European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups: Conference 2019
Last week I spent a few days in the Albano hills outside Rome, at the 2018 annual conference of the European Forum of LGBT Christian groups. As always, I found it useful to meet up once again with others to exchange views and news of our activities, but also found the actual content and worship stimulating, inspiring, and spiritually nourishing. As always, there was much that deserves reporting and comment, but this cannot be done adequately in a single post. For now, I offer just some highlights.
For me, the most interesting of these was a paper on gay marriage and Catholic theology. Indeed, of the five similar conferences I’ve attended (between the European Forum and the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics) )this is possibly the most important contribution of I’ve yet encountered.
There was a strong and welcome presence by young people, resulting from a deliberate attempt to include some preparation for the Catholic “Youth Synod” later this year. For this reason, there public meeting focusing on young LGBT Christians, with contributions by both Catholics and Protestants, and the mother of a gay son. The young people present also made several useful contributions to the main conference proceedings.
I valued also some preliminary discussions towards developing a new strategic plan for 2021 to 2025. Much of this will be a continuation of the existing good work towards supporting LGBT groups in Eastern Europe, and towards LGBT advocacy in both church and state. Some new ideas being discussed include renewed emphasis on support for local groups and promotion of intersectionality and internal diversity.
Throughout the conference proceedings, the theme of “welcoming and affirming” referred not only to extending a welcome to LGBT Christians, but also to our own obligation to welcome, affirm and support other marginalised groups. Although I was not able to attend these, there were for example, two separate workshops on the plight of refugees, and others on support for older LGBT people and on rainbow families.
The closing ceremony included as always a preview for next year’s conference, which will be in central London. I and the other members of the planning team who were present left with much food for thought, on matters to consider, features to include, and mistakes to avoid, in that planning.
During the final act of worship, Rev Shannon Ferguson reminded us that conference is not just about having a good time. The real test of its success, is the fruit it bears after our return home. If nothing changes in our lives or our work for LGBT ministry and inclusion, then it will have been no more than a holiday. For my part, the experience has certainly given me much food for thought and careful reflection. I have returned with greater clarity of direction, and renewed motivation, to continue with my own work in this field.