What is the Gilead Sabbath Initiative?
The Gilead Sabbath Initiative is an effort to engage faith communities to support justice for LGBTQ people in the U.S. and across the globe. The three pillars of the Gilead Sabbath are education, prayer, and advocacy. Across the U.S., religious leaders and people of faith are participating in the Gilead Sabbath Initiative to educate their faith communities about LGBTQ discrimination, to join in prayer for LGBTQ justice, and to take responsible action. The Religious Institute has created educational, worship, and advocacy resources to help faith communities community observe a Gilead Sabbath. Practically, observing a Gilead Sabbath may mean including a prayer on the day of worship, preaching a sermon, conducting religious education, screening a film, and/or engaging in social action. Our hope is that, from the Gilead Sabbath Initiative, religion will emerge as a voice for justice and love in the lives of LGBTQ people worldwide.
How can my faith community get involved?
First, your faith community can sign up to observe a Gilead Sabbath. From there, you can engage the resources available on the Gilead Sabbath site. Use the Education Resources to educate yourself and your community of faith about the discrimination, persecution, & violence LGBTQ people face. Use the Worship Resources page to plan a Gilead Sabbath service. Use the Social Action Resources to take responsible action for LGBTQ justice. You are also encouraged to contact us at the Religious Institute as you prepare to observe a Gilead Sabbath and to connect with others online about your #GileadSabbath.
When should my faith community observe a Gilead Sabbath?
In 2016, the Religious Institute is inviting faith communities to observe a Gilead Sabbath on the weekend of May 13th-15th in honor of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia; during the month of June in Honor of LGBTQ Pride; during the fall (weekend TBD); and on the weekend of November 18-20th in honor of the Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Why should my faith community care?
As stated in the Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Sexual and Gender Diversity, “Loving, just communities embrace everyone; they are strengthened when all people are able to live fully and express their gender and sexuality with holiness and integrity.” Across the globe, many LGBTQ persons are not able to live fully and express their gender and sexuality due to violence, discrimination, and persecution. Too often these acts are justified in the name of religion. We know that combatting religiously-based discrimination is best done from a religious perspective, yet congregations and religious leaders in the U.S. have been reluctant to call out the connection between conservative religious views in the U.S. and anti-LGBTQ laws. The time is now for communities of faith to engage in the struggle to fight the oppression of LGBTQ people and to work for sexual justice in the U.S. and across the globe.
Why is it called the Gilead Sabbath?
The name of the Gilead Sabbath Initiative signals its grounding in sacred text and religious tradition. In the biblical book of Jeremiah, the prophet mourns for the people of Judah, saying, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?” (Jeremiah 8:22, NRSV). Gilead was a region of Judah famous for its healing balm or salve. Jeremiah’s lament highlights the irony of the people’s spiritual sickness in a land where healing for physical ailments is already available. Today, throughout the world, the situation is similar. The message of love and justice in faith traditions is being distorted into a spiritually devastating message that has led to the persecution of LGBTQ people. “Gilead” can also be translated as “hill of testimony and witness.” The Religious Institute has designed the Gilead Sabbath Initiative to promote healing and restoration by motivating U.S. people of faith to challenge negative religious messages with positive advocacy of justice for LGBTQ people in African countries and worldwide.
A Word of Thanks
A special thank you to our Gilead Sabbath Advisory committee members for their assistance and consultation in the development of the Gilead Sabbath Initiative. They are: Dr. Michael Adee of the Global Faith and Justice Project, Angel Collie of Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), Ann Craig of The Fellowship Global, Bruce Knotts of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office, Adina Mermelstein Konikoff of American Jewish World Service, and Rev. Joseph Tolton of The Fellowship Global. Thank you also to the sixty nationally recognized religious leaders who joined together in 2014 to encourage faith communities to participate in the Gilead Sabbath Initiative. Learn more here.
A Note on Language
Throughout the world, there are many different ways that those referred to here as “LGBTQ people” name themselves. Many use LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex), the term used by the United Nations and international policy communities. Many also identify as “queer.” Others use the term LGBT. In some countries, entire communities refer to themselves as “homosexual” or as “gays and lesbians.” Additionally, in many countries and regions, communities identify their sexuality or gender identity using terms outside of the LGBTIQ initials. In Uganda, for example, many same-sex attracted and transgender people identify as “Kuchu.” In the context of the Gilead Sabbath Initiative materials, we have used the term LGBTQ throughout, except where we were referring to how specific communities or individuals self-identify. This is the term the Religious Institute uses but recognizes that there is no one term that encapsulates the rich diversity of sexual orientation and gender identity.