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Cleansing Our Temple cover


Mary Andrus-Overley, formerly of the UUA Department for Social Justice
Rev. Terasa Cooley, former Women and Religion Committee Intern
Judith A. Frediani, UUA Department of Religious Education
Marilyn Gentile, Chair, Women and Religion Committee
Rev. Carol Hepokoski, Women and Religion Committee
Rev. Jack Mendelsohn, Women and Religion Committee
Rev. Jody Shipley, Society for the Larger Ministry
Rev. Elizabeth B. Stevens, Women and Religion Committee

Copyright © 1991 by the
Unitarian Universalist Association
25 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02108

Curriculum Development Assistant: Timothy Reynolds
Production Editor: Kathy Wolff
Designer: Suzanne Morgan

Printed In USA.

ISBN 1-55896-203-4


Cleansing Our Temple is a revision of Checking Our Balance: Auditing Concepts, Values, and Language, originally developed in 1980 by Catharina G. Jas for the Unitarian Universalist Women and Religion Committee. Permission is granted for Survey Materials and Resources to be photocopied. Every effort has been made to trace ownership of copyrighted materials. If any infringement has been made, the Unitarian Universalist Association will be glad, upon receiving notification, to make appropriate acknowledgment in future editions of this book.


Introduction 1
The Process: An Overview 3
Training Session 4
Sample Worship Service 6
Sample Worship Service: Reading and Sermon 8
Survey Materials
Worship Service Questionnaire 11
Meetings Questionnaire 13
Leadership Questionnaire 15
Religious Education Programs Questionnaire 17
Religious Education Resources Questionnaire 19
Tally Sheet 21
The Story of “Women and Religion” 22
Women and Religion Resolution 24
Implementation of Women and Religion Resolution 25
Other Women’s Rights Resolutions 26
Women and Religion Chronology 27
Avoiding Sexist Language 29

Program Feedback 33


Cleansing Our Temple is an instrument for change. It is intended as an assessment administered by a congregation, not to a congregation. Initially, it can be used to raise questions and to help all of us gather information for change within ourselves and in our religious communities.

As we set out to identify and change sexist practices in our services and in the life of our church or fellowship, it is important to remind ourselves that we are working with old concepts and assumptions that cannot change overnight. Be prepared to take your time with this program. The questions it presents for all of us can be asked again and again. Each time we search for an answer, something new will show itself. None of us is free of sexism.
Throughout the process of conducting this program, pay attention to how people are invited to participate. Openness and inclusion should be the rule, and all methods of communication (including newsletters and announcements) should be used to keep everyone informed of what Is taking place, and how they can contribute to the process.

The Core Group

Change is initiated by those most interested in seeing change and by those most willing to work for it. Select a Core Group of three or four people who are enthusiastic about the assessment. If you can, include in this initial group people who are leaders In your congregation—ministers, religious educators, board members, committee chairs, and other respected members.

Bring your Core Group together and, through the Training Session, familiarize yourselves with the program. Encourage one another to share the thoughts and feelings generated by this issue and project. Challenge yourselves to find the areas that are difficult for you and that represent your own areas of sexism. Finally, identify the leadership whose support you would like to enlist and decide how you can best approach them.

Be prepared to move the assessment along at your congregation’s own pace. Patience and persistence will invite success.

Expand the Group

After the initial Core Group meeting (see second step of The Process: An Overview), invite additional congregational leaders to meet with the Core Group to discuss the assessment. Explain your interest in using this survey of Unitarian Universalist practices and attitudes, provide them with background information, and give them copies of relevant materials from this manual. Briefly share what has happened in the Core Group and invite them to experience the Training Session. Look over the questionnaires together and invite responses and sharing of feelings. If you need more than one meeting to do this, take that time.

If you cannot get your leadership together, enlarge your Core Group through a wider process, perhaps by involving your congregation’s Social Justice Committee, or another interested group. Keep in mind that your new goal is to interest the leadership in the assessment. Remember that by simply asking them to participate you have at least raised their awareness that these are important issues to examine.

If you “get stuck,” if few people seem interested or willing to participate, it might be helpful to contact your district’s Women and Religion Task Force or Women and Religion Committee. Your District Executive should be able to direct you to this group.

Be prepared to find something new each time you go over this assessment.

Initiate the Survey

This manual includes five questionnaires (located in the Survey Materials sections) which focus on the following areas of congregational life:

* worship services
* congregational, committee, and board meetings
* staff and volunteer leadership
* religious education programs, and
* religious education materials.

Evaluators should feel free to alter the questionnaires to fit your congregation’s patterns. The Tally Sheet, a necessary supplement to two of the questionnaires, is also located In Site Survey Materials section.

Plan together a strategy for how this program can best be used in your congregation. Enlist the support of staff and other leaders in evaluating the procedures and resources of congregational life so that cooperation, not resistance, characterizes the assessment process. Identify people who can help you look at the feelings that arise and invite their help. Encourage as many people as possible, Including children and youth, to observe and act as evaluators. Use the guidelines in Resource F to monitor sexist language as well.

Implement the Changes

When participants have gathered enough data to suggest some changes in your congregation’s life, gather the Core Group and the leadership together to plan how your society can identify the changes to be made and implement them. The more people involved in deciding the changes, the more ownership in the outcome.

Some suggestions for including as many people as possible in discussion and ownership of a plan for change:

* Plan a worship service based on your findings and follow with a discussion period.
* Include this issue on the agenda of a congregational meeting.
* Involve ongoing women’s and men’s groups in the process.
* Involve interested committees (social justice, religious education, worship) and the governing board.
* Involve the youth group.
* Enlist the religious education leadership in involving the children in this issue.
* Hold a special open meeting/hearing on the issue, perhaps with refreshments and childcare to attract as many people as possible.
* Keep the congregation informed throughout the process, through the newsletter and other means of communication.

Evaluate and Celebrate

Sexism is an elusive force in our society. Cleansing Our Temple can help each of us to see new aspects of sexism in our life together and to begin to change ourselves and our practices. Because sexism in indigenous to our society, it is very difficult to see and change its effect. Patience and willingness to keep alive the questions the assessment poses in your congregation will maximize its value to you.

As your congregation arrives at some positive steps toward change, celebrate those steps together and plan to take another look in the future.

 The Process: An Overview

1. Identify a Core Group of three or more highly interested individuals.

2. Gather the Core Group for an initial discussion to become familiar with the assessment process and questionnaires. At this meeting, the group will:
* experience the Training Session
* share thoughts and feelings, and
* plan for further inclusions of the leadership and the congregation.

3. Expand the group by meeting with additional leadership. Together, plan how to involve and inform the congregation throughout this process.

4. Acquaint evaluators with the questionnaires. Determine how the forms can best be used in your congregation.

5. Distribute the questionnaires and have evaluators gather the data.

6. Bring the Core Group and congregational leadership together to plan how the congregation can process the findings, Identify the changes to be made, and decide on a plan of action.

7. Take action to change sexist behavior and conventions within your congregation.

8. Evaluate the process as you go along and celebrate together.

9. Share your assessment experiences with the Continental Women and Religion Committee by sending them a completed Program Feedback form, included at the end of this booklet.

10. Plan to take another look in the future.

 Training Session

Time: Approximately 2 hours


This manual can be used
* as an introductory training session for the Core Group
* as a second step to bring the Core Group together with the congregation’s leadership
* to train evaluators to use the questionnaires
* at the District level, to introduce representatives from a number of congregations to this process.


Participants will
* gain an introduction to the Unitarian Universalist Women and Religion story
* explore their perceptions and feelings about sexism
* become familiar with the sexism assessment process, and
* practice assessing a worship service in terms of sexism.


* 3x5” index cards
* newsprint, markers, and tape
* copies of handouts (described in Preparation), one for each participant
* copies of Sample Worship Service Reading and Sermon for worship leaders
* simple refreshments, if desired


* Familiarize yourself with the entire program.
* Make copies for all participants of The Process: An Overview, Resources A and B, Sample Worship Service, and the Worship Service Questionnaire. Distribute Resources A and B well before the training session so participants have time to read them.
* Arrange for a comfortable space for the group to meet in a circle.
* Enlist a number of people to enact the Sample Worship Service with you. Give some thought to the gender inclusivity of this presentation. Be sure each worship leader has a copy of the service and the Sample Worship Service Reading and Sermon beforehand and is clear about her or his part.
* Organize refreshments for the break, if desired.

Session Plan

Opening 5 minutes

Gather participants In a circle. Ask them to briefly introduce themselves by stating their names and their hopes for this training session.

Defining Sexism 15 minutes

Distribute 3x5” index cards and invite participants to take two or three minutes to write their own definition of sexism. After two or three minutes, invite them to share their definitions with the group while a recorder jots down key words and sentences on newsprint. As people share, allow clarifying questions—but not debate or critique. When all have shared who wish to, allow a few minutes for general observations about these definitions. The goal is to share different experiences and perspectives regarding sexism, not to reach a consensus definition.

Program Overview 15 minutes

Before this session, you have given participants copies of Resources A and B.

Briefly introduce the origin and purpose of the Women and Religion Resolution. Invite questions and brief discussion.

Drawing upon the Introduction to this program, give a brief overview of the purposes of the sexism assessment in our congregations. Key ideas include:
* Sexism is pervasive in our society, and we are all included in this program.
* This assessment is an instrument for change.
* Openness and inclusion should characterize this assessment in the congregation.
* Be prepared to move at your own society’s pace; patience and persistence will bring success.

Invite questions.

Give participants copies of The Process: An Overview and review it with them. Briefly introduce the questionnaires and invite questions.

Using the Worship Service

Questionnaire 30 minutes

Review the Worship Service Questionnaire in detail as a group.

Present the Sample Worship Service.

Divide into small groups to evaluate the service and the process of assessing it. Acknowledge that participants are likely to disagree about the sexism of some of the words and concepts.

Break 10 minutes

Sharing in Large Group 10 minutes

When the group has gathered after the break, invite them to share their reactions to the Sample Worship Service experience. What did they learn? What did they feel?

Small-Group Discussion 20 minutes

Divide into different small groups and encourage them sharing of feelings and motivations for undertaking a sexism assessment in one’s own congregation. Feelings may include fear, anger, excitement, and hope. Ask, “What obstacles do you anticipate in your congregation, and what strategies do you have to address them?”

Sharing in Large Group 15 minutes

Regather the group and invite a sharing of the feelings and insights generated in the small-group discussions. If appropriate, record suggestions on newsprint and arrange to distribute to participants at a later time.

Evaluation 5 minutes

Distribute index cards or paper and invite participants to write briefly what was most helpful, least helpful, and most surprising. After a few minutes, invite people to share their observations with the group. Collect the cards to help plan later training sessions.

Closing 5 minutes

A brief closing may include thanking the people responsible for this meeting, leading an activity In which each participant says one word or short phrase describing how she or he feels right now, singing a song, reading an appropriate poem.

 Sample Worship Service

Photocopy for all participants.

This sample service is to be used to train evaluators. It provides examples of sexist, non-sexist, and ambiguous language and metaphors. It is not intended to be a “good,” “bad”— or even “typical” — service, but a “practice” service.

Words of Affirmation

May be sung to tune of Doxology or read in unison.
All standing.

From all that dwell below the skies
Let songs of hope and faith arise;
Let peace, goodwill on earth be sung
Through every land, by every tongue.

Responsive Reading

“The Glory of Life Is Upon Me,” by Rollo Russell (Blue Book #425)
Congregation seated.

How beautiful is the morning,
All light in its tranquility.


The bloom is purple on the mountains;
The waters are transparent in the valley.


The encircling sea, breaking waves upon the rocks;
The serenity of inland calm.


The flowers of hill and valley, the swelling downs,
The hamlet that nestles below;


The children, most precious, most to be revered,
Born of heaven to be soldiers of light and life;


The people shall be as one family,
The happiness of each shall be sought by all.


Reading: “A Sport for Life”

Hymn:“For the Beauty of the Earth,” by Conrad Kocher (Green Book #12-n)
Congregation standing.

For the beauty of the earth,
For the splendor of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies:
Source of all, to thee we raise
This, our hymn of grateful praise.

For the wonder of each hour
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale and tree and flower,
Sun and moons and stars of light:
Source of all, to thee we raise
This, our hymn of grateful praise.

Sermon: “Sources of Inspiration”

Hymn:“Joy” (Blue Book #11)

Congregation standing.

Joyful, Joyful, we adore thee,
God of glory, God of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before thee,
Hall thee as the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day.

Mortals, join the mighty chorus,
Which the morning stars began;
Father-love is reigning o’er us,
Brother love bind man to man.
Ever singing march we onward,
Victors in the midst of strife;
Joyful music lifts us sunward,
In the triumph song of life.

Closing Words

Read in unison.

In the name of the Father and the Son
And the Mother and the Daughter.

 Sample Worship Service:

Reading and Sermon

Photocopy for worship leaders only.

Reading: “A Sport for Life,” by Jane Ranney Rzepka

In a homework assignment designed to appeal to the sports-minded of the fourth graders, my son Toby’s class was asked to make collages: “Use magazine pictures that show the sports activity you’d like best when you grow up.” The collages poured in the next morning, snipped-out dreams of pro football, baseball, and, from those children edging over four feet tall, basketball.

Toby chose pig-racing. Pig-racing!

I like that in a kid. Already, Toby knows that while popular sports are okay, he’s apt to find a better dream for himself if he uses a little imagination.

I hope he remembers that lesson in life: to search out just the right dream, one that offers a pace and challenge that suits him, in spite of the choices others may make. Plenty of folks run around dribbling and punting and touching all the bases. But somebody’s got to race those pigs. May it be my son.

Sermon: “Sources of Inspiration”

At least once in every boy’s life, perhaps in every girl’s life too, there comes not only the urge but also the opportunity to take a clock apart. Bolt by bolt, screw by screw he proceeds. And, fascinated by the tiny gear teeth and the puzzling hairspring, he presses on until, finally, he comes to the main spring. If it is wound up, there is eventually a sharp little explosion and suddenly that spring is all over the place. What was a moving, ticking time meter is suddenly just a mixed mess of wheel and hardware. But for a little while, at least, his burning curiosity is quenched. He has found what made it tick.

Every decade, or even more often, some thinker tries by various methods to carry this same research into our society: what makes men and women tick? Now and then someone tries for an answer by simply asking men and women. Some years ago Dr. Will Durant asked a number of men and women, more or less distinguished, about the sources of their inspiration. “Spare me a moment,” wrote Dr. Durant, “to tell me what meaning life has for you, what keeps you going. What are the sources of your inspiration? What is the goal of your toil? Where do you find your consolations and your happiness? Where, in the last resort, does your treasure lie?” These are very difficult questions for anyone to answer. But in a group of answers, there is always an underlying similarity. Because men and women, after all, are much alike, while at the same time so different.

In the first place, we keep on living because it is the nature of life to do so. “I go on working,” wrote Henry Mencken, “for the same reason that a hen goes on laying eggs. Life demands to be lived...” We keep on living ... because we are alive.

Another strong motive for us is found in pleasure. Not only do we wish life for its own sake, but we find pleasure in life that seems to be worthwhile. We have capacity for enjoyment. Someone has said, I think it was Schopenhauer, that pleasure is nothing but the absence of pain. That is only partly true, I think. I believe that pleasure is a positive thing in itself. Browning sings this joy of living in his great poem Saul, where he writes:

How good is man’s lift, the mere living, how fit to employ
All the heart and the soul and the senses forever in Joy.

There is the will to life, and there is the pleasure of living. But there is a third important factor which keeps us going, and that is habit. Habit keeps a person on the job just as the rails keep a locomotive on the track. Animals trained to certain habits become little more than machines. Military drill is the attempt to instill in soldiers the automatic habit of obedience, to make them into automata, to condition them by habit to jump without thought at a command. This sort of thing will be obsolete, eventually. In our schools and colleges we try to teach boys and girls to be themselves, develop and think for themselves.

Such are some of the forces that keep us going. The impulse to life, the joy of life, the habit of life. But these do not take us very far.

These things we have mentioned play upon animals quite as much as upon men. Indeed, they play upon men just to the extent that they are animals. But primarily we are persons, we are spirits. We are sons of God. Then what keeps us going?

Each one of us might make a list. Each one might name one central factor which makes our life rich and makes it go. Our hobby, our work, our love, our ambition. In our litany, our rosary of gratitude, there are perhaps four items we can mention. First there is the love of friends. To receive the love and friendship of another heart is, spiritually, to have the same experience a battery undergoes when it receives a recharge from a generator. To give our love and friendship to another is like generating power within ourselves. Whether we take or give in friendship we gain, we are blessed. It is this reciprocal relationship between friend and friend that gives ideal inspiration to life. Charles Kingsley was once asked by Elizabeth Browning, “What is the secret of your life? Tell me that I may make mine beautiful, too.” And Kingsley said simply, “I had a friend.”

Another source of inspiration is the example of men. By this I mean not so much the example of the friends whom we know and love, but the great and good among mankind whom we admire from afar. If I were asked for the one best influence that could come into the life of a boy or girl, think I should name what Carlyle called heroes and hero worship. Friends are beautiful, heroes are wonderful and we can cling to them. Buddha, Socrates, Isaiah, Jesus, St. Francis, St. Augustine, Lincoln, Tolstoy, Gandhi.... To tie one’s life to them is like tying one’s body to an expert mountain guide as he scales the great high peaks of life.

We might add now, as a third thing that can inspire us, the work of man. All of it, from the tiniest exquisite miniature to the building of the Verrazano Bridge. All science and all art. If you should ask me what art does to inspire the human heart, I might have to grope for an answer.... When I am cast down and need to be lifted up, I know of one thing certain to take me out of myself, and that is a burst of music from some full-throated orchestra, or even the human voice, as in the divine organ tones of a Marian Anderson. But if you should ask me to explain this, I should find it difficult.

Well, we have drawn in much of life that can inspire us. The love of man, the example of man, the work of man. What else would you add?

 Worship Service Questionnaire

This form may be modified to conform to the worship format used in your congregation.

