From 4 to 8th May, the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups met in Gothenburg, Sweden.
This was the 35th year of the annual conference, which is held in a different European city each year.
“Richness in Diversity” was the theme of the annual conference. Community, solidarity, common debating, singing, prayer and worship are the essential elements of the meetings.
135 participants from 20 European countries were represented this year as delegates and friends in Gothenburg. The Rainbow flag was raised in front of the conference hotel. Participants included activists from Russia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Estonia, Czech Republic, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, Norway, Denmark and Sweden.
Many officials including Erik Andersson, the Swedish LGBT Moderator, welcomed the participants. Per Eckerdal. Bishop of Gothenborg, said: “Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered people belong to the Christian family like everyone else. Only when all are together can we form the Body in Jesus Christ. No Member should be injured or lost”.
Bishop Eckerdal was even more explicit in his affirmation of LGBT people. He added that “without LGBT members in Church is not a church”. He also apologized that people had been hurt and marginalized, insisting that Churches should be a safe place for all.
The words from the Bishop were soothing and restorative, especially for the delegates from Eastern and Central Europe who had not heard such phrases from their church leaders.
I have been attending the European Forum since 1998 and, apart from missing the last few, have been a regular attender. The Forum has given and shown me experiences of friendship, ecumenical community and cross border solidarity. The European Forum has for some time been a spiritual home and a part of my family.
The meetings of the European Forum are safe places. Here we hear of experiences of hate and exclusion, anger and action, but we also have joy and gratitude in prayers, workshops and lectures.
Equally important are strategic and church policy plans and concepts such as combating trans hostility in the various Christian churches and communities and the dismantling of the hostility. Most importantly for most is the opportunity to experience ecumenical and European Community to support each other, theological and church politics to debate and to pray together, to sing, to dance and celebrate worship together.
One focus of the work in the European Forum is the theological and church political commitment in the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Catholic and Orthodox churches in Europe. Members of the European Forum and an International alliance of Christian LGBT groups in 2013 were at the WCC assembly in Bussan/South Korea providing an information booth at the care and Workshops and other side events.
The Catholic working group took part in a pre conference to the family of Rome with other world organized Catholic LGBT people.
The road is still long and the prejudices and resistances are very high but the work carries on.
The Brenda Harrison Memorial lecture was also held at conference this year. Brenda, my late civil partner, was Co-President of the European Forum for 6 years and was a keen activist. She was very much on the forefront of the early Forums’ decisions to be involved with the WCC.
The memorial lecture is the gift to Brenda from the Evangelical fellowship for Lesbian and Gay Christians in memory of all the work she did in that organization, The lecture this year took us through an introduction by myself to Brenda’s early years and continued by delegates who had worked with Brenda at the Forum along the years. It was well received.
Next year’s conference will take place in Gdansk, Poland.
Pamela believes there will remain a need for distinct LGBT+ friendly groups within the church until genuine equality is achieved and acceptance becomes commonplace in our churches .