The International Interdenominational Conference of LGBT Christians took place in Moscow on 21-22 November. 26 people from Russia, Moldova, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Estonia, Belarus, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Romania and Norway took part in the conference. They represented a number of Christian denominations: Orthodox, Catholics, Metropolitan Community Church, Lutherans, Baptists, Pentecostals, Adventists, Quakers, and Jehovah Witnesses. The Conference theme, Receiving Power, came from the scripture fragment, Acts 1,8: «you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.»
The Conference started with a prayer for all LGBT Christians who have found themselves at a spiritual crossroads and are forced to remain in the closet, struggling with accepting oneself as God created them and unable, for whatever reason, to come out within Churches and communities; for the society in which LGBT people live. Greetings from the Russian LGBT Network, the LGBT Christians of Ukraine movement, British Catholic LGBT groups and other partner organisations were then read.
In the first discussion, «Love each other as I loved you…» (John 13,34), participants shared their understanding of faith and love which form basis of all existence, and which must be the guiding principle of relations between people including Christians. Love can heal the wounds of soul and bring integrity into relationships.
The following session, «LGBT Christians in different countries», presented an opportunity to learn about the situation in those countries where the participants came from. In most cases, the situation is not simple and not always comfortable. The members of British Catholic organisations told about how much is happening at the grass-roots level (in particular, about the blessing of the local Archbishop, Mass for LGBT Catholics which takes place twice a month in London), however the Vatican’s position contradicts this positive work in some aspects. The participants from Norway explained about the current debates in the national Lutheran Church regarding blessings of same-sex partnerships; the Norwegian Church accepts LGBT clergy.
During the the third session, «Our stories», participants shared stories significant to them, like becoming aware of being gay and reconciling that fact with one’s own faith. A narrative approach – one of new techniques of therapeutic work – has been chosen for this session to allow the participants to learn whether these kinds of simple techniques can be used with LGBT people to create an open and friendly environment.
In the last session of the first day, «Relations within partnerships and beyond», the participants discussed the nature of same-sex partnerships and their dynamic in the light of Christian faith. Different views, sometimes opposing, were expressed. Also, the topic of being single, and what can be helpful and challenging in that situation, attracted a lot of interest and diverse views.
The second day of the Conference started with a liturgical celebration led by an Orthodox priest, Maxim Bratukhin, from Kyrgyzstan and a Lutheran priest, Gard Sandaker-Nielsen, from Norway.
During a session «Theological representations of homosexuality», the participants were invited to contextualise Scripture by bringing their own experiences into reading and interpretation of the Bible.
The following session, «Christianity, civil activity and human rights» gave an opportunity to discuss issues of civil responsibility of LGBT Christians as members of both the LGBT and Christian communities. There was a common agreement among the participants that the Church is not outside the civil society, but is its integral part. LGBT Christians can achieve a lot in the scope of building a better society for all by being open and active members of their faith communities. The participants were invited to reflect on the Christian roots of the concept of Human Rights and how the idea that «all human beings are born free and equal with dignity and rights» is directly reflected in Scripture.
In the concluding session, «Support for LGBT Christians in the countries of the former Soviet Union», practical methods of work with LGBT Christians and faith communities were discussed. Ideas of how individuals and groups could engage in co-operation with non-faith LGBT organisations, in pastoral and mutual support were explored.
A Statement addressed to Churches, LGBT community and LGBT Christians was signed.
The Conference ended with prayer and the words of gratitude to all who worked for this remarkable event to take place. A desire and hopes for further development of the Christian movement in the LGBT community and the society at large have been expressed by many participants of the Conference.