1. Participation in the Service

a. Leadership

How many women participated in the service? ___

How many men? ___

b. Attendance

How many women attended? ___

How many men? ___

2. Elements of the Service

Y / N
Female, Male, or Unknown?
F / M / ?
Sermon theme    
Quotes in sermon    

Number of incidents of non-inclusive language ___

3. Perceptions of the Service

a. Do you find any examples of sexist language?


b. What images of females/males emerge (including family relationships and children’s roles)?


c. Beyond explicitly sexist language or images, are there implicitly sexist assumptions (such as dominance/submission, hierarchy, and the nature of God)?


d. Does the physical environment (pictures and books, for example) include women?


___I am female ___I am male

 Meetings Questionnaire

Congregational, Committee, and Board Meetings

Photocopy this form and the Tally Sheet for each meeting you survey.

1. Leadership of the Meeting

a. Who leads the meeting? ____Female(s) ____Male(s)

b. How is the convener addressed? (examples: chairperson, chairwoman, chairman, chair, and coordinator)


c. Is the title treated with levity? ___No ___Yes

Give examples


2. Meeting Process (Use Tally Sheet at the end of Survey Materials section.)

a. Number of women and men in the group: ___Women ___Men

b. Percentage of the total number of women and men present who spoke: ___Women ___Men

c. Percentage (compile from Tally Sheet) of total female or male remarks that were:




1. Questions    
2. Suggestions    
4. Ignored    
5. Interrupted    
6. Accepted/Built upon    


d. Were the following roles taken in the meeting by:




1. Serving refreshments    
2. Taking notes    
3. Joking    
4. Managing the agenda    


e. People quoted or expert opinions cited: ___Women ___Men

f. How are decisions made by this group?


g. Who is responsible for implementing the decisions made at this meeting (minister, committee chair, etc.) and what are their genders? Explain.


___I am female ___I am male

 Leadership Questionnaire

Congregational Staff and Volunteer Leadership

1. Staff Structure

Are the following staff persons male or female?




a. Parish Minister(s)    
b. Minister(s) or Director(s) of R.E.    
c. Ministerial Intern    
d. Administrator    
e. Secretary    
f. Sexton or Custodian    
g. Music Director    
h. Organist    
i. Other    

2. Volunteer Patterns

a. What is the ratio of women to men as officers (such as moderator, president, recorder, and clerk) and heads of committees?___Women ___Men

b. Is this a typical ratio for your congregation? Has this changed from past patterns?


c. What is the ratio of women to men in each standing committee?

Committee W/M ratio

d. Which, if any, committees are composed of all men or all women?

What are the responsibilities of those committees?


3. Program and Policy Concerns

a. In the programs and procedures of the society, are women’s concerns recognized

(i.e., identified and articulated)? ___Yes ___No

In what ways?


b. Are women’s concerns addressed (i.e., actions taken and behaviors changed)? ___Yes ___No

In what ways?


c. Who takes responsibility for addressing women’s concerns? Check position and indicate gender.


Takes responsibility



Board member(s)      
Other church staff      
Other committee member(s)      
Other parishioners      

___I am female ___I am male

 Religious Education Programs Questionnaire

Photocopy this form and the Tally Sheet for each religious education program you survey.

1. Title of Program __________________________________________

a. Age range __________

b. Main goal __________

c. Sub-goal(s) __________

2. Setting

a. Leader(s)/Presenter(s)/Facilitator(s): ___Female ___Male

b. Number of participants: ___Female ___Male

c. Presentation:___Experiential ____Lecture ____Discussion ____Other

d. Printed and AV resources used (please list):


e. Human resources, such as guest “experts” (please describe):


3. Perceptions of a Session

a. Sexist language (give examples):


b. What images of females/males emerge (including stereotypes of male/female roles, family relationships, and children’s roles)?


c. Beyond explicitly sexist language or images, are there implicit sexist assumptions in the program (such as dominance/submission, hierarchy, and the nature of God)?


d. Percentage (compile from Tally Sheet) of total female or male remarks that were:




1. Questions    
2. Suggestions    
4. Ignored    
5. Interrupted    
6. Accepted/Built upon    

e. During free time, did participants spend their time in traditional or non-traditional sex roles? Describe.


___I am female ___I am male

 Religious Education Resources Questionnaire

Photocopy this form for each religious education resource you survey.

1. Materials Description

a. Title of Resource

b. Type of Resource

___Printed material, such as curriculum, prospectus, or flyer

___Audiovisual material


___Other (describe):


c. Age range for which this resource is intended:

d. Main goal:


e. Sub-goal(s):


2. Materials Review

a. Sexist language (give examples):


b. What images of females/males emerge (including family relationships and children’s roles)?


c. Beyond explicitly sexist language or images, are there implicit sexist assumptions in the program (such as dominance/submission, hierarchy, and the nature of God)?


d. Author(s) of material is(are): ___Female ___Male

e. Percentage of subjects in the material who are: ___Female ___Male

f. Percentage of those quoted who are: ___Female ___Male

g. Percentage of those drawn, photographed, or filmed who are: ___Female ___Male

___I am female ___I am male

 Tally Sheet

Photocopy this form as many times as necessary for each survey.

For each row, check one box in each of the three column areas. See example.

The individual speaking was:







Accepted/Built Upon

Example: F






 Resource A

The Story of “Women and Religion”

The Women and Religion movement officially began in 1977, with the passage of the Women and Religion Resolution (see Resource B) at General Assembly. But the real beginnings of the movement are to be found earlier. In the mid-1970s, there was a growing concern that the male biases of religion remained unexamined and unchanged. In 1975, the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF) sponsored the International Women’s Year Conference. Unitarian Universalists Lucile Schuck-Longview and Dr. Rita Taubenfeld developed a resolution at the conference, and that same year the IARF passed the resolution Equal Rights and Opportunities for Women.

Many women across the continent shared the concerns expressed in this resolution, which served as the catalyst for the development of the Unitarian Universalist Women and Religion Resolution. Longview and several other women drafted a tentative resolution which was circulated to many others for their comments and concerns. In 1977, the Women and Religion Resolution was submitted by 548 members of 57 active societies, and passed unanimously at the General Assembly.

