies that exist on bisexuality.
“Part Three, ‘Creating a Bisexually Healthy Congregation,’ presents information and strategies for faith communities and religious leaders to become more welcoming and affirm-ing of bisexual persons and others who are attracted to people of more than one sex or gender. Sections include welcoming and affirming bisexual persons, bisexually
healthy religious professionals, worship resources, pastoral counseling, youth, social action, and a call to action.”
The authors have long been involved in research and ministry concerning religion and sexuality. Alford-Harkey is the Deputy Director of The Religious Institute and Haffner is the Co-Founder and President of the same organization. The new publication emerged from an interfaith colloquium on bisexuality the Institute sponsored in April 2013.
There are two Catholic contributors to the report. In the section on sacred texts and religious traditions, Dr. Kate Ott, professor of Christian Social Ethics, Drew Theological School, New Jersey, wrote “A Roman Catholic Perspective on Bisexuality.” In that reflection, she notes:
“Correlations can be made to expand the concept of sexual orientation as a ‘natural’ part of one’s createdness to include bisexuality as an orientation or perhaps even more accurate-
ly to consider each individual as having an orientation that is as unique as their personality. . . .
“Although the Catechism also refers to homosexual acts, unfortunately, as ‘intrinsically disordered,’ I have hope that the Church will continue to re-examine this issue in light of a more loving, inclusive tradition.”
The second Catholic contribution comes from Lacey Louwagie, co-editor of Hungering and Thirsting for Justice: True Stories by Young Adult Catholics. In the section on developing a welcome for bisexual people in religious congregations, Louwagie tells part of her story:
“Finally, I confronted the reality that somehow, both of these attractions did exist within me. I was truly attracted to men…and to women. I sat alone in the stairwell outside my bed-
room, my head held in my hands, when the thought entered my consciousness for the first time: maybe I was bisexual. As soon as I’d named it, a homophobic solution came on its heels: I would just decide not to pursue my attraction to women. Ironically, this is pretty much exactly what the Catholic Church tells me to do….I thought I’d arrived at a prudent solution: I could inwardly acknowledge who I really was while also pursuing only love that I could declare publicly, only love that didn’t entail the risk of being cast out
of my community. But the solution must not have been too great after all, because I fell into the worst depression of my life.”
Although the publication is not specifically geared to Catholic, or even Christian, faith communities. I think that Catholic parishes and schools can gain immensely from it. The basic information on bisexuality is clear, understandable, thorough, and authoritative. The suggestions for how to affirm and welcome bisexual people in religious contexts are excellent, and something that every Catholic parish can do. There are even suggestions for preaching and public prayer, as well as guidance for bisexual people in professional ministry on how to disclose their sexuality to others.
This publication will be of great help to any Catholic parish that wants to educate its parishioners fully on sexuality or that wants to do outreach to the LGBT community. Bisexual people are often the “forgotten” group in the LGBT rainbow, and this publication is a great step to remedying that omission.
Copies of the publication are $15.00 each, an can be ordered from The Religious Institute by clicking here. For international orders, call the Religious Institute 203-222-0055.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry