'Safe space' at WCC listens to pain of sexual minorities

By agency reporter
November 6, 2013

A 'safe space' created for dialogue on human sexuality featured stories of pain, exclusion and violence faced by sexual minorities in many parts of the world. This space for dialogue was provided in a workshop on 5 November 2013 at the World Council of Churches (WCC) 10th Assembly currently underway in Busan, Republic of Korea.

The workshop, which gathered 150 people, was organised by an interchurch organisation for development cooperation, ICCO Kerk in Actie in the Netherlands, and I AM, a South African organisation working from a faith-based perspective for the rights of sexual minorities.

The theme of the workshop was pertinent in addressing the issues of violence and discrimination against sexual minorities, as the WCC assembly is focusing on the prayer, 'God of life, lead us to justice and peace'.

Starting with a prayer from Archbishop Joris Vercammen of the Old Catholic Church in the Netherlands, the workshop invoked stories highlighting the need for constructive conversations on human sexuality despite disagreements that surround the issue within the churches.

Participants in the workshop discussed how faith communities can be inclusive spheres where sexual minorities can equally share their experiences and contribute towards Christian unity.

Diverse reflections were offered by Dr Elise Kant from the ICCO, Kim Jiun from South Korea, the Rev Dr Benebo Fubara Fubara-Manuel from Nigeria, Florin Buhuceanu from Romania and the Rev Phumzile Mabizela from South Africa.

Their presentations led to discussions on widening common ground among church leadership with varied convictions on sexual orientation and biblical interpretation.

By relating the influence and power of faith in human lives, they raised issues of homophobia, transphobia, discrimination, hate crimes and patriarchy by sharing experiences from their local, cultural and personal backgrounds.

It was also emphasised that the issues of human sexuality are of concern for both the global North and the global South, irrespective of geographical divisions.

The Rev Judith Johanna Kotzé of Inclusive and Affirming Ministries in South Africa, who moderated the workshop, made a reference to the new WCC mission statement, Together towards life: Mission and evangelism in changing landscapes.

She said that it is the concept of “mission from the margins” which can inspire an acknowledgement of the pains of sexual minorities.

“As sexual minorities, we live on the margins. If we are engaged and listened to, we can show how much potential is buried behind the exclusion: potential which can contribute to the search for human dignity, justice and peace,” said Kotzé.

The ministers made a reference to a message from Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who has called for “attention on the issue of homophobic violence at the WCC’s 10th Assembly” in Busan.

* Official website of the WCC 10th Assembly: http://wcc2013.info/en

* More from Ekklesia on the WCC and its 10th Assembly: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/wcc


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