Rainbow Pilgrims ask if churches are safe spaces, support WCC work on human sexuality

Simultaneous events Tuesday afternoon (6 Sept.) found Rainbow Pilgrims leading a panel that asked if churches are a safe space for People of Colour and LGBTQ+ people, and sharing stories in a WCC workshop called, “Towards Wholeness: A learning journey on matters of human sexuality.”

Left: “Safe space” panelists: Matijs Mihelmanis, Germany; Sarah Vecera, Germany; Paulo Ueti, Brazil; Hyun Sun Oh, Republic of Korea; Amadeo Udampoh, Indonesia; Pearl Wong, Hong Kong and Canada; and Kerstin Söderblom, Germany.
Right: “Towards wholeness” speakers included: Shirley Lam of Hong Kong and Scotland; Joshua Sauerwein of Germany; Small Luk of Hong Kong; and Pierre Buckley of South Africa.

Are Churches Safe Spaces for People of Colour and LGBTQ+ people?          

“We tried to address the intersectionality of racism and queerphobia,” said Matijs Mihelmanis later. “The panel was diverse. It was interesting to hear of ‘five genders’ in Indonesia, for example, or the use of seminars and workshops in Hong Kong to build momentum, creating an independent church in South Korea with safe spaces – but also shocking to hear from Brazil, where 70 per cent of the people are Black, and they are marginalized.”

Kerstin Söderblom, the panel’s facilitator, said those who fight racism and homophobia and transphobia can be strong allies. “We have to understand the mechanisms of physical and psychological violence against any minority groups always function in the same way: we are blamed and used as scapegoats for all kinds of issues. As members of minority groups we should stand in solidarity and not fight against each other.”

She added that she like a quote from Arundhati Roy that was shared by Sarah Vecera: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. Maybe many of us won’t be here to greet her, but on a quiet day, if I listen very carefully, I can hear her breathing.”

Söderblom said she felt encouraged by the panel and its audience, “in spite of the complex structures of discrimination that are used to keep privileges in the hands of a few and the violence that is used against minority groups.”

Towards Wholeness: A learning journey on matters of human sexuality

Members of the WCC’s Reference Group on Human Sexuality (RGHS) drew from the lived experience of queer people of faith as they introduced the themes that the RGHS contended with over the past eight years. 

In small groups led by the speakers shown in the photo on the left above, participants heard stories from people who are intersex, gay, lesbian, and trans.

Earlier, Rev. Deva Jothikumar of the Christian Service Agency of the National Council of Churches of India (NCCI) shared learnings from NCCI’s two decades of dialogue and advocacy on rights and inclusion. 

Armenian Orthodox Archdeacon Hratsch Sarkissian spoke of learning and changed perspectives that have emerged through the eight years of work by the RGHS. “Pilgrims who are walking together not only have a duty to look at some abstract goal, but to look at each other, into each other’s eyes, listen to words, and silences between their words,” he said. “We change in order to remain faithful to who we always were, are, and hope to be: pilgrims who set out but never arrive, all of us together.”

The RGHS produced a resource document, Conversations on the Pilgrim Way, that was received by the WCC’s Central Committee in February and can be downloaded here.  

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s