CLOSING OF THE RELIGIOUS INSTITUTE 

Dear friends,

We are writing to you - our longstanding supporters and allies - to share some difficult news about the Religious Institute. After almost a year of deliberation and discussions with partners and supporters, the Board of Directors of the Religious Institute has voted to cease operations this fall.

We came to the painful conclusion after several years of decreasing institutional support for our work. For the last 10 months, we have actively pursued merger and other partnership arrangements with organizations in the movement, and at the beginning of the year we were close to securing a more stable financial home for the Religious Institute. The coronavirus global pandemic put an indefinite halt on those plans and ultimately we will not be able to sustain operations long enough to weather the storm of this once-in-a-century event.

Closing the Religious Institute at this time is more than heart-breaking. This is a devastating loss for the movement at a time when sexual, gender and reproductive health, rights and justice are under great attack. Our opponents are weaponizing the language of religious liberty as a core tactic to ban abortion, strip LGBTQ people of their rights and humanity, and deny basic sexual and reproductive health services to all people. The work of the Religious Institute has always been one of culture shift and bringing a spiritual and moral grounding to the movement. We know there are religious exemptions cases in front of the US Supreme Court this fall and we have no assurance that these will go well. Our work is needed now more than ever, and it is truly unfortunate that support for us and our sister organizations who do this work has significantly eroded.

Over the next three months, a subcommittee of the Board of Directors will work with movement partners and key stakeholders to find an appropriate home for the Religious Institute’s assets and intellectual property so that the work from the past 20 years may be preserved and live on. In the near future, we will bring our beloved family of supporters, former staff, partners, board members and volunteers together to honor this transition, celebrate our twenty years of work, and pay tribute to our co-founders Rev. Debra Haffner and Larry Greenfield.

We - as an organization and as individuals - have always been rooted in faith. Faith in the dignity of every human being as a reflection of the divine image.. Faith that all the ways we love one another are sacred. Faith that when each of us strives for justice, we come together in service of something much larger than ourselves. Though our doors may be closing, we also have the faith that the work we have done these past two decades will live on; our vision, for a world of liberation of the body and spirit, will never fade.

As you consider this news, we would be glad to speak with you, hear your comments, and answer any questions you may have.

In gratitude and solidarity,

BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Avery Belyeu, Chair
Marvin Ellison, Treasurer
Emily Langowitz, Secretary
Angela Ferrell-Zabala
Deneen Robinson
Sally Steenland

Carol McDonald, Interim President and CEO

Get Updates from the Religious Institute

Endorse the Religious Declaration

Thousands of religious leaders have endorsed the Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing, joining the call for prophetic religious leadership on sexual, gender, and reproductive justice.

Our Issues

LGBTQ Justice

We help people of faith and religious leaders create new understandings of sexual and gender diversity and promote justice for LGBTQ people in all areas of religious and public life.

Learn More

Reproductive Justice
We work with religious leaders to identify reproductive justice concerns, integrate reproductive justice into every aspect of their faith, and take action for reproductive justice at the local, state, and national level.

Learn More

Preparing Religious Leaders
We work to ensure that current and future religious professionals have the education, skills, and commitment to be sexually healthy and responsible leaders.

Learn More

Sexuality Education
We connect people of faith with resources, curricula, and publications to help implement lifelong, age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education in faith communities, schools, and graduate theological institutions.

Learn More

Worship Resources

Find resources for lifting up sexual, gender, and reproductive justice in worship. Access preaching resources, prayers, and responsive readings.

See All

Advocacy Resources

Find resources for taking action on sexual, gender, and reproductive justice both in your faith community and at the local, state, and national level.

See All

Online Courses

We’re training the next generation of religious professionals to be sexually healthy and responsible. Courses available for Christian, Jewish, and UU religious professionals.

See All

Publications

Our open letters, congregational guidebooks, and research reports help congregations, religious leaders, seminaries, and denominations become more sexually healthy.

See All

Denominational Statements Database

The Denominational Statements Database collects in one place the most up-to-date information about the  official positions of all major U.S. religious denominations on issues related to gender, sexuality, and reproductive justice.

Current Projects

Safer Congregations Project: Providing congregations with policies, procedures, and best practices to create sexually healthy and responsible faith communities where children, youth and vulnerable adults are safe from sexual abuse, harassment, and misconduct. 

Bisexuality Initiative: Helping faith communities welcome and embrace bisexual+ people, reflect theologically on sexuality beyond binaries, and take action to heal the suffering caused by bisexual erasure and marginalization.

Sexually Healthy and Responsible Seminaries Project: Partnering with seminaries, divinity, and rabbinical schools to cultivate sexual education, health, and justice in their curricula, student life, and institutional policies and practices. 

Make a Donation to the Religious Institute