South East Asian Consultation on Church Responses to Human Sexuality and Gender Minorities
Date: Feb 7 – 9, 2017 ; Venue: Ecumenical Christian Center, Bengaluru
An Asian level consultation on Church Responses to Human Sexuality and Gender Minorities was held at the Ecumenical Christian Centre, Bengaluru from Feb 7 – 9, 2017. The consultation was organized by the National Council of Churches in India in collaboration with Kerk in Actie, the Ecumenical Christian Centre and the Bread for the World, bringing together delegates from the South and South East Asian countries. 50 delegates took part in the consultation, consisting of theologians, queer theologians, church leaders and Christian representatives from the LGBTIQ communities from the region.
Background of the Consultation
Through the last few decades, while the Western world has at large been comparatively liberal in integrating the sexual and gender minorities (LGBTIQ) within the mainstream society, the East, particularly the Asian countries have handled it with much suspicion, trepidation and caution, in spite of the very positive stand of health agencies like the WHO in this regard. A significant number of school drop outs, the resulting illiteracy and inability to get jobs, result in a high number of LGBTIQs engaging in sex work and begging to make a living, facing increasing stigma and discrimination from all sections of the society. This continues to affect the key affected people [KAP’s], especially LGBTIQ communities in Asia, who are unable to live a life of dignity in the margins.
In the Asian context, while faith engagement in this area has been limited, there has been a few churches and theological colleges which have gone ahead to do unique ministries among the sexual minorities. The National Council of Churches in India [NCCI] has, since 2001, engaged the churches in India in the area of Human sexuality and Gender identities. Besides the “Document on Human Sexuality” accepted by the NCCI Member churches in 2009, it has – in this last year, through the ESHA Program – engaged with five member churches and eight theological colleges in India, bringing about awareness and a compassionate and pastoral response from them. The ESHA Program also became part of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Reference Group on Human Sexuality meeting held in Beirut, Lebanon in December 2016, whereby the General Coordinator, Fr Thomas Ninan engaged with other churches and delegates on this topic at a global level, which formed an essential background towards a key role of ESHA in the Asian context.
Consequently, the need was felt to consolidate the faith responses and learning from an Asian point of view, which in turn will go a long way in contributing towards faith responses to human sexuality all over the world.
Aims and objectives
i. To bring together church responses and engagement with sexual minorities from this region of Asia to consolidate networking and key learning, and to decrease the stigma of the Church towards these communities.
ii. To identify relevant ways of church and theological engagement with the sexual minorities in three specific areas, namely a) Contextual Bible Reading, b) Sermon methodologies, c) Theology of life.
i. A broad directory of church responses to human sexuality and gender minorities in South and South East Asia.
ii. Develop interest among theologians and churches from South & SE Asia and bring out resources in contextual bible reading, sermon methodologies and theology of life for church engagement with sexual and gender minorities, in the geographical context.
iii. Raise key issues that need attention from communities and government agencies and identify further role for church engagement.
Key points shared
In the inaugural address, Dr Manoj Kurian from the WCC stressed that sexuality is a part of our being, and our experience of it is defined by our religious, social and political context. Sexuality invokes powerful and contradictory binaries:
• it can embody a loving relationship but also ignorance and hatred;
• it can empower and also subjugate/control.
• The faith context is important, but can also promote violence
Therefore, we need to have safe spaces of grace to accompany each other in understanding our sexualities, and cannot afford to continue ignoring it. If we as a faith community keep shut, we deprive the young from understanding this from faith perspective. The features of safe spaces, and how they operate at different levels was explained, relating to: Governance and leadership, Ethical and theological, Community, Congregation and Family.
Plenary 1: Church Engagement in Human Sexuality – The Kairos framework
Moderator: Dr Manoj Kurian, WCC, Geneva
Presentation by Prof Gerald O. West, School of Religion, Theology and Classics, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
Prof. West described the Kairos Framework as a way for Christians to work on issues of human sexuality. The inherited church theology does not have the capacity to engage with emerging struggles. The Kairos process advocates for a People’s Theology from among such struggling communities, such as the LGBTI people of faith, though it may be “rough”. People’s theology is important as it precedes Prophetic Theology, and socially engaged biblical scholars and theologians should come alongside LGBTI forms of People’s theology, facilitating forms of Prophetic Theology within the Church.
Panel Discussion 1: Church engagement in Human Sexuality: Scope and Impact of Contextual Theology related to Human Sexuality
Moderator: Metropolitan Dr Geevarghese Mar Coorilos, Syrian Orthodox Church (India) & Moderator, Council for World Mission and Evangelism
Panelists: Prof Gerald West (South Africa), Ms Pearl Wong (Hong Kong), Prof George Zachariah (India), Bishop Arichea Daniel (Philippines), Rev Miak Siew (Singapore)
Presentation 1: Queer theologies in the Asian context – scope for church engagement, by Ms Pearl Wong, Queer Theology Academy, Hong Kong
Ms Wong discussed doing queer theologies in the context of Hong Kong and in collaboration with queer Christians from other Asian countries. Highlighting that shame and stigmatisation lead to hiding of sexual identities, she spoke of the need to challenge the hetero-patriarchal normative, and the need for a theology that liberates queers from heterosexist domination and stigmatisation. Queer Theology empowers queer Christians. Queer Theology Academy offers, among other things
• Courses on Sexuality and Ethics
• Workshop offering resources with a queer theological perspective:
o Counter fundamentalist churches and Christians with homophobia
o Minister more effectively to LGBTIQ congregations
• Theological articulation of LGBTIQ concerns and perspectives through publication
Presentation 2: The impact of doing Contextual Theology in Human Sexuality with church engagement – the South African experience, by Prof Gerald West, South Africa
Prof West discussed three examples of Contextual Theology in South Africa, each of which drew on its own “People’s” theology:
• South African Contextual theology
• South African Black Theology
• South African Feminist / Women’s Theology
Each offers its own resources:
• South African Contextual theology offers “the church as a site of struggle” and “theology as a site of struggle”
• South African Black Theology offers “the Bible as a site of a struggle”
• South African Feminist / Women’s Theology offers “culture as a site of a struggle”
Together they offer a way of doing theology from below
The institutional church has failed to embrace this opportunity. It remains mired in theology of retribution, and constitutional and legal framework are perceived as threats to the status quo. The Church, which was at the forefront of other struggles for liberation, is lagging behind in this struggle for LGBTI – it is retreating and objecting, constrained by the theology it has received.
Theology needs to happen at the margins, by those marginalized by the churches and by those working with LGBTI sectors outside the church (places like Ujamaa Centre). And this needs Church leaders willing to take a stance, and act as a bridge between the Church and the LGBTQI community
The other aspect to keep in focus the need for systemic impact, as the rights of LGBTI is a justice issue, not a moral issue. Contextual theology focuses on systems and structures (particular social systems eg hetero-patriarchy )
Contextual Bible theologies deconstruct dominant theologies and give voice to the less dominant ones. They move these from the margins to the Centre and increase the social, ecclesial and theological space to do theology in the context of diverse sexualities. It is important that the Centre is willing to participate in this theological work with the margins, and needs to be shown the way.
Response 1: Prof George Zachariah, United Theological College, Bengaluru
Prof Zachariah raised the questions of whether the methodology of contextual theology is adequate to develop a queer theology and whether queer theology is capable of developing an inter-sectional approach in the Indian context, since it has to take into account caste, class, ethnicity and multiple religious belonging. Moreover, it still remains a solidarity theology because the discrimination against LGBTIQs constrains participation of theologians who are queer. He emphasized that the Church in India needs to initiate dialogue with the queer movements.
Response 2: Rev Miak Siew, Free Community Church, Singapore
Rev Miak started with this striking statement, “Being here and hearing you all talking about this is healing to me”, as a reference to the gap between the Church and the Academia when it comes to doing Contextual theology. He recounted how the Free Church in Singapore started as group to do Bible studies, and then formed as a church after a member was excommunicated from his mega church.
The brokenness that LGBT persons feel is often caused by the church which, rather than being a place for reconciliation and healing, is a place for condemnation and discrimination. An LGBTQI person has many more identities apart from his or her sexuality. Yet, when one hears the statement, “Love the sinner, hate the sin”, it is difficult because it feels as though he/she being identified only as a sexual object, whereas sexuality is only a small part of his/her identity. They are not acknowledged or allowed to express the many talents they have in music, art, singing, teaching Sunday school, etc.
Healing of the brokenness is like Kintsugi , the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. Rev Miak has found that he is better able to take sides with people who have been marginalised; “my brokenness is the site of God’s action”. He also emphasized that the challenge is to respond to the needs of all those who are oppressed (not just the LGBTQI community) and help them to put their pieces back together.
Response 3: Bishop Arichea Daniel, United Methodist Church, Philippines
Bishop Arichea observed, “Listening to these presentations gives me a sense of guilt. I have not done enough, I didn’t do things right enough. I must confess, that more than not, I have advocated for LGBTQI communities without their involvement. I thought I was doing well, until I got here.” He admitted that he has not dealt with hetero-patriarchy or hetero-sexism, which he felt were the real issues that need to be dealt with. It is an easy temptation to involve with LGBTIQ issues without their involvement. It needs to be pondered how much good such a process has done to the marginalized, in the name of contextual bible studies through all these years.
PLENARY 2: Church Responses from the Region
Moderator: Rev Michael Scheunemeyer, United Church of Christ, Ohio, US
Country presentations were made about church responses from their respective countries on issues related to human sexuality. The following presentations were made:-
i. India, Fr Philip Kuruvilla
ii. Indonesia, Rev Juswantori Ichwan
iii. Hong Kong, Ms Lai Shan Teresa Yip
iv. Philippines, Ms Darlene Caramanzana
v. Singapore, Rev Miak Siew
Panel Discussion 2: CHRISTIANITY, SEXUAL DIVERSITY AND ACCESS TO HEALTH SERVICES
Moderator: Dr Vijay Aruldas, Former General Secretary, Christiam Medical Association of India, Delhi
Panelists: Dr De’de’ Oetomo (Indonesia), Dr L Ramakrishnan (India), Rev Philip V Peacock (India), Dr Manoj Kurian (Geneva)
Presentation: Christianity, Sexual Diversity and Access to Health Services, by Dr De’de’ Oetomo, APCOM
Dr De’de’ Oetomo shared the two principles and 10 practical steps to ensure access to health services:
1. Love seeking understanding: This requires a willingness to learn more about gender, sexuality and sex without prejudice and a service desire to really understand the issues, needs and concerns of sexually diverse, gender variant, and HIV-positive Christians
2. Listening from the heart: forge sincere friendships, dialogue as equal partners, set aside pre-conceived ideas of authority, truth claims and fixed ideas.
Practical steps: 10 steps..
1. More balanced and non-discriminatory education
2. Create spaces where Christian churches and communities can dialogue
3. Spirit of listening
4. Journeying with and supporting MSM, TG and PHLIV
5. Increase official church statements denouncing discrimination and violence against them
6. Collaborate with schools, colleges, universities on bullying of gender variant and sexually diverse children, teens and young adults
7. Include more MSM, TG and PHLIV in church ministries
8. Encourage greater collaboration in human rights and social justice initiatives
9. Promote greater collaboration on HIV awareness, care and treatment
10. Identify experts who can facilitate discussions on alternative biblical and theological interpretations.
Response 1: Theological perspectives – Rev Philip V Peacock, Bishop’s College, Kolkata
Rev Peacock highlighted the following points:-
1. For those who want to be faithful to Christ and are queer lifestyle, an alliance that can be built, of “faithful Christian” and “faithful queer person”
2. Shifts in Christianity have resulted in seeing Sin is now seen more as an individual act, rather than as a result of the matrix in which we are embedded. This leads to blaming of the victim for the victimization and constrains the understanding that salvation is through grace.
3. Listening – theology is always about us speaking and talking … what we need to do is to listen. Allies may have created the space, but the voices must be those of the vulnerable.
4. Changing the furniture – the use of different imagery helps to open up the issues to newer understanding and exploration.
There is the danger of reducing all discourse on legal, social, political, sexual rights to HIV and AIDS, and further the HIV AIDS discourse being reduced to gays.
Response 2: Medical perspectives – Dr L Ramakrishan, SAATHI, Chennai
Dr Ramakrishnan highlighted the Medical aspects in the Indian/Asian context:
Highlighting how even currently used medical text books have inappropriate definitions that cause harm (gave examples), he explained that among medical professionals too, there is stigma, lack of knowledge, inability to diagnose, poor understanding of the context. Their knowledge and beliefs mirror that in general society, rather than being scientifically validated.
His recommendations included:
– LGBTIQ – friendly services should be included as one criteria of defining min quality std of care. Not look at it as something compassionate etc…
– Pre-service and in-service training need to include sensitisation in medical colleges
– Can CMAI etc offer community affirming helpline, position papers opposing conversion therapy that can be shared in religious and health and family circles- is vitally important.
– Medical service providers should know NALSA and Court Koushal (2013) i.e.
o they are not aiding and abetting becos of 377 – they need to be told this is not so.
o legal gender identity is by self definition not by legal, medical grounds- docs find it hard to digest they aren’t the final word on a person’s gender.
Response 3: Global perspectives, Dr Manoj Kurian, WCC, Geneva
Dr Manoj said that the situation in South Asia is no different from other parts of the world. With youth getting their information from the internet and their peers, wrong notions of sexuality, patriarchy etc will only be reinforced. It is incumbent for medical professionals to take up, as a self-regulation effort, to equip themselves.
Plenary 3: Church engagement with Human Sexuality in Asia: The Jakarta Consultation & Statement
Moderator – Fr Philip Kuruvilla, NCCI – ESHA, Nagpur
Presenters: Ms Pearl Wong, Rev Miak Siew and Rev Philip V Peacock
Ms Wong took us through the background, participants and structure of the Jakarta statement and how it had been taken forward in Hong Kong (translated into Chinese, put up on many websites, discussed on a forum on sexual minorities in Hong Kong.
Rev Miak Siew raised key questions:
• how do we enter into the conversation without creating schism in my church? Or causing harm?
• Queer people bring gifts to the church as well. (Question is: How radical is God’s love?)
• How do we experience God’s radical love and grace?
Rev Philip Peacock emphasized that:
1. We must begin to embrace QT as a politically subversive enterprise. Theology still have the imaginative ability to stand at margins and subvert systems of dominance
2. Epistemology –we must understand that the expression of God that LGBTQIs have tells us something of the divine that we don’t have access to otherwise – something to be learned from and saved
3. QT has to transgress the categories of Christian theology in our discourses on love..agape,
4. The Jakarta meeting seemed to convey that we had reached an impasse in the ecumenical world- between justice and unity – we are losing out on justice for the sake of unity
5. Homosexuality is not just a western issue…. It is an issue of justice unity emerging from our third world context.
In closing, Fr Philip Kuruvilla pointed out that in India, between 2009 (when the NCCI statement invited harsh criticism from member churches) and 2015 (when there is acceptance), and explained that this is because the public context has changed.
Panel Discussion 3: Indian Christian Responses- Showing the way
Moderator: Rev Asir Ebenezer, Church of South India, Synod
Panelists: Rev Abin Abraham (Mumbai), Bishop Timothy Ravinder (Coimbatore), Capt. Andrews Christian (Anand), Ms Olga Aaron (Chennai), Dr Jijo Kuriakose (Kochi), Daniel Mendonca (Mumbai), Ms Anshi Zachariah (Bengaluru), Ms Edwina Pereira (Bengaluru),
Rev Abin Abraham, Director of Navodaya Movement, Mumbai and from the Marthoma Church described their work with the transgender communities in Mumbai, which included giving practical assistance in facilitating documentation, accessing education and skill development, and accessing appropriate health facilities.
Bishop Timothy Ravinder from the CSI Diocese of Coimbatore shared about their strong focus on working with pastors so that congregations can be reached, and on sensitising educational institutions, particularly with respect to a ministry related to Transgender communities.
Captain Andrews Christian from the Salvation Army Western Territory described how they are building awareness and understanding of their church leaders, identifying barriers and solutions for the greater involvement of LGBTQI in the churches in their region.
The discussion identified that in general the churches in India are relatively more comfortable to work with TGs compared to working with LGBQIs.
Ms Olga Aaron, a Christian Transgender, talked about the situation with TGs in Tamil Nadu. She explained from her personal experiences how as children, transgender men have more difficulty because of social masculinity norms, while TG women (girls) will not stand out as much. Highlighting that children and youth discovering their sexual identity are especially vulnerable, she empathised the importance of focusing on this area through sensitization among media, schools and legal systems, and the need for child rights policies for gender non-conforming children (to include it in special children category).
Dr Jijo Kuraikose from the Queerla movement in Kerala, discussed the Kerala queer movement, and the many initiatives it has taken to raise the public profile of gay and lesbian communities in Kerala – Pride Marches, Art Exhibition, Research paper, articles in media. A study of 155 Christians who were gay or lesbian, during 2016 showed that church and faith questions had been a major cause of ‘damage’, that some were still in the faith while others had abandoned it. (Mr Romal Singh from Bengaluru, explained later how the abandonment by the faith community often caused negative reactions, a desire for revenge and to hit out at others, and a loss of accountability resulting in negative moral and ethical behaviours.
Mr Daniel Mendonca, as an intersex person from Mumbai, talked of the discrimination he faced personally, and how he was labelled a sinner for no fault of his. He asked, “Church talks about compassion, love and mercy to all; where does it disappear when LGBTQIs appear?” and urged the church to “accept us the way we are”, without letting gender be in front of humanity.
The two NGOs, Aneka (Ms Anshi Zachariah) and INSA India (Ms Edwina Periera) described their focus on capacity building, and their work with Churches including NCCI and Senate of Serampore. Aneka also supports two collectives, Karnataka Sexual Minorities Forum and Karnataka Sex Workers Union, has undertaken action research studies, and is active in advocacy. As Ms Edwina mentioned, there are many LBGTIQs in the congregations, who are not able to come out. She raised two key questions, namely, would there be a way we could also support children and adolescents to see their sexuality as a God given gift to be valued? Can the Church be a protective space with protective systems for inclusion, reaching out and empowering the marginalised, irrespective of the gender or sexual orientations?
Panel Discussion 4: Church engagement in Human Sexuality: Pastoral responses
Moderator: Bishop Arichea Daniel, Philippines
Panelists: Pastor Pauline Ong (Singapore), Mr Lifter Tua Marbun (Netherlands) Rev Michael Scheunemeyer (USA), Mr Romal Laisram (India)
Presentation 1: Journeys of faith – Pastor Pauline Ong, Free Community Church, Singapore
Pastor Pauline shared, she always felt herself strange and different. Living in a Christian family, she could find no one to talk to, even in times of break-up, as her Church would not find her lesbianism as acceptable. There was extremely loneliness; often felt like running away from God. Despite all these, God reached out to you; a small voice to her: “I love you”. In response to her friends, mostly pastors and missionaries regarding a signature campaign initiated vocal anti-gay Christians in Singapore to support continual criminalization of gay sex, Pauline came out, with a feeling of a deep division that “I am both ‘we’ and ‘them’. Friends have never met any gay Christians before, but an urge to know more; offered respect and support. Owing to the difficulty in openly expressing political stands, “Pink Dot” event was launched in 2009 to allow people to show their support to LGBTQ people in a form of a funfair; number of participants grew exponentially from 2000 in 2009 to 27,000 in 2016. Gayness becomes a gift, no need to be fixed, but to be loved becomes a blessed brokenness.
Presentation 2: Journeys of faith – Mr Lifter Tua Marbun, Indonesia / Netherlands
Agony with own sexual contacts with men since young: seeing own body as sinful, felt disgusted and shameful, fearful of death, wished for suicide: no one he could talk to; loneliness; continually suppressed own homoerotic desire. During his seminary years, the more he urged for healing his own homosexuality, the more he got sick finally accepted own homosexuality. He created own imagery of homosexuality: brokenness. To love and to be loved are good things toward the wholeness, self-fulfilment and self-acceptance. His sister thought that he had chosen a sinful life and worried that he had no children to take care of him when he gets old; Family is the first priority in his own tribe.
