All God's Children
All God's Children: Teaching Children about Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity
by Melany Burrill
Washington, DC: LifeQuest (in partnership with God Loves Each One Ministry of Dumbarton United Methodist Church), 2009
Reviewed by Karen Erlichman, MSS, LCSW
Spiritual directors who work with children, families, and parents in congregations, schools, communities, or retreats have a unique opportunity to model open, affirming responses to questions about sexual and gender diversity. All God's Children: Teaching Children about Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity is a concise, well-organized booklet about talking with children about gender diversity and sexual orientation from a liberal Christian perspective. All God's Children is a valuable resource for spiritual directors, parents, teachers, clergy, and other adults who are looking for practical, easy-to-follow guidelines for addressing children's questions, feelings, curiosity, and concerns with simple, theologically based responses.
The booklet opens with a brief explanation about how and by whom this guide can be most useful, consistently encouraging open, nonjudgmental dialogue between children and adults. "A good starting place for people of faith is to remind ourselves of who we are and whose we are. We're God's beloved children. We share the belief that everyone is created in God's image and therefore has sacred worth" (3).
Burrill includes some particularly helpful complementary information in the margins, such as the glossary of terms in the margins on pages 4-5, including terminology about gender diversity and sexual orientation, as well as explanations of cognitive and relational development and skills at different ages. The text in this booklet is nicely complimented by drawings and photos of children and families from a variety of ages and racial and ethnic backgrounds. The booklet provides helpful, age-appropriate information organized in simple bullet-point format, with questions such as"What if I'm gay?" "Doesn't the Bible say it's bad to be gay?" "Why do some men want to be women and some women want to be men?" (9).
All God's Children encourages adults to become more comfortable with children's natural curiosity and to respond directly with nonjudgmental and loving acceptance that includes an invitation for further discussion. This booklet closes with resources for sermons, classrooms, and "building communities of support and celebration" (17), such as books, films, online resources, and sexuality education.
Although All God's Children is written from and for a Christian perspective, people from a variety of religious, spiritual, and cultural communities will appreciate its pragmatic approach to talking with children about sexual and gender diversity.
Karen Lee Erlichman, MSS, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker in private practice in San Francisco, California, USA, where she provides psychotherapy and spiritual direction. Her writing has appeared in Tikkun and online at Interfaith Family. She is the San Francisco Bay Area Director of Jewish Mosaic: The National Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity.