European Forum – LGBT Youth Conference

The annual conference of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, held last week outside Rome, featured a strong presence by LGBT youth, in preparation for the Catholic Bishops’ Synod Assembly to be held in Rome later this year. Here follows a press release from the Forum:

“Hopes and expectations of young LGBT people towards the Youth Synod”

The 37th Annual Conference of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, organised by Cammini di Speranza and REFO (Evangelical Network Faith and Homosexuality), took place in Albano Laziale, near Rome, 9 to 13 May 2018. On 12 May, the Conference included an event specifically for young LGBT+ people to provide input to the Youth Synod organised by the Roman Catholic Church, to find possible ways to reach a state of inclusive pastoral care.

An international gathering

LGBT+ young people from over 25 European countries gathered in Albano Laziale (RM) to discuss their wishes and hopes regarding the ability of Christian churches to welcome them and enhance their contributions, at the Annual Conference of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, organised in partnership with Cammini di Speranza and REFO (Evangelical Faith and Homosexuality Network).

A public conference on Saturday 12 May, in the Aula Magna of the Waldensian Faculty of Theology in Rome, provided suggestions for understanding both the mood of young LGBT+ Christians and the possibility of a more open approach to pastoral care.

Fr James Martin addresses conference

Among the keynote speakers, the Jesuit Father James Martin, author of the recent “Building a Bridge” on LGBT Christians, presented by video his vision of inclusive pastoral care:

 

“Many young people tell me how rejected they feel from the church and also how difficult it is for them to enter into a relationship with God. The religious rejection that they feel from their families moves them into the streets sometimes. At least in the US, LGBT youth are five times more likely to consider committing suicide than their straight counterparts. We can say that this is really a life issue for the church.”

He continued with three messages to LGBT young people: “1) God loves you; 2) Jesus cares for you, especially when you feel at the margins; 3) The Church is your home.”

Positive stories of inclusive pastoral care

Other speakers spoke of their own experiences: the path towards inclusion of LGBT+ people proposed by Marco Agricola, of the Italian Evangelical Youth Federation, the story of the experience of a Christian mother of an LGBT boy, offered by Dea Santonico of the base community of  S. Paul of Rome, and the voices of some of the protagonists of the conference: the young LGBT+ Christians themselves. They shared their own experiences of inclusive pastoral care already in place in different communities in Italy, Spain, Germany and France.

In the end they expressed their hopes and expectations for an inclusive church: “We would like to fully affirm our attachment towards our Church founded on the body of Christ. This originates from our Roman Catholic upbringing and later on made decisions of being an active part in our Church’s future in a spirit of growing hope and faith.”

The young LGBT+ Christian people are offering to us a new vision of a Church which gives space to them and their families, developing inclusive pastoral care, challenging LGBTIQ*-phobic attitudes and comments inside and outside the Church, creating reinforcing the dialogue between the Church itself and Christian LGBTIQ* people.

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