He went on to co-author with Ruard Ganzevoort, “ADAM & WAWAN” about pastoral counseling with gay men. He found that sex with men does not make one gay and he may still get married with a woman; they could not tell clearly about their own sexuality. It is easy for us to stigmatize something beyond our beliefs and vision, such as homosexual having sickness, being pedophiles, those victims of abuse they cannot live with dignity. Most gay men aspire for relationships of equality and respect. Jesus says that neither parents of the man born blind have sinned. Nouwen: the wounded and the sick can become the healer. The LGBTIQ people are not object of mission: condemn them, then save them; they are not sinful nor sick: reach out and bring them close to church, so they continually live with Christian values and make contributions
Missiodei: should be from the perspective of God; Learn from LGBTQ experiences
Theology of Reverse Mission: LGBTIQ people speak freely about their faith
His homosexuality is a gift of God; his sexuality opensnew ways to work for God; An imagery of homosexuality: Being authentic or being who you are, as God knows you. Jesus was faithful to himself and his calling; LGBTQ people can be the same.
Presentation 3: Sermon methodologies – Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, United Church of Christ, Ohio
God accompanies them when in exile (testimonies of LGBTIQ). A sermon should be to the ground, the most local level. A key question to ask ourselves is, what is the lens we use? Church tradition: negative messages about sex.
We need to see sex as a good gift, love, life, pleasure, celebrating with joy and holiness
We need a curriculum: Sex is healthy and pleasurable and people find it natural to express sexual feelings. Life is a sexually transmitted mode of living; Sexuality and spirituality inseparable. Gender and sexual identities are respected. Sexual relationships are grounded in values such as healthy; should be consensual, mutually pleasurable, appropriate to their age, with rights and responsibilities to choices, no double standards, no human rights violations. Methodologies of Jesus: meet with sinner and eat with them; he broke the Jewish purity law, which causes separation with others; never meant to recruit the most virtuous. Heresy is NOT to preach inclusion.
Rubric of inclusion lens of Jesus, Gospel to those vulnerableTo create spaces
Welcoming resources: Human Rights Campaign published, “OUT and Scripture”. In the Gospel story of the lost child, Nouwen identifies with these 3 characters: We don’t know why the youngest son leaves and what made him return (Maybe the parenting); the parent go out to meet him with open arms — completely, no stigma
The elder brother works so hard to do good things (like religious institution)
Father responds with affirmation and invitation; Will the elder son learn to call this brother again and join the celebration?
Jesus and Samaritan woman: Women as property at that time; she did not feel shameful with Jesus; Zachariah, the tax collector, was invited to eat with Jesus. We should take courage to take the text in such a way that helps people to find empathy.
Presentation 4: Church Life Engagement – Queer Churches, Rev. Miak Siew, Free Community Church, Singapore
Not all LGBTQ people survive, but die of suicide. Abomination; God hates you realities for many LGBTQ persons. LGBTQ persons are “positive examples” of Christians. If the focus is on church (structure), then they miss to reconcile sexuality and spirituality. He saw himself as the Samaritan woman with five husbands; living a double life; not healthy; continued to struggle.
Churches only speak about the six passages related to homosexuality and beyond that; and then, what? What is sexual ethics? Healing is not just the biblical knowledge; rather, seeing other gay men’s pieces of healing; a community for them to share their struggles. The Free Community Church set up the Lesbian United for Self Help. Use of substance (meth or ice) is common among gay men to run away from their struggles, so they set up the 12-step support group. Jesus tells the leper to go to the religious authority and he is only healed on his way. Identities are marked; yet, healing rests in the resistance against being marked. Creating spaces is a step-by-step process; small things first. Transgendered persons are more hidden in Singapore. He stressed that let the LGBTQ people own the process.
