Graham Goodwin is a Minister in the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, currently serving a congregation in the Western Cape. Just as he was coming to terms with and coming out about his own sexuality, his story intersected with IAM Director Ecclesia de Lange’s own journey with the Methodist Church. “My coming out happened at the same time as Ecclesia’s dismissal from the Methodist Church, so the two sort of dovetailed. At that stage there was a gathering of queer Methodists and allies that took place here in Cape Town – I was in Durban at the time – at a place called Sacred Worth, and that’s the time I first bumped up against the work of IAM and what they were doing around issues related to queerness and in terms of queer persons within the church. Obviously Ecclesia and her personal story was also a part of our narrative at that time, and that was both scary as well as inspiring. I found in her story and in interacting with her that there was a sense in which I just not only received affirmation but also just a sense of courage and a sense that this is actually a justice issue.”
Since that first awareness of IAM’s work, Graham has built a relationship with IAM and the IAM team. As a queer clergy, he’s used his personal experience as a starting point for facilitating conversations with his congregations. IAM’s resources have been useful to him, but it’s really been the personal connections that have helped him along this path.
“More than anything I think what I appreciate is the opportunity that IAM has given me for connection. The information is out there and IAM has been really great at packaging that and making it accessible, but what IAM has really done is given a human face to queer people of faith. What has impacted me have been the conversations IAM facilitated amongst queer clergy and queer faith leaders, and the opportunities they created to actually come together. Just that sense of “I’m not alone” has, more that than anything else, changed the narrative around our presence within the church.”
While the macro-level policy changes and activism are critical to change, Graham believes that sometimes it’s what happens between individuals and in congregations is just as necessary. “It’s really the micro level shifts that I think have really shifted the church. It’s the interactions that happen within congregations, and congregations don’t always need a massive activism, they also just need human connection. They need to see the human face of queer people. They need queer Ministers who have served them and loved them and cared for them. That transcends a lot of barriers, and I think in order to do that the clergy connection spaces, the moments when we’ve been able to know that we are not alone, and that has meant the most to me personally.”
Graham also reflected on the power that IAM’s work within the church structures will have on the future. “I think what I’ve really appreciated is the way that IAM has been able to win over a lot of trust from institutions and denominations. The fact that they now participate in our seminary’s programme around sexuality is huge. It means a whole generation of Ministers will have been exposed to IAMs work as part of their seminary training. That can’t be under-estimated because those are your next congregational leaders that have now been exposed to a completely different narrative, and the fact that IAM has won over that trust to be in those spaces to me is a huge footprint and helpful to us all.”