Faith is an action

Who we are

“Joseph Dutton, apostle of second chances, servant of outcasts, saint of Wisconsin, is our example of service to one another.”

The Society of Joseph Dutton (SJD) is an independent ministry with members from several denominations. Among them are Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Unitarian Universalists, and non-denominational persons. It is a welcoming community that inspires fellowship with and among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community members and persons with HIV/AIDS.

Also known as the Dutton Society, it was founded on the belief in the daring of God’s grace and that the work of God rests in all individuals’ hands to give that grace to all people. It offers spiritual direction and support for LGBT persons, persons with HIV/AIDS, and their families and friends.

Following in Joseph Dutton’s footsteps, we dare to define faith as an action—serving others in the real world is our Church.

Our vision

We support LGBT persons and those living with HIV/AIDS through liturgy, fellowship, outreach and education. We will reach out to those who are not LGBT or not living with HIV/AIDS. In the larger community, we will provide a safe environment to share expressions of faith in the many ways they can be expressed.

Come to the waters

The motto of the Dutton Society is from Hebrew Scripture, “Come to the waters (Isaiah 55:1 NIV).” It is translated in the Hawaiian language, “E hele mai ʻoukou i nā wai.” In Latin, “Venite ad aquas.”

Inherent in this Scripture message is the idea that all people, no matter who they are, where they come from, and what they believe, are invited to the life giving waters offered by God. It is a message of welcome, not of condemnation and outcast.


“My greatest pleasure is to serve the Lord in his poor children rejected by other people.” —Father Damien

“He overwhelms us with his care, and he himself builds our houses. When any one of us is ill, he gives him tea, biscuits and sugar; and to the poor he gives clothes.” —A leper living in Kalaupapa wrote of Father Damien

“Virtue is never so attractive as when we see it in action. It has a power to believe that we too can rise up above this fallen nature of ours to a fellowship with the saints.” —Jesuit magazine “America” wrote of Joseph Dutton


While our members use various Bibles for personal use, we do recommend the Lutheran Study Bible produced for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). It is a New Revised Standard Version.

We use a lectionary, like the ones used by the ELCA and The Episcopal Church, to help guide our readings throughout the year. It coincides with the readings from Scripture in churches throughout the U.S., across denominations.

We do not believe in interpreting the Bible literally. It is to be considered in the context of the period in which the Scripture is written and weighed with the evolution of thought and morality in history through the present-day.

Molokai by Alan Brennert

One of the most beautiful pieces of literature about the circumstances that brought Joseph Dutton from Wisconsin to the Kalaupapa leper colony in Hawaii is written by novelist Alan Brennert.

While Molokai is a work of fiction, it captures the genuine fears and impassioned emotions of the time. It introduces historical figures like Father Damien, Mother Marianne Cope, medical doctors and politicians, involved in the leper colony.

Molokai motion picture by Paul Cox

Molokai: The Story of Father Damien is a Belgian independent film by Paul Cox, starring David Wenham as Father Damien and Tom Wilkinson as Joseph Dutton.

Released in 1999, the film also features actors Peter O’Toole as atheist foreigner William Williamson, stricken with leprosy; Sir Derek Jacobi as the bishop’s assistant, Father Leonor Fouesnel; Sam Neill as Hawaii Prime Minister Walter Gibson; and Kris Kristofferson as the Luna Nui (Superintendent) and Father Damien’s Lutheran friend, Rudolph Meyer.

SBS Australia called the production “a flawed by fascinating film.”

The film can be streamed on Amazon Prime and available on DVD on Netflix.