LGBT Christians Hold Successful 36th Annual Conference and Attend Pride Parade in Gdańsk, Poland
Forwards in Solidarity was the theme and Free People in Free Countries was the challenge and call from lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, and others at the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups' 36th Annual Conference, held in Gdańsk, Poland, 24–28 May 2017. The European Forum includes over 50 groups, with some 140 participants from 21 European countries present at the 2017 conference. These included people from Anglican, Catholic, Evangelical, Reformed, and Orthodox traditions. Observers attended from ENORB (European Network on Religion & Belief), GIN (Global Interfaith Network), and ILGA (International Lesbian & Gay Association).
In a European social context of increasing fragmentation, nationalistic and conservative political developments, the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups takes a prophetic stance in the face of oppression and discrimination within and beyond church structures. Gathering in the birthplace of the Solidarność trade union movement, was another powerfully prophetic sign.
Pointing to the 2016 campaign Let's give each other a Sign of Peace, mounted by the Polish Christian network, Faith & Rainbow (Wiara i Tęcza) along with the Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH), the Forum's Co-President, Wielie Elhorst said,
Posters with two hands reaching for each other, one with a rainbow bracelet, the other with rosary beads, were spread throughout the country … It was a courageous effort to make clear to the people of Poland that they need to take further steps in solidarity, to work for a society that is truly inclusive and that gives all the opportunity to participate in equality in all domains of life, to adopt laws that protect and support people to freely follow their sexual orientation and their own gender identity, without fear. How can a hand that is offered as a Sign of Peace be rejected, especially by the representatives of the churches? Rejecting the hand that is offered in Peace is rejecting people’s humanity, rejecting them as your neighbour.
The Conference included powerful testimonies from former Solidarity activist and trans Orthodox believer, Ms. Ewa Hołuszko, and Krzysztof Charamsa, Catholic priest, previously Assistant Secretary to the International Theological Commission of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who ”came out” as gay and partnered in October 2015. Ms. Hołuszko spoke of the centrality of her faith both in her political struggles and her ”erasure” from Polish social prominence, following her transition. Charamsa called for a Stonewall revolution of LGBTQI visibility within church structures.
The Conference culminated with participants joining Gdańsk's largest ever Pride Parade on 27 May, attended by over 5,000 people and launched for the first time by the Mayor of Gdańsk. Neo-fascists picketed the parade but were held back by a massive protective police presence, preventing any serious violence.