The dual focus of the resolution was to urge the UUA to look at the religious roots of sexism, and to encourage all Unitarian Universalists to examine the extent to which religious beliefs influence sex-role stereotypes in interpersonal behavior within families and friendships and in the workplace.

The Women and Religion Resolution established the Women and Religion Committee — first appointed by the President, and later by the UUA Board of Trustees—which is charged with overseeing the implementation of the resolution. Committee members are chosen from constituencies of the UUA at large, as well as born the following organizations: Liberal Religious Educators’ Association (LREDA), Ministerial Sisterhood Unitarian Universalist (MSUU), the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association (UUMA), and the Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation (UUWF). The committee values and actively seeks diversity of race, gender-orientation, and age. In addition to establishing the Continental Committee, the UUA committed itself in 1978 to providing staff support for the committee’s work — most recently in the form of a UUA staff liaison who can make available to the committee other resources at UUA headquarters.

District Women and Religion Committees and Task Forces began to form as early as 1977. They were the first to develop recommendations for the implementation of the Women and Religion Resolution. These district organizations operate in diverse ways, and they tend to define themselves according to the particular interests and perceived needs of women in their district. Some of their activities include conducting retreats, conferences, and workshops; developing women’s rituals; and publishing newsletters on issues of concern to Unitarian Universalist women.

In 1979 in Grailville, Ohio, the first continental Women and Religion conference for district leadership was convened. Out of this conference came a movement to revise what would subsequently be called the UUA Principles and Purposes.

A number of conferees felt that the proposed Purposes did not affirm women’s experience as much as they did men’s, and that they lacked a respect for the totality of life and for the earth. These women presented a draft of revisions to their districts. In 1981, two separate drafts submitted by districts appeared on the General Assembly agenda. After many years of intense debate, broad congregational involvement, and high drama, a new statement of Purposes and Principles was adopted in 1985. They reflect the influence of women in the rejection of hierarchy and in the embracing of a sense of connectedness and respect for the totality of life.

Several gatherings and convocations have taken place over the years, some to encourage more inter-district communication, and some to strengthen the ties among such organizations as Women and Religion, UUWF, LREDA, and MSUU. At one such gathering, the joint conference on Feminist Theology held in East Lansing, Michigan, in 1980, the Women and Religion Committee presented Checking Our Balance: Auditing Concepts, Values, and Language, a process guide for congregational use. Cleansing Our Temple is a revision of that program.

In 1987, at the urging of the Continental Women and Religion Committee, the UUA underwent a Sexism Audit by an independent consulting firm. A Sexism Audit Monitoring Committee was charged with overseeing the recommendations of this assessment. The recommendations of the audit have directed the Continental Women and Religion Committee to revise Checking Our Balance, to review the expectations for ministers and ministers’ roles, and to begin the process of developing and articulating visions of a gender inclusive denominational association.

In January of 1989, after many years of discussion and at the recommendation of the Continental Women and Religion Committee, the first male member of the committee was appointed. This appointment represents the Committee’s desire, first, to reflect the gender inclusion that it upholds and, generally, to bring men into the process of identifying and eliminating sexism.

This very abbreviated story ends here, but we know it will continue wherever there are people addressing concerns about religion and sexism. The work of changing institutions must be carried on at all levels. It is our hope that each district and local organization will tell its own story, and help keep alive the spirit of Women and Religion.

 Resource B

Women and Religion Resolution

Passed unanimously by the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association in lune, 1977.

WHEREAS, a principle of the Unitarian Universalist Association is to “affirm, defend, and promote the supreme worth and dignity of every human personality, and the use of the democratic method in human relationships”; and

WHEREAS, great strides have been taken to affirm this principle within our denomination; and

WHEREAS, some models of human relationships arising from religious myths, historical materials, and other teachings still create and perpetuate attitudes that cause women everywhere to be overlooked and undervalued; and

WHEREAS, children, youth and adults internalize and act on these cultural models, thereby tending to limit their sense of self-worth and dignity;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED: That the 1977 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association calls upon all Unitarian Universalists to examine carefully their own religious beliefs and the extent to which these beliefs influence sex-role stereotypes within their own families; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That the General Assembly urges the Board of Trustees of the Unitarian Universalist Association to encourage the Unitarian Universalist Association administrative officers and staff, the religious leaders within societies, the Unitarian Universalist theological schools, the directors of related organizations, and the planners of seminars and conferences, to make every effort to: (a) put traditional assumptions and language in perspective and (b) avoid sexist assumptions and language in the future.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That the General Assembly urges the President of the Unitarian Universalist Association to send copies of this resolution to other denominations examining sexism inherent in religious literature and institutions and to the International Association of Liberal Religious Women and the IARF; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That the General Assembly requests the Unitarian Universalist Association (a) to join with those who are encouraging others in the society to examine the relationship between religious and cultural attitudes toward women and (b) to send a representative and resource materials to associations appropriate to furthering the above goals; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That the General Assembly requests the President of the Unitarian Universalist Association to report annually on progress in implementing this resolution.

 Resource C

Implementation of Women and Religion Resolution

Passed by the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association in June, 1980.

WHEREAS, the Unitarian Universalist Association passed a resolution titled “Women and Religion” at the 1977 General Assembly and a related resolution titled “Battered Women” at the 1979 General Assembly; and

WHEREAS, these resolutions, in part, urge all Unitarian Universalists to examine their religious beliefs and the extent to which these beliefs influence sex-role stereotypes; and

WHEREAS, avoiding sexist assumptions and sexist language is a long-term undertaking during which the deep-seated patriarchal nature of our religious traditions must be examined and new ways of perceiving the nature of women and men and of relationships between them must be developed;

BE IT RESOLVED: That the 1980 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association urges all societies to provide opportunities for members to participate in activities that bring into focus the sexist nature of our religious heritage and also the emerging ideological understandings that value women and men as full beings; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That this General Assembly urges the Unitarian Universalist Association administrative staff, in association with lay members and clergy, to develop and provide: (a) materials to help societies eradicate the longstanding sexist assumptions and language forms and usages diminishing women whether in worship or in other church settings and (b) a procedure for evaluation of the progress made toward incorporation of concepts, values, and linguistic forms that are free of sex bias; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED: That this General Assembly calls on the Board of Trustees of this Association to urge all societies to: (a) use the evaluation procedure when provided and (b) recognize and celebrate women’s experience in the quest for religious identity.