Presentation 5: Church Life Engagement – Queer churches, Mr Romal Laisram, Human Rights Law Network, Bengaluru
In a recent Pride event across a campus, 50 students marched; A slogan by a student was striking, it said, “Has Jesus said about gay people?” and below that, there was nothing as the answer. He was very positive about Christianity’s stand on homosexuality. Established a faith-based self-help group of gay Christians. Since condemned and abandoned by own churches, gay Christians do not look back to their faith as inspiration for relationship. Do not know what same-sex relationship should look like as only wife-and-husband model is the norm; so what we have today is, do whatever one wants, drug abuse and breakdown on social morality. Hence, one would become a sinner just by identifying as gay, whereby there is impending guilt, it’s hard to start a relationship and there is much isolation: their lives as sinful judgement isolation. Therefore, it is a big challenge for this group is to find a positive, loving church community, where one can find from talking about the idea as sinner to talking about loving a person of same sex. It is easy to have sex with men and reduce to sex, putting sex = sexuality. There is a need for healthier sex. If one was a bottom, then accept oneself as bottom without striving to prove one’s masculinity through sex. There should be equality in relationships. It is more vulnerable for those who have gone through lots of abuses.
What can the Church do?
Encourage gay people to search for the one suitable partner, engaged in committed relationship
Provide a support system
Encourage the possibility for single persons to be happier persons
Workshop: Methodologies of doing Contextual Bible Studies in human sexuality
Moderator: Metropolitan Dr Gabriel Mar Gregorios, Indian Orthodox Church
Presenter: Prof Gerald West, South Africa
Contextual Bible Studies evolved after 30 yrs of work in South Africa, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal. The context has been to respond to the needs of the vulnerable and exploited from their reality.
The Core values included the 6 Cs, namely Community, Criticality, Collaboration, Change, Context and Contestation. There is much value in the process of learning from collaboration.
The process involves:
a) small groups sharing, large group reporting, small group sharing alternately
b) Scripture gets more time than preaching time.
c) Slows down the process, takes you back to the text. ..again and again…rereading…noticing things that have been neglected…as its food for margins
d) Remains faithful to the core values
e) Everything every person says is written down on flip charts, not erased (persons inputs is valued – empowering for the disempowered)
f) No final answer or closing summary. Each takes away their own reflections.
Prof West then shared 3 examples:
1. Gen 19: 1-13: Story of Sodom
2. Gen 2: 18-23: Choose your own partner
3. Mark 12: 18-27: Confrontation by Sadducees
During the process of facilitation it is crucial to keep in mind the following principles:-
1. Enter with an attitude of learning, not teaching
2. Spend most of the time on scripture reading and group
3. “Shut up and listen”
4. It is an expression and exploration of “People’s theology”
Group Discussion Reports:-
1. For each country to take an inventory of resources.
– what materials we can share (online / offline)
– what is already available
– whitelists of professionals (doctors, lawyers, psychiatrists, psychologists)
2. Set up facebook group
3. Resources pooling
– what are the existing organisations
– identify strategic partners (NGOs, businesses, allies)
4. Set up and/or connect to national networks and regional networks
5. Conduct research on how discrimination from church impact LGBTQ lives and use it as a platform/ framework for dialogue
– eg. stigmaindex.org (HIV/AIDS related)
– eg. frameworkfordialogue.org
Publicise – startup – linkup
Standing in solidarity with other minorities eg interfaith issues, death penalty, etc
Timeline – complete 1 & 2 by May 2017.
Group Report from Indian participants
How can we affirm and encourage these ministries of LGBTIQ peoples/gross root ministries?
# Be with the ministries, in what they are doing (like Bravoh Movement/Qic/APCOMetc). We need to create awareness among our churches first, then we have to bring in resource people from these groups to give awareness to deacons/pastors.
# Our efforts should not fail because of the resistance of the congregations so first we need to give clear biblical insights.
# Care & support to PLHIV – for that individual experiences will help but beyond inclusion in worship we need to get into their family, community, life and accompany each in their real needs.
# Identify gaps in laws & raise voice as faith groups
# Services should not be charity based but integral
# How many churches will welcome TGs etc in worships? Leaders/bishops should break-in congregations regarding the existence of these groups; for example Visitation- when there are TGs do we do house visits? Or do we speak about them in sermons? We need to create space to talk about family as being more than heterosexual.
# Can we make ‘ally-groups’ in churches, and within these groups can we give them competency based training i.e. about LGBT realities, terms => basically understand their understanding before any campaign – this needs strategic plans to find if there are allies within the congregations
# Meeting of parents of LGBT who’ve come out recently and many of whom go through conflict of having traditional faith that speaks against their realities- how to document such personal issues/family issues? Data collection is necessary.
