Young Queer Theologians and Activists talk about the Importance of Safe Spaces in Faith Settings
By YVC Secretariat – Wednesday, September 2, 2020
Queer Theologian in Praxis (QTIPS) and Youth Voices Count officially launched its first online course on Queer Christian Theology. This unique engagement with faith-based organizations and queer theologians would hopefully pave a way in creating safe spaces for LGBTIQ youth in conservative faith-centered spaces. The classes are spread out over the course of four months and conducted via Zoom. Coursework and discussions are conducted via Google Classroom. Currently the course has participants from different countries, including the Philippines, Indonesia, Fiji, South Korea, Thailand, USA and Canada.
The course’s objectives are hinged on contextualizing the articulation of queer theology, utilizing queer theology to deepen and create safe and sacred spaces for sexual minorities, and to design and produce learning materials that would promote and advance the cause of queer justice.
The course explores academic literature on contemporary Christian Theology from renowned authors. The book collection which constitute as an integral part of the course syllabus include the works of Linn Tonstad (Queer Theology: Beyond Apologetics), Marcella Althaus-Reid (Feminist Theology to Indecent Theology: Readings on Poverty, Sexual Identity and God), Theodore W. Jennings, Jr. (The Man Jesus Loved: Homoerotic Narratives from the New Testament), and selections from Asian theology scholars and authors.
This course is even more relevant to the existing and volatile social and political environment across the world when we look into the 2019 “State Sponsored Homophobia Report” of ILGA World. The report paints an important picture of legislation and policy influenced by religion across various countries. The report provides a contextual background of legislation that criminalizes the expression of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. These laws are heavily influenced by religious dogma, cultural traditions, belief and values and are therefore not easily averted. However, from the report, we can also discern that LGBTIQ-friendly and affirming religious institutions, faith-based organization, and faith leaders can be strategic and effective allies in the marriage equality and decriminalization advocacy spaces.
In the introductory class of the course, the group discussed Patrick Cheng’s book Radical Love: Introduction to Queer Theology. The introductory class gave the participants the opportunity to discuss the definition and sources queer theological teachings and principles. The vision of this online course is to develop transformative and radical spaces where queer theologians are equipt with practical knowledge and resources in doing advocacy work.. We are building a community of young queer activists with the mission to create inclusive, affirming, and queer-friendly faith spaces. We have asked some young participants of our online course about their aspirations and activism.
When faith communities take a stand against bigotry, discrimination, and opppression of LGBTIQ individuals, they undoubtedly create a ripple of affirmative and positive messaging for LGBTIQ communities. One such landmark statement came from the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), a mainline Protestant group and Christian denomination in the Philippines. The UCCP statement entitled “Let Grace Be Total (LGBT)” in 2014 recognized that the condemnation of LGBTIQ communities is largely due to the “cultural ethos and values that are so patriarchal in nature, legalistic in perspective, pharisaic in world view and self righteous in outlook”. The statement avers that the church’s role to address the prejudices of society is to “engage in educational seminars and fora on this issue for both members and the wider community”. Since the statement, UCCP has taken proactive steps in their programming and ministry for LGBTIQ individuals.
(Members of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines during the Metro Manila Pride March 2018. Photo taken by Irish Inoceto)
While the present course being offered by QTIPS and Youth Voices Count is focused on queer Christian theology, we are exploring opportunities and building the capacity of our membership to continue working with faith-based organizations in developing safe spaces for LGBTIQ communities within religious contexts and communities. Acknowledging that there are various religions across Asia and the Pacific, we hope to engage these faith communities through similar knowledge sharing and capacity building programmes.
Some links to information and resources on Religion, Sexuality, Gender, and Human Rights:
The Global Interfaith Network for People of All Sexes, Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Expressions – established during the 2012 ILGA World Conference, GIN strives to provide safe space to convene, document best practices, develop resources and together create local, regional, and international strategies for the decriminalization of LGBTI identities especially with LGBTI people of faith from the Global South.
The Salzburg Global LGBT* Forum – a programme of the Salzburg Global Seminar seeking to advance the human rights of LGBT people and communities around the world.
a. The Global Online Forum on LGBT* and Faith – an online discussion about the inclusion of LGBT* people in faith communities and religious and cultural traditions.
ILGA Asia Reports and Publications – ILGA Asia is the Asian Region of ILGA, representing more than 100 member organizations from 39 countries.
The Christian Conference of Asia – an organ and fellowship of churches and ecumenical councils in Asia for initiating and facilitating dynamic Christian witness and action.
a. Action Together in Combating HIV & AIDS in Asia (ATCHAA) Programme – the ATCHAA programme seeks to build HIV competent churches and communities and to build the capacity of its members to become inclusive and relevant for People Living with HIV and AIDS.
b. Previous engagement of YVC with CCA during the “Asian Interfaith Consultation in Strengthening HIV and AIDS Advocacy”
Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) – GNRC brings together organizations and individuals who work for pastoral care and justice for LGBTQI people and their families in the Roman Catholic Church and society.
Q Christian Fellowship – an ecumenical Christian ministry focused on serving lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, queer, and straight ally Christians.
The Queer Muslim Project – a digital advocacy platform focused on creating visibility and awareness of LGBTQ+ Muslim issues in India and South Asia.
Human Rights Campaign Resources on Religion & Faith – The Human Rights Campaign is the largest LGBTQ advocacy group and political lobbying organization in the United States.
Being LGBTI in Asia Country Reports of USAID and UNDP
ILGA World: Lucas Ramon Mendos, State-Sponsored Homophobia 2019: Global Legislation Overview Update (Geneva; ILGA, December 2019)
United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), Let Grace Be Total” (LGBT): UCCP Statement on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Concerns (UCCP, 2014)