The EF Co-President says ‘after the exodus and desert comes the promised land’
Published March 10, 2010
The European Forum of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Christian Groups exists to work for equality for LGBT people within and through the Christian churches of Europe. The Forum is a growing ecumenical network of more than 30 groups from more than 15 countries in Europe.
The Forum and its member groups support one another and any individuals who are facing discrimination. Find out more about the European Forum of the LGBT Christian from its male Co-President.
I was born in 1965 in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. I’m volunteer member of the Associació Cristiana de Gais i Lesbianes of Catalonia (ACGIL) from its foundation in 1990. I was President of ACGIL for the period 1996-2001.
I was board member of the first executive board ILGA-EUROPE (1996-1998) when was board was born. I’m copresident of the European Forum of Christian LGBT Groups since May 2007 when I was elected at the Strasbourg’s Conference.
What are the main projects or activities that the EF is pursuing in recent years?
In recent years Forum has:
• Celebrated annual conference in different cities and countries around in Europe with the average participation of 120 participants. There has been 27 editions until now in 13 different countries and 21 different cities around Europe.
• The Agape Fund: 33 participants from eastern countries members could attend conferences receiving scholarships from Forum’s Agape Fund. The total amount sponsored is of 21.597 EUR to 10 different countries participants as Armenia, Czech Republic, Latvia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russian federation, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine during the period 2001-2010.
• Approved and is implementing the Strategic Plan (2009-2014) since the Assembly General Meeting in Helsinki (2009) after a process of consensus discussion among association members.
• Published the book Let our voices be heard in which Christian lesbians in Europe are telling their stories from 26 countries with 95 testimonies round Europe, appeared in first edition in 2004 in Germany and second edition in 2007.
• Make constant growth in the number of member groups up to 41 association members from 20 different european countries.
• Approved different statements to sensibilize churches and societies around Europe against homophobia and LGBT discrimination
• Increased in women participation.
• Given support of emerging groups from Central and Eastern Europe.
• Given support one another and any individuals who are facing homophobia and discrimination.
• Dialogued with churches: representation the member groups in discussions with ecumenical bodies, national churches, and civil and political organisations:
• Had high level contacts with the Conference of European Churches (CEC)
• Had official contacts and liaison with the World Council of Churches (WCC)
• Participated as members of International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA-Europe). Forum participated in ILGA Europe’s Strategic Plan (2009-2012) in Conference in July 2007 in Budapest; in annual conferences in Wien (October 2008), Malta (October 2009). Before we were observers participants conferences in Paris 2005, Geneva 2006, Sofia 2006 and Vilnius 2007.
• Participated in Ilga World conference in Wien (October 2009).
• Strengthen ties with Lutherans Concerned North America in the participation in its General assembly in 2008 in San Francisco.
Has the EF official contacts with Churches in Europe? Have member groups official contacts with national or local churches?
Each organization in each country has its own national / local contacts. Whenever a conference takes place, there are contacts and presence of different authorities depending on the church: normally Lutheran churches or Anglican hierarchy members are more present in Forum conference. We have contacts with the World Council of Churches and we have participated in some high level contacts with the Conference of European Churches (CEC) as part of our Strategic plan (2009-2012).
We also official contacts and liaison with the World Council of Churches (WCC). For example: 1995: Conference to prepare the view which we could bring up in Harare (Zimbabwe); in 1998: participation of the Assembly of the WCC in 1998 in Harare. One issue was taken up by the WCC.
There started a project about Human sexuality. In 2006 a delegation of the European Forum was present in Porto Alegre (Brasil). In 2007 we attended the invitation of WCC meeting in Bolivia.
Has the EF also contacts with other LGBT Christian groups in other parts of the world?
The European Forum has a permanent agreement with Lutherans Concerned North America spread throughout USA and Canada. This organization is one of the most important NGO in America. Forum has been present at its general assembly in 2008 in San Francisco. We have contacts through the web and internet and support each other. Also we support organization round the world through internet.
Do you think that christians should focus on achievements within their churches? Or play also a role for LGBT equal rights in the european society at large?
Both are important. It is very important actions inside our churches, at all levels, from top to bottom. Christians rights are Human rights and can improve them. The other role is also important: we are members of ILG-Europe and are present at the annual meetings and are activists against homophobia, transphobia, and others. We support conditions for LGBT people having access to legal recognition and against human rights violations –such as those implicated by pathologization, sterilization and genital surgeries as legal requirements.
Promoting social change against homophobia, granting rights though cultural, social, religious and legal organizations. We condemn human rights violations such as gender identity and gender expression.
All analysis will be articulated considering intersectionality as a general framework, visibilizing the existent and pervasive connections among transphobia and ethnicity, migrant status, serology, religion, poverty, physical and mental (dis)ability, age, etc. This panel will also address criminalization and pathologization as common threats that affects trans lives all around the world, and governmental and civil campaigns against homophobia and transphobia.
The EF is an ecumenical international organization. What are the characteristics of the LGBT christian ecumenism? Can it be a model also for other christians?
We share our common faith going to the essentials, united spiritually in Jesus Christ. Holy Spirit unites us through dialogue, mutual knowledge, engagement in working together. The ecumenical service celebrated in the annual conference is a practical faith ecumenical expression where we share, we pray together and respect our faith and also our differences. Forum association members represent the different Christian confessions such as: anglicans, roman catholics, lutherans, reformed Church, evangelical, orthodox, metropolitan church, ecumenical groups, among others.
