IAM’s 4th Ecumenical Queer Think Tank took place in November at the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation in Cape Town. This three-day gathering created a space for queer faith leaders to reflect and engage in critical dialogue on queer-led and ally-supported initiatives for LGBTIQ+ recognition and inclusion in their faith communities. 

Our group of 16 participants, representing various denominations across South Africa, had the opportunity to reflect both individually and collectively on significant milestones of queer history within churches and South Africa. 

On the second day we were joined by other faith leaders committed to inclusion in churches to engage the theme “Queering Allyship”. By using a dynamic open space methodology, we engaged with the question: What ideas, thoughts, or questions do we have about expanding LGBTIQ+ affirmation and allyship in our respective faith communities? 

Over the past decade, IAM has convened queer clergy, faith leaders, and allies at three Ecumenical Think Tanks to analyse, assess, and strategise toward the inclusion and recognition of LGBTIQ+ people. Previous themes included:

    • Talking Back: Exploring LGBTIQ+ identity and Queer perspectives (2015) 
    • Exploring Contours of Embodied Resistance (2017) 
    • Creating Counter Communities of Care (2021)

Our theme this year, “Queering Allyship”, invited the constructive disruption of the status quo of current allyship for LGBTIQ+ inclusion and affirmation within churches. 

Within each of the partner denominations, considerable work has been done by allies in changing both institutional policy and culture to recognise and embrace LGBTIQ+ people. However, without exception, more work is required in all denominations within Southern Africa.

16 rich topics for discussion were generated during our session, sparking new ideas and possibilities for ongoing collaboration. These centred questions such as,  

    • How do we train youth leaders to hold brave conversations?
    • What does inclusive pastoral care look like? 
    • Given the church’s history and patriarchy being embedded in its teaching, is the church even capable of being a safe space? 
    • How can Queer Task Teams within denominations function effectively? 

Our Ecumenical Queer Think Tank created a network amongst faith leaders for support, sharing of resources, and ongoing collaboration. This network of faith leaders will continue to grow, and to partner with IAM in bringing about real change for LGBTIQ+ people in faith communities. 

We are grateful to have partnered with Clinton du Preez from ANEW, who helped to facilitate some of our sessions, demonstrating what is possible when we gather in ways that are easeful, co-creative in nature, and are geared toward learning and reflection for sustained personal and organisational impact.