The conference Reconciling Works 2012, the biennial assembly of Lutherans Concerned / North America and Reconciling in Christ conference. Reconciling Works 2012 was held in Washington, DC July 6—10, 2012. Gard Realf Sandaker-Nielsen represented the European Forum and wrote this report.
First of all I would like to thank The European Forum for giving me the possibility to participate in the biannual conference to ReconcilingWorks in Washington DC July 6 to 10 2012. I had some inspiring, fun, challenging and rewarding days in DC.
There is so much to say. It was wonderful to meet so many proud LGBT Lutherans, it was inspiring to see what they have accomplished, and I was encouraged to take some of their ideas into action. They have accomplished much for LGBT in The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) and The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC).
And I just love their new logo!
It was wonderful to hear the presiding bishop in the ELCA, Rev. Mark Hanson, preaching about the church – and God – he believes in. Read his keynote address! Check also the ELCA-bishop in his It Gets Better video on youtube. Imagine if all bishops could say this!
Greetings from the European Forum
During the business sessions, I had the privilege to greet ReconcilingWorks. This is what I said on behalf of the European Forum:
Dear Friends and blessed Children of God.
I bring with me the joy and sorrows, tears and laughter of your friends in Europe. I and we are thankful that we are allies in this work for reconciliation and full participation. LGBT-rights, are human rights. And we live in a complex time concerning our rights. In Europe we experience countries taking huge steps towards full inclusion and recognition of LGBT both in society and church. Sadly, we also see the opposite: Countries moving backwards: Russia, The Ukraine, Lithuania and Moldova are some of them. This affect us and our people.
You are in our prayers. We are thankful that also we are in your prayers. Pray that hearts and minds of the people in power and with influence in society will be touched by The Holy Spirit, so that they can see and understand what has been revealed to us.
It is with joy I come here to your community. It is with joy that I experience being church together with you. We are a church and a people without borders - our existence and our cooperation is a visible sign of this.
Friends, The Holy Sprit is moving, and the light has won over darkness. Dawn is coming. Let us continue telling our stories, and carry the light to the church, the LGBT-community and the world. Let us continue supporting each others in this work, and let us find new ways that can strengthen our relationship across the ocean.
God bless us all. Thank you.
Highlights from the conference
Both bisexuals and transgendered have their representative on the board, and during the conference, TransLutherans was established. I believe this last happening is an important step of making transgendered more integrated into the LGBT-community. This is surely something we need to work on in the EF and in most of the EF member groups.
It was a true blessing to meet another international guest at the conference: the Anglican Bishop Christopher Senyonjo from Uganda. Together with him, I was speaking at a workshop on Addressing Reconciliation and the Intersection of Oppression on a Global Basis. He lost his job because of his advocacy and support for LGBT. We should all search for such wholehearted people, and pray that we will find them. They can really mean the difference, both to the LGBT community and to the church in general. He and the President of the St. Paul's Fundation for International Reconciliation, Rev. Canon Albert J. Ogle, showed the movie “Call me Kuchu”. It is about David Kato, the first openly gay man in Uganda that was murdered in January 2011. If you have not seen it, you should. In this film, you really see – and feel - the difference between a hostile and a reconciling church. Bishop Christopher and Albert Ogle is someone we can work together with in the struggle for a more reconciling Church and societies.
ReconcilingWorks had their first impressive lobbying day on Capitol Hill. All the participants met their state representative in the Congress (Parliament), and they told their representatives why they should work for full participation of LGBT in society – and that also means marriage. We can truly learn from our bold sisters in the west.
ReconcilingWorks is taking steps to become a more international organization. The question is how they should do it, and what they should work with. They will start an internal dialogue on this subject in the near future. We should join them in this discussion. Key questions: What do EF need from ReconcilingWorks. What do they need from us? How can we work better together? How can we learn from each others?
Reflections on cooperation
My reflections on cooperation (so far) (which I also shared with different people at ReconcilingWorks), and what we can learn from ReconcilingWorks:
- We can work closer towards different church bodies and international organizations. If we can send a press release on a certain cause together, it is a much stronger signal than if we do it separately. EF should encourage ReconcilingWorks to join us in South Korea in 2013. We should also work together towards ILGA.
- ReconcilingWorks is trying to reach out to South-America. EF is an umbrella organization with member groups all over Europe. We can therefore help them with some of the cultural challenges that rise when you are working in countries, with different languages and cultures.
- ReconcilingWorks can be a partner on some of our projects, like our East European Summer School. We know the people and the situation, and they have stronger organization, with staff and stable funding. With RecolcilingWorks on the boat, we might have bigger chances to get funding for our important activities.
- ReconcilingWorks has some good recourses we can get inspiration from, for instance on Why marriage matters and anti bulling. We should make something similar and share in our different organizations and countries.
- One of the needs of LGBT-christians in many European countries, is the possibility to get some theological training, and become leaders in their local community. This is something I believe we need to continue to focus on, and ReconcilingWorks can probably contribute with both knowledge, people and theology. Also progressive Western-European Theological Faculties can contribute, with scholarships and training.
- They have a great program, called Reconciling in Christ: RIC-program. I believe that this is something that could work in Norway. Probably this is something many of our member groups in Europe, and our cause and people, could benefit from.
- We are together in this work. If we reach out to each others, and support each other’s, we are stronger. Together we can build alliances to slowly get a LGBT Christian World Forum, with an impact throughout the world.
Last, but not least: I want to thank ReconcilingWorks, and a special thank you Marty, Phil and Emily for inviting The European Forum and me to DC, and for their generous contribution to make this visit possible. I had an exciting and learning time in DC, and it was surely a gift getting to know you and ReconcilingWorks better. I hope that we will keep in touch, and I am looking forward to the next important step in the relationship between the European Forum and ReconcilingWorks.