 Resource D

Other Women’s Rights Resolutions

Texts of resolutions are available in the Women’s rights section of your congregation’s copy of Resolutions and Resources: A Social Responsibility Handbook. See also related resolutions under Human Rights/Economic Justice; Human Rights/Equal Opportunity; Lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals; Population; and Youth. The word “Board” in parentheses indicates a resolution passed by the UUA Board of Trustees.

1963: Reform of Abortion Statutes

1968: Abortion

1969: Support for Ministers Involved In Counseling Services for Problem Pregnancies

1970: Equal Rights and Opportunities for Women

1973: Abortion

1975: For the Right to Abortion

1976: Older Women

1977: Abortion

1977: Equal Rights Amendment

1977: ERA Emergency Action

1978: Abortion: Right to Choose

1978: UUA Meetings and Non-ERA Ratified States

1979: Battered Women Resolution

1980: A Religious Statement on Abortion: A Call to Commitment

1981: United Nations Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women

1982: Non-ERA States (Board)

1983: Equal Rights Amendment

1985: Resolution on Abortion Clinic Bombings (Board)

1986: National March for Women’s Lives (Board)

1987: Ending Gender-Based Wage Discrimination

1987: Right to Choose

 Resource E

Women and Religion Chronology

1975. Mexico City, Mexico.

International Women’s Year Conference. The International Association for Religious Freedom’s official observers Lucile Schuck Longview and Dr. Rita Taubenfeld develop resolution, Equal Rights and Opportunities for Women. Concern about how unexamined male-biased religious assumptions affect women surfaces.

1975. Montreal, Canada.

International Association of Liberal Religious Women (IALRW). Lucile Schuck Longview brings the proposed resolution, which is revised and strengthened by English/lrish delegation.

1975. Montreal, Canada.

The IARF passes the same resolution.

1977, January through March. Lexington, MA.
The Unitarian Universalist Women and Religion resolution is developed.

1977, April. Chicago, IL.

The Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation (UUWF) passes the resolution Religion and Human Dignity at their Biennial Convention .

1977, June. Ithaca, NY.

The General Assembly passes the Women and Religion resolution, endorsed by the UUWF.
1977. Continent-wide.

District Women and Religion Task Forces and Committees begin to form, addressing sexism throughout the denomination.

1978. Oxford, England.

IALRW passes the Women, Religion and Human Dignity resolution.

1978. Boston, MA.

UUA President Paul Carnes establishes the UUA Women and Religion Committee, appoints Leslie Westbrook Minister for Women and Religion, and asks district representatives for guidelines for implementation.

1979. Loveland, OH.

First Continental UUA Women and Religion Conference (Granville) is held for district leadership. The Conference begins consideration of and urges update of the UUA Principles and Purposes.

1979. East Lansing, MI.

General Assembly. The Battered Women resolution is passed, drawing the connection between religious myths and women’s oppression.

1980. Albuquerque, NM.

General Assembly passes the Implementation of Women and Religion resolution.

1980. East Lansing, Ml.

Continental Women and Religion Convocation on Feminist Theology is co-sponsored by LREDA, MSUU, UUWF, and UUA. Checking Our Balance: Auditing Concepts, Values, and Language is introduced to participants.

1980. Copenhagen, Denmark.

United Nations Mid-Decade Conference on International Women’s Year. IARF Board issues the statement “Challenging Patriarchal Vision.”

1981. Philadelphia, PA.

UUA President Eugene Pickett announces to the General Assembly his administration’s commitment to increasing the numbers of professional women on UUA staff. The study process begins for the revision of the UUA Principles and Purposes.

1982. Joseph Priestley District.

Introduction of Matrix, an occasional newsletter published by the District Women and Religion Committees on a rotating basis.

1984/1985. Columbus, OH, and Atlanta, GA.
General Assembly adopts new version of the Principles and Purposes, a revision effort begun by the Women and Religion Committee to help make the statements more inclusive.

1984. Boston, MA.

A new staff position is established in the UUA Social Responsibility Department which includes responsibility for Women and Religion concerns.

1984. Albuquerque, NM.

Women and Religion Convocation is cosponsored by LREDA, MSUU, UUWF and UUA.

1984. Boston, MA.

A new, inclusive-language hymnal is launched.

1985. Redwood City, CA.

Continental Women and Religion Committee meets in retreat with District Women and Religion Chairs to evaluate implementation efforts and plan future activities.

1986. Boston, MA.

Cakes for the Queen or Heaven, a new adult education curriculum, is introduced in order to encourage explorations in feminist theology.

1987. Boston, MA.

The UUA undertakes a sexism audit.

1987. Boston, MA.

The first joint meeting of the Women and Religion Committee and the UUWF board is held to help foster a closer working relationship.

1987. Little Rock, AR.

General Assembly and UUWF Biennial Convention celebrate the tenth anniversary of the 1977 Women and Religion Resolution. UUA President William Schulz announces that the UUA has met its goal of 50% women staff members.

1987. Boston, MA.

Necia Harkless of Lexington, KY, is appointed to the Women and Religion Committee, the first African American woman to hold the position.

1988. Boston, MA.

The first male member of the Women and Religion Committee is appointed: the Reverend Jack Mendelsohn of Bedford, MA.

1988. Boston, MA.

The UUA sexism audit is completed, and the UUA Board of Trustees adopts its recommendations and appoints a monitoring committee to report periodically on implementation.

1988. Framingham, MA.

The Continental Women and Religion Committee meets with representatives from district Women and Religion Committees and Task Forces to begin the process of envisioning a gender-inclusive UUA.

 Resource F

Avoiding Sexist Language


Robin Behn

(Reprinted from the pamphlet of the same name.)

