by Michelle Boonzaaier, IAM Program Manager

IAM’s partnerships with tertiary institutions – universities and seminaries – have both informed our work and been a vehicle through which we have worked with future leaders.

We began our first partnership with Stellenbosch University in 2004. Over the course of more than 15 years, what began as a 1-hour session on homosexuality has expanded to a 3-day workshop on human sexuality and diversity. During the Master’s of Divinity program, IAM’s focus is especially on the formation of faith leaders and their journeys with LGBTI people in faith communities, while also challenging students to engage with their own sexual orientation and gender identity.

Since 2004, we have gradually expanded our academic network partners to encompass a wide variety of universities and seminaries. Each of these collaborations is multifaceted and unique, and mutually beneficial to both sides of the partnership.

The partnerships take on different forms, depending on the needs. With some, like faculties within the University of Stellenbosch and University of KwaZulu Natal, we work alongside the faculty and take part in delivering modules of the curricula, are asked to write papers and sit on panel discussions at conferences. With others, like the College of the Transfiguration (COTT) in the Eastern Cape, we facilitate workshops on human sexuality and diversity.

The partnerships are collaborative spaces where present and future faith leaders learn from an organisation that has been working in the field of sexual and gender diversity for 25 years. IAM staff are able to share our on-the-ground understanding of how the theoretical and academic discussions are playing out in various faith communities that we work in and affect people’s real lives. We help to open the minds of the future leaders who will be venturing back out into these very communities and help them grapple with the issues they will face in a life-affirming manner.

For IAM, our partnerships with tertiary institutions have become a reflective space for our team. Our work with them allows us to take a step out of our daily implementation and focus on the larger context in which we are working; to unpack our work and sometimes see it through a different lens. We use these partnerships as incubator spaces to develop new content that fits into our facilitation process that centers embodied presence.

These important collaborations with tertiary institutions have become a place where we co-create knowledge that is relevant to both partners. Together we develop content and resources that help to inform our work in South Africa and the rest of the African continent and equip future leaders with the skills and knowledge to carry this change with them into their work.

Along with the exciting work that we have developed with our academic partners, we have had the privilege of engaging with a group of talented LGBTI/Queer students in theology. Thus far we have awarded two scholarships and both students have completed their studies with great success.