06/24/2014 05:00 pm ET Updated Aug 24, 2014

Breaking the Silence on Bisexuality in Congregations

This piece was co-authored with Marie Alford-Harkey, Deputy Director of the Religious Institute and lead author with me on the Religious Institute's new publication, Bisexuality: Making the Invisible Visible in Faith Communities.

For too long, even the most progressive faith leaders have ignored the "B" in LGBT, leaving the presence and needs of bisexual people in congregations virtually invisible. Yet, four in 10 LGBT people identify as bisexual and many more people experience sexual attractions and behaviors with people of more than one sex or gender.

Today the Religious Institute is releasing a new guidebook, Bisexuality: Making the Invisible Visible In Faith Communities.

This new guidebook is a call to action to America's faith communities to
  • educate themselves about the diversity of human sexuality sexual including, bisexuality,
  • assure that people who identify as bisexual see their experiences, concerns, and gifts reflected in their congregations,
  • advocate for bisexual rights and recognition in the faith community, and
  • publicly advocate for the civil rights of bisexual persons.

The guidebook addresses the science of bisexuality, the impact that invisibility and discrimination have on the lives of bisexual persons, how Scripture and religious traditions have positively addressed bisexual issues, and how religious and lay leaders can create what the Religious Institute has labeled "bisexually healthy congregations."

Making the Invisible Visible is grounded in a theological commitment to welcome and include all people in our faith communities. Bisexuality reminds us of the diversity, beauty, and wonder of creation. Moving beyond the binary of gay/lesbian v. straight invites people into the mystery and complexity of human sexuality and the Divine.

Religious commitment to social justice calls on us to respect the dignity and sacred worth of all persons. Faith communities and religious leaders can uphold the sacred worth of bisexual people by challenging harmful myths and stereotypes and seeking to bring healing and wholeness to bisexual persons who have often been marginalized by both lesbian/gay and straight communities.

Discussions about bisexuality can give faith communities opportunities to celebrate promote unity and shared community values by helping to underscore that everyone has a sexual orientation and that all human beings are moral agents who can discern for themselves how their faith and sexuality intersect.

The guidebook includes practical suggestions for communities on creating a bisexually healthy congregation, where people who identify as bisexual see their experiences, concerns, and gifts reflected. The guidebook provides strategies for making sure that religious professionals are educated about bisexuality and can provide pastoral care and preaching that are inclusive of bisexuality. In addition, it gives congregations resources for addressing bisexuality in sexuality education for youth and adults, in LGBT welcome, and in social action. If you would like to read more, the guidebook is available here and at Amazon.

As the Religious Institute has said in the Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Sexual and Gender Diversity, "We affirm sexual and gender diversity as gifts people offer to their congregations and communities. We urgently call for faith-based approaches that embrace this diversity and advocate justice. Living in a time of rapid social change challenges us all to create loving, respectful relationships and to honor the many ways that people live and love. While most of us may be accustomed to categorizing people as male or female, heterosexual or homosexual, binary thinking fails to reflect the full diversity of human experience and the richness of creation."