In its Resolution on Women and Religion, the 1977 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association called attention to the relationship between religion and sexism, and to those religious myths that cause women everywhere to be overlooked and undervalued. Recognizing the power of language in relating past and present teachings, and the way in which these messages are internalized, the resolution made specific recommendations in the area of language. We, as Unitarian Universalists, are called upon to “make every effort to put traditional assumptions and language in perspective, and to avoid sexist assumptions and language in the future.”

As we make progress toward recognizing and promoting the dignity of all women, we witness the gradual evolution of our language; our words are a mirror, reflecting these positive changes of attitude. But language is an active as well as a reflective force. We must, therefore, take responsibility for consciously shaping our language in order to bring about desired change in ourselves and others.

The power of language pervades all forms of writing and speech, from children’s chants to political rhetoric. But the implications for the UUA as a religious institution are considerable, and deserve special consideration on our part. We are the inheritors of a religious language that has long been a bastion of patriarchal culture. Unchecked, this sexist language will continue to subvert our efforts toward a religion that celebrates all persons. If we are committed to moving beyond gender in religion, we must seek to degenderize our language as well. Only such an inclusive language—in our official documents, from the pulpit, in our correspondence, in our everyday speech—can, as the Resolution says, “affirm, defend, and promote the supreme worth and dignity of every human personality.”

For many of us, the use of sexist language is unintentional; it is a way of speaking and writing to which we are accustomed and thought was correct. The chore of degenderizing may at times seem like a substitution game: we substitute “humans” for “mankind” and we are “cleaning up our act.” But as we begin to pay more attention to our language and that of others, we realize the awesome, and often unacknowledged, power that accompanies our choice of words: pronouns, titles, “god language,” and the examples we use to illustrate our ideas. Our views of women and men reverberate throughout our language, whether we are addressing a letter to “Mrs. Robert Jones” or “Dear Sir” or preparing a lecture on the foremothers of UUism.

If we are writing and speaking well, our language has the power to penetrate into the depths of our being where attitude is formed, where action and change begin. These guidelines attempt to provide a tool to shape our language in keeping with our highest ideals and aspirations as persons and as a religious community.


Following are examples of common uses of sexist language—many of them excerpted from older UUA publications—along with suggestions for degenderizing. Remember that there are often several viable, graceful ways to replace a sexist phrase or sentence.

As we become accustomed to degenderizing, these substitutions seem more and more natural. Over time, we may find that there is no translation necessary in our speaking and writing; our thoughts, and therefore our words, will begin to occur to us in non-sexist forms.

 Who is really being referred to?

The use of “generic man” and he-him referents can often be confusing and have the effect of excluding women from our language. There are many ways to avoid such uses. Sometimes a simple substitution will correct the problem. Other times, phrases or sentences may be changed to the plural, or rewritten.


It is often difficult to determine whether “man” refers to “all persons” or to “adult male human beings.” The use of “generic man” should therefore be avoided.




From Longing of the Heart by Paul Carnes, 1973 edition: “To that longing which makes men turn toward one another in love rather than turning away in estrangement, let us pray.”

From 1980 revised edition: “To that longing which makes us turn toward one another in love rather than turning away in estrangement, let us pray.”

A variety of terms may be substituted.

Common man/layman

The average person/ordinary people/layperson/laity/member of the laity

The choice of word depends on the context.


Community/kindred/sisters and brothers/fellowship

* Although “fellowship” is widely used in many societies, some people consider it to be sexist. It is still used in the text of the UUA Principles.

From “UU Views of God,” first edition: “When we examine the contrasting theological views of Calvin and Emerson, we learn much more about the two men than we do about God. Men and religions have stretched and shaped the meaning of God since first the word emerged.”

From revised edition: “When we examine the contrasting theological views of Calvin and Emerson, we learn much more about the two men than we do about God. Individuals and religions have stretched and shaped ...”

The revised edition includes women.


Following are examples of he-him referents with suggested alternatives




From “UU Views of God,” first edition: “Some people come to church to worship God and to learn of His commandments.”

From ‘UU Views of God,” revised edition: “Some people come to church to worship God and to learn of the commandments.”

The pronoun is unnecessary and can be eliminated.

“Although they believe that God is spiritual in nature and more than man, they use physical and personal terms in speaking of Him.”

“Although they believe that God is spiritual in nature and more than human, they use physical and personal terms in speaking of God.”

“Man” is changed to “human,” and the pronoun eliminated.

From “Hymns for the Celebration of Life,” 094: “Who would true valor see, let him come hither.”

From revised “25 Familiar Hymns in New Form, “#94: “Who would true valor see, let them come hither.”

In all but strictly formal usage, plural pronouns are acceptable substitutes for the masculine singular.

Each child should have an opportunity to respond in his own way.

Each child should have an opportunity to respond in his or her own way.

Children should have an opportunity to respond in their own way.

“His or her” is a good substitute when used sparingly.




From UUA R.E. teacher’s guide: “For a younger child, you will probably want to simplify even further. You might ask him just to do Big Fly or Rainbow Girl.”

For younger children, you will probably want to simplify even further. You might ask them just to do Big Fly or Rainbow Girl.”

Many sentences can be cast in the plural in order to eliminate pronoun problems. Recast in the plural.

From UUA Bylaws: “The Nominating Committee shall consist of eleven members who shall not be eligible for reelection until after an interim of four years. No person serving on the Nominating Committee shall during his term of service be eligible to hold any other elective office in the Association.”

From UUA Bylaws, revised version: “The Nominating Committee shall consist of eleven elected members. A member shall not during the term of office hold any other elective or salaried position in the Association, and shall not be eligible for re-election to the Nominating Committee until after an interim of four years.”

The pronoun is eliminated; the sentence is recast from active to passive tense.

From “On Immortality” by Paul Carnes:

Floating in this sea for the taking
Are all the creative imaginings
Of the world’s artists and prophets.
In this evolution
Each has his mission and place.
All men contribute
To this sphere of the mind.
Thus man’s actions live on
Immortal with God and Man.

From “On Immortality,” revised version:

Floating in this sea for the taking
Are all the creative imaginings
Of the world’s artists and prophets.
In this evolution
Each has a mission and place.
We all contribute
To this sphere of the mind.
Thus our actions live on
Deathless through eternity.

The pronoun is unnecessary; “we” is substituted for “all men.”

