United Church Moderator visit with Asian LGBTQI partners, Indonesia

In November, Moderator Rt. Rev. Jordan Cantwell and Rev. Michael Blair, Execumoderator-in-ause-tee-at-jakarta-theo-seminary-trans-conference-2-nov-2016tive Minister for the Church in Mission unit, visited Jakarta, Indonesia at the invitation of its theological seminary. Jakarta Theological Seminary has committed itself to a yearly focus on LGBTQI inclusion, despite the challenge this creates in their context. This year’s conference also included the annual gathering of Asian Affirming and open churches. In this spirit, we include this post as part of our Affirming Ministries in Action series. (And draw attention to the t-shirt she’s wearing.)

The United Church doesn’t have partners in Indonesia, but it is a partner with the World Student Christian Federation. Jordan and Michael met with its Indonesian member, the Student Christian Movement—sibling to the our own Student Christian Movement Canada, which recently became the first ecumenical ministry to ever enter the Affirming process.

During her report to General Council staff, the Moderator noted that “Students in Indonesia are incredibly well organized. The Student Christian Movement works alongside Muslims and Hindus and all collaborate. The level of mobilization and organizing is amazing and we can learn so much from them.”

Jordan and Michael also contributed as resource people and listeners to Amplify 16, a pan-Asian Christian conference on LGBTQ+ rights, identities, and faith. The organizers explain the importance of this amazing space and community:

“Amplify Ministries is a non-profit Christian organization on mission to proclaim and live out God’s inclusive love for all through supporting the development of theologically inclusive and LGBTIQ-affirming churches and ministries in the Asia Pacific….

AMPLIFY was born out of a call to be a blessing to the development of inclusive churches and ministries in Asia. From its beginnings in 2009, the conference provides a space for followers of Jesus Christ in the Asia Pacific region to worship, witness and wonder together; to explore and embody what ‘open and affirming’ means as we seek to be effective witnesses to the Gospel and meet the needs of our communities.”moderator-in-ause-tee-and-michael-blair-at-jakarta-theo-seminary-trans-conference-nov-2016

The Moderator writes, “I am struck by the incredible diversity of sexual and gender identities and how each culture has its own way of understanding, naming and expressing these. … It is particularly urgent that we listen to these diverse voices and experiences, because Canada is home to people from all over the world. Our ways of talking about and understanding gender and sexual diversity exclude and make invisible the experiences of many people within our church and the wider society.”

While talking with General Council staff November 23, she added:  “I am an inheritor of the courage of those who fought for our LGBTQI rights. More and more we (the United Church) are receiving calls from the global community to stand with those who are calling for their rights as gender and sexually diverse people.

One of the things that was so striking to me… was the voices of people who are gender and sexually diverse but cannot find themselves, do not see themselves, in the “mainstream” LGBTQI movement. There are many more ways to understand these identities than I had ever imagined. We have been given a gift from the world, which wants to include us in their conversation… This solidarity will open us further than we had ever imagined possible.”