By Silvia Lanzi (Progetto Gionata)
This is an interview to Michael Brinkschroeder the person in charge of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups. I asked him what the European Forum is and what it do. Here are his answers.
What is the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups? When did it start?
The European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups is an umbrella organisation of 46 member groups. It was initiated in 1982 by the French Catholic priest Emile Letertre. The Forum started only with gay Christian groups. Since the end of the 1990s, lesbian women become very active in the Forum and the name was changed to „lesbian and gay Christian groups.“ Now the European Forum recognizes bisexual and transgender Christians in its name, as well.
From how many countries are the Member groups?
Currently, the European Forum has members from 22 countries from all over Europe, ranging from Norway to Italy and from Russia to Spain. We also have a member group from Kyrgyzstan.
It is a non confessional (not necessarily RCC) organization?
The European Forum is an ecumenical network, including Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Reformed, Waldensians, Evangelical, Orthodox, Metropolitan Community Church and ecumenical groups, among others.
I imagine that within the EF there are many different spirits – RCC, Anglican and Protestant in general. How do they get along together?
The annual conferences of the European Forum are an impressing experience of diversity and of the spirit of mutual exchange and solidarity. As LGBT people, we all have made the experience of being marginalized in our own Christian tradition. Therefore, we are longing for a place where diversity is estimated, so that we are not only welcoming each other as LGB&T people, but also as belonging to different denominational backgrounds. This year in Tallinn, we had a Catholic pre-conference for the first time.
This disturbed the „traditional“ arrangement of having women’s and men’s pre- his direction is a summer school in Moldova on „Theology, Homosexuality and Human Rights“conferences. I think we have to pay attention for which group it is mostly needed and effective to have special time for their own pre-conference.
The spirit of solidarity can be strongly felt in the long-standing support of LGBT Christian groups from Eastern Europe. Our next activity in t- a training for leaders of LGBT Christian groups from Eastern Europe.
Why did the EF decide to support the project of a theological conference in Rome ?
The conference in Rome is an element in our attempt to improve our bridges with possible supporters within the RCC. The plan originated during the pontificate of Benedict XVI. Although there were many liberal and progressive academic theologians, almost nobody dared to talk about LGBT issues, because they feared the repressive apparatus of the Vatican.
Therefore, our original idea was to build better bridges to those theologians and to challenge them to speak at such a conference. But with the change to Pope Francis and the announcement of the Family Synod it was immediately clear, that a new situation had arrived. So we adapted the content of the conference to the pastoral needs of LGBT people.
Do you think that something is moving within RCC about LGBT issues?
At this moment, there are several movements within the RCC about LGBT issues contradicting each other. On the one hand we have remarkable signals from Pope Francis of reducing the fear to discuss the issue of homosexual people openly. He has transferred the theological debate from the field of moral theology and anthropology to the pastoral field which allows for much more flexibility.
Several Cardinals from Europe published the opinion that gay and lesbian people should be included and welcome in the parishes and also that certain Christian values can be realized in same-sex partnerships.
In countries like Germany, France, Italy and England several bishops have begun to engage in regular dialogue with LGBT people. On the other hand we see an international campaign of right wing Catholics, supported by some national bishops conferences like Poland, Portugal and Slovakia, against the concept of gender.
The Catholic Church in Croatia has supported the public vote to constitutionally define marriage as bond between a man and a woman. In France, the Catholic bishops have triggered the campaign against equal marriage, but lost it and now have to look for new perspectives.