The last two lines are rewritten, preserving the original meaning.

 What do I call someone?

When being addressed or referred to, women and men should be treated in an equal and parallel manner. Avoid phrases and titles that exclude or discredit women.




Dear Sir

Dear Sir or Madam
Dear Madam or Sir



To Whom It May Concern

Dear Friend

Dear Society Chairperson

To the Public Relations Department

The choice of title will depend on the circumstances; sometimes a more formal title is required, sometimes not. Be as specific as possible.

If possible, find out which title the person prefers and use it. If preference is unknown, women should be referred to as “Ms.”


Mail carrier or postal worker


Woman minister


Do not refer to gender unless there is a reason to do so.




The Rev. Susan Lane, woman minister who is now director of the project ...

The Rev. Susan Lane, who is now director of the project ...

The director was speaking with a member of her department.

Again, reference to gender is unnecessary. Pronouns can be used to indicate gender.

From UUA WORLD, 1971: “The committee is headed by three UUs. They are: Mrs. Richard Jones (wife of a UU minister), Mrs. Emily Smith, and John T. Brown”

They are: Susan M. Jones, Emily K. Smith, and John T. Brown.

Use parallel terms to describe men and women.


Coordinator/moderator/presiding Officer/head/chair/chairperson

Many alternatives are possible.

 Language that demeans or discredits women




Men and women

Women and men

The order should be varied unless the context requires a traditional order.

Husbands and wives

Wives and husbands


Sons and daughters

Daughters and sons


Boys and girls

Girls and boys


The Sunday school teacher ... she

Sunday school teachers ... they

Make plural.

The ladies served coffee after church.

Don Robinson and Harriet Moore served coffee ...

Coffee was served after church.

Be specific when possible.

Have your mother sign the permission slip by next Sunday.

Have your parents sign ...
Have the permission slip signed by next Sunday.

Rewrite the sentence.

Alternate phrasing doesn’t reinforce a stereotype.

Ministers’ wives were also present at the meeting.

Ministers’ spouses were also present at the meeting.

The new wording acknowledges that women, as well as men, can be ministers.

From a church newsletter: “Two pretty girls, dressed in their summer fineries, lit the candles while the boys passed out programs”

“Two girls lit the candles while the boys passed out programs.”

“The children lit the candles and passed out programs.”

Use parallel terms ...

or avoid describing tasks in terms of gender.

 “But Emerson wrote it that way!”

When citing a quotation that contains sexist language, there are several alternatives:

* When speaking, quote the passage directly, but acknowledge to the audience that the language is sexist. When writing, the term “sic” can be used to signify that you know the language leaves something to be desired.

* Or a general disclaimer can precede a large body of text, such as a book.

* Paraphrase the passage, rather than quoting it directly.

* Find other suitable material to augment or replace the troublesome passage.

* At your discretion, passages can be read in degenderized form as if the author had written it that way.

 “Now that we’re on the right track . . .”

Each time older written materials are revised and something new is written or said, we have an opportunity to portray women authentically.

The “UU Views of God” pamphlet is a good example. The original version contained short essays by six male ministers, full of sexist language. The second version was “degenderized” pronouns were changed and references to God as “He” were removed. But it wasn’t until the third version that three of the six essays in the pamphlet were written by women. To celebrate all people in our language, we must not only be thoughtful of the ways we refer to women and men; we must also hear what women as well as men have to say.

In that spirit, the 1974 meditation manual was devoted entirely to writings by UU women. We’re also seeing far more women quoted in Wayside Pulpit messages these days!

Overlooking women—in our language and in our lives—may be the hardest habit to change, for it is so silent that it is hard to recognize. Each time a teacher hands out a reading list containing no female authors, each time we write a letter to the Reverend Smith and assume she is a man, we have missed an opportunity to include women fully in our language and in our lives.

Words and Women by Casey Miller and Kate Swift (Anchor Books, 1977), is an excellent resource for further information.
For more information about Women and Religion programs and materials, write to UUA Women and Religion Committee ...

 Program Feedback

The UUA Women and Religion Committee would like to hear about the results of Cleansing Our Temple within your congregation, as well as any suggestions or criticisms you may have concerning the program. Please return a copy of this form to: UUA Women and Religion Committee ...

1. Participation in Program

Indicate (with an X) on the scales below the level of interest/support/participation your congregation experienced in each of the categories listed.

Interest, support & participation: Little or none -----> <----- Much
Lay leadership                    
Other adult members of the congregation                    

Did interest/support/participation increase, decrease, or otherwise change over time? Please describe.


2. Results of Program

a. In what settings were the results of the questionnaire discussed?


b. The assessment seemed to:

___confirm participants’ expectations

___surprise participants

___inspire participants

___affirm participants

___leave participants indifferent



c. What, if any, attitudinal changes were brought about? Please describe.



d. What, if any, structural or programmatic changes were brought about? Please describe.


3. Evaluation of Program

a. What was most helpful about the assessment program? (Please refer to specific elements.)



b. What do you wish had been different, what seemed missing?


c. How would you rate the overall assessment experience in your congregation?


d. Do you have any additional comments or suggestions?


“Cleansing Our Temple will be very helpful. The survey materials are quite extensive. I was especially pleased to see the Program Feedback form, which will give us a good idea of the state of things in Unitarian Universalist congregations. Up to now we’ve been going mostly on guesses and gossip.” —Frances Chase Courtsal, Coordinator Women and Religion Committee UUA Ohio-Meadville District

Cleansing Our Temple: A Sexism Assessment for Unitarian Universalist Congregations helps congregations monitor their progress in combatting sexism. It is an instrument for change—within our religious community and within ourselves. Completely self-contained, Cleansing Our Temple features:
* an overview of the survey process
* a 2-hour training session for survey leaders
* a sample worship service for evaluation
* 6 easy-to-follow questionnaires
* 6 resources for discussion and reference, including a guide for avoiding sexist language
* a feedback form for sharing your findings

Unitarian Universalist Association
25 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02108

ISBN 1-55896-203-4


You may make a donation to UU Women and Religion here. We are a 501(c)3 organization. Please select the quantity of $10 increments you would like to donate.