Deepen LGBT theological dimension within the Forum is very important in the recent years. Keynote speakers have helped each annual conference to broaden the LGBT theology and some members of Forum are developing it. Forum can say that when some people talk about ecumenism in abstract, we make it real truth and alive. And that has happened continuously almost 30 yers!!! Isn’t it wonderful? Yes we believe it can be a model for other Christians, for other people.
Speaking of the Roman Catholic Church, are there any differences between european episcopal conferences towards LGBT issues? What are most active for the inclusion and participation of LGBT people, if any?
The structure of the Roman Catholic Church is a pyramidal one. In general, there’s a coherent message coming from the Vatican’s instructions. Each Episcopal conference tries to be in good relationship with Rome. Therefore, in general all european Episcopal conferences are following the Vatican rules.
On the other hand, each bishop can modulate the voice and the forms according to the reality of the country. In societies where the state is separated from the church, this one has to adapt the message according to its lay society. Some are more tolerant with differences (women, LGBTI, lay issues …). We can talk about recent experience: concrete bishops in concrete places are in favour of dialogue and are warm with LGBT people, expressed by priests. But we appreciate there is a lack of communication and inclusion everywhere.
It’s important to take into account that recent scandal events on paedophile priests in USA or Ireland for example have increased concern on homosexual issues in the catholic church. There’s a subtle strategy in confusing both realities from roman catholic hierarchy nowadays, which complicates dialogue and still provokes misunderstanding.
Italy suffers a delay in the LGBT equal rights compared to the other western european countries. Have you any suggestion for the Italian LGBT Christian community?
Carry on demonstrating in the streets, carry on in mobilisation throughout all kind of organizations, NGO, etc., carry on with activism in favour of human / LGBT rights, denunciating and condemning abuses, homophobia, transphobia. Visibility is a key point.
Being everyone out of the closet in church and society is vital issue for “normalizing” situation. Personal story telling witnessing everywhere helps a lot. Experience tells that strategic alliance with media is vital for social change.
Creation of alliances with all kind partners (media, politicians, education organizations, NGOs, etc.) and in the catholic church institutions (NGOs, networks, etc.). Being reasonable, flexible and modulating the message of liberation according the circumstances is crucial. Change takes time and allies. After the exodus and desert comes the promised land!
On 17th May, we’ll take place the fourth Vigil of prayer for the victims of homophobia in many italian cities. Last year groups from other countries joined the initiative, and so again this year. What do you think about this event?
All kind of means of sensibilization of society are necessary. Not all people are aware of what is happening with homophobia around Europe and the world. The report of Amnesty International every year . Forum’s work is support freedom, justice and human rights.
Increase Forum’s influence/acceptance in society as a Christian LGBT voice against homophobia. We work locally and support globally. Forum is strenghthing cooperation with the organization IDAHO – International Day against Homophobia & Transphobia with the support of different statements.
At the end of June there will be the Annual Conference of the European Forum in Barcelona. What key issues will delegates go through this year?
In our Strategic Plan (2009-2014) we’ll work the strategic lines approved as:
1 Improve the Forum’s organizational work
2. Deepen LGBT theological dimension within the Forum
3. Support Forum’s work for freedom, justice and human rights
4. Increase the voice within international Christian organizations and churches
5. Increase Forum’s influence/acceptance in society as a Christian LGBT voice
In short term we’re organizing the next Forum to be held in Barcelona from 23rd/27th June 2010. The next ones will take place in Berlin-Spandau (2011) and Malta (2012).
Apart from the household matters, delegates of the General Assembly will deal with:
1. The increase of members of the Forum and support new groups.
2. The Agape Fund: Some eastern members attending conferences received scholarships from Forum. This year has assigned 2.500 EUR for European eastern countries’ organizations for NGO building. It’s Forum’s engagement with those LGBT people and organizations leaving under homophobia and rights discrimination situations. We will try to increase this Fund.
3. Increase the participation in international events such as Out Games 2010 in Köln (August), Pride events 2010 (June), Warsaw Europride (summer)
4. Improving the communication tools inside Forum: improve our website in quality, in design, tools, etc.; improve the yahoo group as internet quick contact.
5. Lobbying though statements, letters of support specially Uganda, Lithuania, Russia, Belgrade, Poland, Italy, and others.
6. Strengthen ties with Ilga-Europe, being present in the Hague next conference next 28-31st October 2010.
7. Catholic Book project: creation of a book showing testimonies of catholic LGBT people around Europe.
8. Toolbox project: Further development of an activist training project, the tool kit from the Eastern Europe pilot project, and publish it as a tool book. (maybe not limited to Eastern Europe), using their experiences.
9. Ask for Participatory Status for international NGOs with the Council of Europe / Council of Europe / Division of NGOs and Civil Society / Directorate General of Democracy and Political Affairs in Strasbourg.
10. Strenghthen cooperation with the organization IDAHO -International Day against Homophobia & Transphobia.
11. Planning the celebration Forum’s 30th anniversary (2012).
12. Attending the next WCC world assembly in 2013 in South Korea.