The journey towards the World Council of Churches 2021 Assembly: ensuring global LGBT voices are included

By Judith Kotze, IAM Consultant

The Global LGBT Coalition first connected with one another during the preparation process for the World Council of Churches’ (WCC) 10th Assembly in Busan, South Korea in 2013. During the build up to and participation in the WCC 10th Assembly, various networks, allies and churches got together to prepare to increase the visibility of global minority faith voices. The aim was to ensure that the theme of human sexuality received the necessary support from the more “moveable” WCC delegates we had strategically identified and engaged with. We worked hard to overcome European dominance of the event, resulting in a joint publication called "Stand in Solidarity", with IAM and the European Forum taking the lead. Together we successfully engaged through the Safe Space Caucus, booths, a dialogue workshop with ICCO, and side events with two African elders (Prof Mercy Oduyoye of Ghana and the Anglican Bishop from Uganda). Our work contributed to building the momentum that resulted in the reinstatement of the WCC Reference Group on Human Sexuality in 2014, with specific guidelines to include at least two homosexual people of faith.

After Busan, the Global LGBT Coalition wanted to continue this pilgrimage of justice and peace and strategically collaborate in responding to the Busan mandate to implement safe spaces into the official WCC programme around human sexuality. This developed into an annual meeting between the WCC staff group on human sexuality and the Global LGBT Coalition to increase support for the journey: offering resources from our churches, organisations and networks; contributing to more clarification from outside perspectives; communicating with our networks; and listening to voices from the margins.

In September 2019 the annual meeting began the big task of planning for the upcoming 11th Assembly of WCC in Karlsruhe, Germany in September 2021. Apart from the nearly 800 WCC delegates, around 6000 visitors are expected to gather in Karlsruhe. For the Global LGBT Coalition, it is an opportunity to strategically collaborate to make visible the important contribution from sexual minority voices that are working to enable reconciliation and unity in our world today. The official theme of the WCC 11 th Assembly is Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity. The Global LGBT Coalition want to share experiences of our faith journey: of movements from conflict to reconciliation, from exclusion to inclusion, from invisibility to celebration. We plan to create a joint publication to highlight signs of Christ`s love moving us and signs of hope for our continued pilgrimage for justice and peace. Four working areas have been identified (fundraising, joint publication, marketplace engagements – workshops, booths, safe spaces, etc. and communications during the Assembly) and volunteers will be asked to join these working groups as a next step.

During the morning worship service in the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, our delegation lead the service. With our opening prayer we expressed our longings and hope for this next phase of our collaboration:

Welcoming God,
from the beginning up to now and for the current phase of the conversation on human sexuality,
mandated at the 10th WCC Assembly in Busan in 2013, we give thanks to you that we can affirm that
our work together has contributed to the continuation of Conversations on the Pilgrim Way.
God, we give you praise and thanks for the journey.

Welcoming God,
we acknowledge that issues concerning human sexuality have been highly contentious
within and between churches;
we acknowledge that the discussions on these issues have been passionate, polarizing
and at times deeply divisive.
we acknowledge though and are thankful too that these conversations have also been healing,
inspiring and empowering for so many and even life-saving for some.
God, we give you praise and thanks for the journey.

Welcoming God,
keep us committed in this work of creating a space for these conversations to be in a spirit of mutual
accountability;
enable us to maintain a compassionate posture which is inclusive enough to listen attentively and
respectfully to the different voices, views, insights, concerns and attitudes.
God, we give you praise and thanks for the journey.

For more information on how you can get involved in the planning and preparation of the Global LGBT Coalition for the 2021 World Council of Churches Assembly, email us at info@iam.org.za.