Online guide helps assess sexual health of congregations

An online guide to help congregations assess their sexual health policies and procedures has been created by the Rev. Debra W. Haffner, president of the Religious Institute, a multifaith organization formed to advocate for sexual health, education, and justice in faith communities and society.

Haffner, a UU minister, said Assessing Sexual Health: An Online Guide has nine checklists based on a congregation’s size and capabilities. Areas included in the checklists include whether bylaws address sexual orientation inclusion and sexual harassment, whether sexuality issues are addressed in worship, the ways in which sexuality education is offered for children, youth, and adults, and whether sexuality issues are included in a congregation’s social justice advocacy work. The nine areas covered by the guide are Policies and Environment, Religious Professionals, Worship and Preaching, Pastoral Care, Sex Ed for Children and Youth, Sex Ed for Adults, Welcome and Full Inclusion, Safe Congregations, and Social Justice.

Sexually healthy congregations guide online

The Rev. Debra Haffner has created an online guide to help determine—and increase—the sexual health of Unitarian Universalist congregations. Haffner, a Unitarian Universalist minister, is the executive director of the Religious Institute, a multifaith organization dedicated to advocating for sexual health, education, and justice in faith communities and society. The guide, available on, is called “Assessing Sexual Health: An Online Guide for UUA Congregations.”

She hopes the guide—a series of checklists exploring how congregations can incorporate sexuality awareness into congregational policies, worship, pastoral care, welcoming, social justice, and other areas—will inspire leaders to go beyond the limited ways they may be addressing sexuality issues currently.

“Ultimately, a commitment to developing a sexually healthy faith community needs to permeate every aspect of a community,” says Haffner. “It is not enough to offer Our Whole Lives sexuality education to our middle school students and go through a Welcoming Congregation program once. Instead, UU ministers, religious educators, board members, key committee members, youth, and parents must share a commitment to sexual and spiritual wholeness. This online guide will assist in that process.”

One of Haffner’s goals is to encourage all congregations to adopt a “safe congregations” policy, to protect children and adults from sexual misconduct. She notes, “Seven in ten UU congregations do not have safe congregations committees and a third do not have any written policies in this area.”

The guide helps leaders think about ways their congregations can address sexuality issues in a comprehensive manner. Questions raised in the guide include whether congregational guidelines address gender identity and family diversity, whether LGBT issues are raised respectfully, whether the congregation is active in community groups working on sexuality justice issues, and whether leaders know what local and state laws require in terms of reporting sexual misconduct.