Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Workshop Trains 'Inclusion Activists'

Posted on: September 15, 2008
Susan Barksdale

The Living Church

A mission and message are unlikely to be effective without a way to ensure that they are recognized and acted upon. This theme was explored by participants in an “Inclusion Activism” workshop Sept. 12-13 at St. Mark’s Cathedral, Minneapolis.

Subtitled "Advancing Equality for LGBT Episcopalians at the Diocesan Level," it was the last of a series of five inclusion activism workshops held around the country and co-sponsored by Claiming the Blessing and Integrity USA. The workshops were designed to provide Episcopalians with the tools they need to bring LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) issues to the forefront of diocesan conventions and diocesan decision makers. All five workshops attracted people from wide geographic areas. Organizer Jan Adams told of one previous workshop at which a woman drove for 10 hours in order to attend.

Participants in Minneapolis came from seven dioceses to share their stories and to support each other in the inclusion efforts in which they are engaged at home. After a review of the progress of recognition and inclusion for LGBT people in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, trainers Katie Sherrod (Fort Worth) and the Rev. Cynthia Black (Western Michigan) then led the group through a short training course on topics, including how The Episcopal Church works, organizing and presenting cases at the diocesan level, and working with the media.

The presenters drew on national canons and other elements common to most dioceses, the presentations gave practical tips (useful in promoting any endeavor) on building relationships and gaining allies, developing messages, electing and lobbying diocesan leadership, and creating and presenting resolutions at diocesan conventions. Many participants (including those from Minneapolis) were in the process of preparing for their own diocesan conventions, and hoped to act on this advice.

Workshop organizers also showed a video, Voices of Witness Africa, produced by Ms. Black and Sherrod. The goal of the project, said Black, was to "help to debunk the myth that there are not GLBT people in Africa." In it, men and women from several African nations gave poignant testimony about both their spiritual journeys and their lives of fear and oppression in their native countries.

Participants and presenters all acknowledged that while progress has been made in inclusion of LGBT people in The Episcopal Church, there is still much to be done. A major purpose of the weekend was to show people how to work within church polity to help achieve further progress. Several noted how seeing Voices of Witness Africa helped to put their own struggles into perspective.

Ms. Sherrod had noted that the Lambeth Conference’s small Indaba groups had helped bishops from different provinces develop relationships separate from some of the issues confronting the Anglican Communion. These were compared to the suggestions given in the training sessions for developing relationships on the diocesan levels. Ms. Sherrod was hopeful of the outcome. "I think that those relationships will be the salvation of the Anglican Communion," she said.


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