Inclusive and Affirming Ministries (IAM) has been working with denominations, clergy, and lay leaders over the past 25 years. Our work includes the accompaniment of faith communities towards opening hearts through diversity awareness, opening minds through dialogue in safe spaces, and opening doors. Through these movements, faith communities become open and affirming spaces for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ+) people.
Over the past 6 years, IAM has convened queer clergy, faith leaders and allies at two Ecumenical Think Tanks to analyse, assess and strategise towards the inclusion and recognition of LGBTIQ+ people in the faith landscape in South Africa.
Talking Back: Exploring LGTBIQ identity and Queer perspectives (2015)
In collaboration with the Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology of the Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University, and the Centre for Christian Spirituality, IAM hosted the first Queer Think Tank in 2015. The Think Tank brought queer clergy and allies together to engage the state of conversations around the sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) of LGBTIQ+ people in the faith landscape. In the broader faith landscape, LGBTIQ+ people are often talked about and are seldom invited to be equal conversations partners. This Think Tank was a historical start to determine the LGBTIQ+ agenda within the ecumenical church by giving voice to the embodied realities of LGTBIQ+ clergy and allies.
Exploring Contours of Embodied Resistance (2017)
In 2017, IAM partnered with the Gender Unit of the Beyers Naude Centre for Public Theology at Stellenbosch University. We hosted an Ecumenical Queer Christian Leadership Conference with the theme Exploring Contours of Embodied Resistance. At the Embodied Resistance Think Tank, academics, donors and partners from other non-profit organisations attended to enrich further the conversation about the intersection of faith, gender and sexuality.
The Think Tank explored three subthemes throughout the convening. Firstly, “inspiring change” focused on the importance of how change impacts the individual and the collective through narratives of struggles. Secondly, “strategising for action” called upon participants to reflect on actions of resistance. Thirdly, “horizons of possibility” invited participants to imagine new inclusive and affirming realities that recognise and celebrate LGBTIQ+ people in the faith landscape.
Counter Communities of Care (2021)
In 2021, three years after the last Think Tank, IAM is hosting another, in collaboration with the Gender, Religion and Health Programme at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Our theme, Counter Communities of Care, reflects some of what we hear Queer faith leaders have experienced over the past 3+ years. With the added pressure of a pandemic to ministry challenges, we will co-create a nurturing space where we can find renewed strength, connection, and strategies as we plot the way forward.