The theme for the 2012 conference in Amsterdam will be Lead us beyond acceptance. It is based on Galatians 3: 28-29:
Faith in Christ Jesus is what makes each of you equal with each other, whether you are a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a free person, a man or a woman. So if you belong to Christ, you are now part of Abraham's family, and you will be given what God has promised.
In the late eighties of the 20th century the movement of pastoral care for (then) homosexual men and lesbian women, that had been started by several Dutch pastors in the sixties and had become an elaborated network of pastoral groups, slowly came to an end. The keyword of this movement in and around the main Dutch Churches (protestant and roman catholic) had been ‘acceptance’: members of the churches were to accept homosexual men and lesbian women in their differing choice for love and life and these men and women were to accept themselves also. In the eighties several organizations for Christian homosexuals were formed. The movement mentioned above had made it possible for them to stand on their own feet, but the need for independence also grew out of a discomfort with the word ‘acceptance’.
In 1987 a conference was held for LGBT-Christians where they themselves declared that ‘acceptance’ should no longer be the basis for their being or identity inside nor outside the churches. The title of the report written after the conference was unsurprisingly Beyond acceptance. Although the word ‘acceptance’ was used in the sixties, seventies and eighties with the right intention, there is no doubt about that, it gained a dimension of inequality and dependence with which gays and lesbians felt more and more uncomfortable. Can the epitome of your being be based on ‘acceptance’, especially within the Christian community? Acceptance presupposes a set of ideas, values and norms that belong to the majority of heterosexual people and that albeit maybe unwillingly still form the frame of reference in which your sexuality and identity as a lesbian woman or homosexual man is valued and ultimately judged. Can this acceptance really be the basis for a life in which you can truly be yourself and make free choices? Of course ultimate individual freedom is not possible for any human. There is always a moral frame of reference in which people exist, value each other and make judgements. It is the basis of the possibility to dialogue with each other on matters that are essential in life. But…
For Christian LGBT-people the question is whether or not this framework should have the last word or whether their being and identity can also be seen in a light that supersedes the ethical framework of the (moral) majority. On the basis of Scriptural witness the answer must be ‘yes’. For every Christian the ultimate criterium for identity is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ even supersedes the word ‘criterium’ or ‘framework’ itself. He is not a framework, He is the face of God on earth and as such He breaks down every framework that people use to organize life, or in this case: sexuality. He breaks down the frameworks that make people into slaves of another. That is rather obvious, but He also breaks down the frameworks that with much more subtlety define people that differ from the majority, even when the majority shows the generosity to accept anyone who differs. This generosity, however good its intentions may be, keeps the dominant framework intact basically and confiscates LGBT-people that differ rather than really giving them the freedom to find their self defined basis on which they can lead their own free and gay lives.
The choice for the theme ‘Lead us beyond acceptance’ for the Conference of the European Forum in 2012 is an invitation to the Christian LGBT-movement itself for self examination. Do we ourselves really live up to the word of Scripture in Galatians 3: 28-29: do we really find our equality in Jesus Christ, the face of God on earth? Do we live according to the grace of God that makes each of us new? Or do we still live in a framework that defines us on the basis of acceptance and tolerance, that is: still within the framework of the moral majority? Has the (Dutch) Christian LGBT-movement evolved since they in 1987 stated to want to live and love ‘beyond acceptance’? The questions that Christian bisexuals and transgenders put before us, especially about what it means to be a ‘man’ or ‘woman’, seem to point in a different direction. To what especially are we als LGBT Christians tempted to? How are we led into temptation?
The theme of the Conference is also an invitation and a challenge to our heterosexual brothers and sisters within the churches and the fellow members of the societies throughout Europe in which we lead our lives. Are they willing to really invite LGBT-people to question their own moral and sexual frameworks? Or is the silent presupposition of their attitude of acceptance to confiscate us and make us disappear in their own frameworks, consciously or unconsciously?
O Lord, Jesus Christ, lead us all beyond acceptance to be renewed by Your love and grace!