Is the World Council of Churches safe for LGBT Christians?

Is the World Council of Churches safe for LGBT Christians?

The World Council of Churches (website and Facebook page) is the largest international ecumenical body. Founded in 1949 in the aftermath of World War II, it unites Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox Christians. Its General Assembly is meeting this week in Busan, Republic of Korea. The Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer of the UCC’s Justice and Witness Ministries is there. He has shared with us this press release from a caucus of LGBT believers and allies at the event.

Create Safe Space Caucus at the World Council of Churches General Assembly in Busan, Republic of Korea
31 October 2013

Contact: Gabriele Mayer
Phone: 010.6884.2711

The Create Safe Space Caucus offers a mixed response to the opening day of the World Council of Churches General Assembly in Busan.

The opening worship, plenary and business session were well grounded in the gospel values of love, justice and peace.  His Holiness Karenkin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians reminded participants, “Each of us is different… Our mutual faith in Christ—truly our love for the Lord—is what unites us.”  He proclaimed that Christ encourages us “to regard our fellow human beings, without exception, in the full dignity and holiness of their personhood.”

These values emanated from the liturgies, presentations and reports on this first day.  However, for the Create Safe Space Caucus the absence of any mention of sexual orientation or gender identity created the sense of invisibility.

How is it that in the Secretary General’s report, the Moderator’s report and in every other word, spoken or sung, that such silence should exist on such a critical issue facing the churches throughout the world?   A simple acknowledgment that this is an issue facing the church would have been a step in the right direction.

Silence on sexual orientation and gender identity perpetuates the stigma and discrimination faced by marginalized people and increases vulnerabilities. This is particularly poignant today, as many will observe Thursdays in Black, a movement towards a world without rape and violence.  Sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity are part of what it means to be human.  Thus, these are concerns which are part of life in every community throughout the world, including other marginalized communities which may also feel invisible.

Any serious effort toward justice and peace must address stigma and discrimination in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity.  At the very least, the concern must be named along with a commitment to creating safe spaces for constructive dialogue.