# How to circulate this meeting’s statement to more audiences (via translations into vernaculars, sharing on social media etc)- and creation of more such statements from recognised faith groups.
# Write about LGBTIQ people/issues in church newsletters, magazines etc – of their life stories and in their testimonies sections.
How do we strengthen the LGBTIQs in our regions (persp/persons/resources)?
If we keep queer as ‘other’ as ‘marginalised’ then the discussions are different but what we need is a “positive sexuality for all” approach and theology should be able to create that; sexual orientation should not be defining this discourse but a holistic positive approach to positive sexuality for all.
How to strengthen theology in our regions? We don’t have much material for teaching (human sexuality) and these needs to be created; How to produce and make accessible teaching material to relevant institution? We need to create from the people.
Equip the trainers i.e. we learn together with students on the subject;
Relook at the curriculum in theological colleges;
Church counselors don’t have skills to attend to LGBT so make that part of curriculum; Have exposure/internship with persons from different orientations for example with TG’s etc.
In seminaries Human sexuality course is optional and/or one paper on Feminist Theology is compulsory and &sexuality is part of it; However the recommendation from this group is that we don’t make courses compulsory as it’s not helpful when students come into the course with resistance. Instead how we theological colleges generate interest in such courses (ie) through field education and work with queer communities etc- then students begin to own the cause and take it forward.
– Material on Human sexuality is there but its expensive so access and contextualisation of available material is what is needed.
– We need to write at several levels-all needed i.e. academic, popular writing, Bible studies, short reflections, material for youth, kids (Sunday school material that raises gender questions and strategic material calling for solidarity
– Do theology: We can’t replace theology with social analysis that’s too superficial; we need to talk about serious new ways about God, Christ etc. not that we have answers but that we are finding our salvation from the margins as its “we”/”I” that needs saving not the approach that says “they need saving”.
– Culture of inclusion creates a problem in the sense that all need positive sexuality; Kids need to know about safe sex; Youth groups don’t talk about positive sexuality rather its prescriptive directives like abstention that are not helpful.
– Ministry is not satisfaction of the church but for church to “Be” a church and move from compassionate to wholesome intentional inclusively to become the church. Problem is not out there -we are all part of the problem, not that its charity for ‘others’; We are the last place people come to! How do we challenge Catholic church statements that nullify statements like ours KCCD(response)?
What can we do about services and ministries that surround/intersect with these ministries? how to strengthen them? (Education, health, etc)?
– All churches have schools: we need to intro this into moral education in schools: Understanding of body, ability/disability, sexuality etc.; we need to Move away from ethics to of right/wrong to consensual/non consensual; Invite LGBT persons to share their experiences; Educational systems need open courses on sexuality
– It’s a struggle in churches/institutions to know i.e. how many of us know in our institutions that there are LGBT children? In some regions like NEI we don’t even like to discuss these issues like sexuality. But we have to look out for them/welcome them then we will really see them; Also our institutions need to take seriously the stand that some non-religious institutions like colleges takes when they have an open non-discriminatory policy that says whoever you are you will be treated equally Vs saying we need to identify such students and care for them in a special way -as this may draw undue attention to them and make them targets of bullying etc and as institutions we should not pressure such people to come out instead we make a policies and spaces that will protect them. In the sense make this a policy decision of institutions rather than labelling them and remove the word “different”/ “crooked” etc from our perspective.
Inclusively should be redefined and councils in mainstream should have place for LGBTIQ persons. Core values of church need to be redefined; When inclusion of LGBT is not a core value then we need to change policies. Change in policies then makes it a crime is necessary their human rights are protected as their right not as charity; then the policy enables them to fight for their rights as human beings rather than by explicitly uplifting their sexual orientation.
– Health services: there needs to be more job opportunities created; there needs to be Sensitization of all levels; Policies @all levels by churches and institutions for example Can church institutions at +2 level be welcoming of TG drop outs so that they are enabled to become employable – sort of like an open school system that will help them compete for mainstream jobs as well.