A REPORT ON THE WELCOMING CHURCH PROGRAM LEADERS - Submitted by Sally Harris
Welcoming Church Program Leaders Network
The purpose of the WCPL is to gather welcoming church program leaders and affiliates who challenge the Christian church to fully include persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities, in order to develop relationships, identify trends, share resources and build coalitions for action to advance the welcoming church movement.
As shared in the most recent Consensus, as Affirm United / S-affirmer ensemble’s international representative I had the honour of attending the National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in February, 2011. Each year this conference is held in a different region of the United States, attracting over 2500 attendees from all over North America It is considered a unique environment where activists and leaders come together from diverse places and backgrounds to create a unique community that is both strengthening and inspiring to the participants.
This year was historic! For the first time in its 23-year history this secular Conference of the Gay and Lesbian National Task Force brought a faith track on board and included a plenary of faith leaders giving public witness to different religious views that accept GLBTT people. The multi-faith, intercultural conference called Practice Spirit; Do Justice was the culmination of three years of planning by the Welcoming Church Program Leaders Network which Affirm United / S-affirmer ensemble has been a part of since the early 1990’s.
The Welcoming Church Program Leaders Network meets twice a year. The WCPL participants are also on the advisory board of the Institute for Welcoming Resources through monthly conference calls.
To find out more about the IWR, including a geographical list of the welcoming congregations in North America visit www.welcomingresources.org
In addition to the planning of the Creating Change event, over the past few years our meetings have been guided by the work and leadership of Beth Zemsky, a senior consultant affiliated with the University of Minnesota (www.bethzemsky.com ) She has supported this group of international faith leaders to learn more about how to coordinate, collaborate and share best practices regarding innovative strategies to develop and strengthen their denominations and their faith communities. Through Affirm United/S'affirmer ensemble participation in the WCPL Beth Zemesky is our facilitator of the GLBTT National Consultation mandated by General Council. We recently met in Guelph in June, 2011.
The next year’s focus will include the continuing discussion of merging resources and gatherings as some of the ongoing funding is decreasing and the organizations are looking at new ways of continuing and fulfilling the mandate of the Welcoming Church Program Leaders Network. I look forward to being a part of this transitional conversation.
I want to thank Affirm United/S'affirmer ensemble for the opportunity to connect internationally. I believe this relationship with the wider welcoming movement is important both for the intercultural experience and for the opportunity to share resources and trends in these changing times.
Rev. Dr. Sally Harris
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