September 11-14, 2014 VII Forum of LGBT Christians of Eastern Europe and Central Asia took place in Samara (Russia). This year the city on Volga River welcomed almost 60 participants – Christians from all over the world. During 4 days sisters and brothers from Russia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Republic of Moldova, Switzerland, Belorussia, Poland and Ukraine met after long break to strengthen old relations, build new ones and get united in prayer, communication and worshiping God. Escalated international conflicts and challenges that LGBT-Christians have to face every day didn’t disturb participants and organizers. Program of the Forum maintains rich and nurtures participants both spiritually and intellectually.
‘Love your neighbor’ — this verse from Gospel from Matthew (22:39) was the theme of the Forum. Every day participants attended lectures, gathered in small groups, prayed and communicated. Separate time was provided for pastoral care, psychological support and confession. Since Christ invites all with no exclusion to His table, regardless of any factors whatsoever that prevents LGBT-Christians from participation in life of the church and sacraments, final eucharistic worship service of the Forum was filled with the spirit of acceptance, love, unity and worship.
There are special issues for LGBT-Christians that require special discussion. Participants talked through such topics as drawing the boundaries in Christian way, transgenderness in theological perspective, fighting powerlessness and helplessness. It is especially important for us to discuss and understand what it means to build relations inside our couples in Christian way. Separate small groups were focused on issue of LGBT and parenthood: ‘Coming out from parents’ perspective’ and ‘What do our parental fears hide’. There is one issue that is still important and relevant — ‘What does the Bible say about homosexuality and what does it not say’. This year Forum made a decision to talk about how to dare to dream in the time of change.
Every year the Forum adopts the resolution in which it addresses to churches, religious communities, LGBT-believers and LGBT community, and to all people of good will. In the address to LGBT-believers Forum called ‘to remember that love of one’s neighbor that the Lord commanded has love of oneself as its source’. Among LGBT-believers there is different attitude to sexuality, and therefore Forum lays emphasis on remembering ‘that our sexual orientation and gender identity is a gift from God that we can choose what to do with — to hate and fight it or accept it as part of ourselves…’. As Jesus cared about His neighbors and so the Forum calls to follow the example of Christ and treat with care those who cannot live a fully open life, understanding that the decision to come out is only one part of our life as LGBT and Christians.
Each year Forum asks churches and religious communities to pay attention to their attitude towards sexual orientation and gender identity. This year Forum called churches and religious communities ‘to recognize that sexual orientation and gender identity do not make LGBT people sick, criminals or sinners’. Unfortunately, many church leaders hurt their LGBT parishioners in personal conversations, in public statements ignoring and devaluing participation of LGBT parishioners in the life of congregations. Therefore, Forum reminds that Churches are called to be a safe space and that they have to acknowledge the presence of LGBT people in the churches and stop hurting and stigmatizing them.
Forum recognizes the fact that within LGBT community there is discrimination of various ways. Especially, in address to LGBT community Forum called its representatives ‘to remember that LGBT believers are an integral part of the LGBT community who share with their LGBT sisters and brothers the hardships of homophobia and transphobia…’. In spite of our diversity we want to strive for unity.
First Forum of LGBT-Christians took place in 2004 in St. Petersburg. After a break Forum resumed in 2009 and in various years took place in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kiev and Samara. Forum of 2015 will take place in Tartu (Estonia).