on 7 Sep 2023 at Kunsthalle Osnabrueck
Good day, I am Ecclesia de Lange, director of Inclusive and Affirming Ministries, I will use the acronym IAM to refer to our organisation as I continue to share with you.
Thank you for the opportunity to introduce IAM to you. I would have loved to participate in-person however we are currently facilitating a Regional Trainers of Trainers — Embodied facilitation practise engagement in Gordons Bay.
IAM is based in Cape Town, South Africa. IAM was established, in 1995, shortly after South Africa was governed by a democratic dispensation. IAM was the first faith-based non-governmental organisation to mobilise around faith and sexuality. This need arose from seeking to ensure that LGBTQ+ people (of faith, in particular) are not excluded from the rights and freedoms enshrined in the law.
For the past 28 years, we have sought to become a constructive and alternative religious voice in Africa regarding the intersections of gender, sexuality, health and religion that seeks to advance the rights and freedoms of LGBTQ+ persons in faith communities. We currently work with partners in countries like Namibia, Lesotho, Malawi, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda.
All our activities, big and small, are aimed to eradicate religious instigated homo, bi and transphobia. We have developed a theory of action, that continues to serve as a reflective surface to improve our approach for greater impact. The theory focusses on opening minds through raising awareness, opening hearts where we create brave spaces for dialogue and opening doors where we focus on empowering change agents to take action. Our approach is relational and intersectional which is emerged in an embodied transformative dialogue process. All of this involves capacity building of religious leaders, congregants, LGBTQ+ individuals, their parents and friends; training of seminarians, where young priests are being prepared for ministry; training of Civil Society Organisations to engage with faith leaders and wellness programs. This includes contextual bible reading trainings etc.
We have developed resources which can be downloaded from IAM’s website, and we develop advocacy campaigns which are mostly collaborative.
Our body of work is informed by Biblical principles. We use Queer, feminist, and liberation theologies in deconstructing, learning and unlearning, and teaching the Bible and other sacred texts, like Christian liturgies and prayers. We distinguish our programmatic focus areas between faith partnerships and civil society partnerships, which are both enhanced by regional programmes. The basis of our methodology uses scripture as a tool for inclusion and affirmation, rather than to exclude LGBTQ+ people from participating meaningfully in their faith.
I would like to share some of IAM’s success stories:
- In 1995 IAM’s founder, with other stakeholders, were part of drafting parts of the Constitution to ensure the rights for LGBTQ+ people in South Africa are protected.
- In 2006 was the start of other African Countries requesting IAM to assist them with capacity building to engage with faith communities and trainings.
- In 2009 IAM hosted the first of its kind — Two regional conferences “the first African dialogue on Christian faith and sexuality” and “The evil of Patriarchy”, both reports can be found on our website.
- IAM’s regional network was established in 2012 and continues to grow.
- This was also the year when IAM was elected to part the World Council of Churches (WCC) Reference Group on Human Sexuality, to address these issues of sexuality and faith.
- Training of Civil Society Organisations in Botswana e.g. LEGABIBO’s staff and partners that played a part in 2019/ 2021 decriminalisation litigation case.
- 2019 IAM hosted a Regional Monitor and Evaluation gathering of the network. The report is available on request.
- IAM was instrumental in both the Dutch Reformed Church’s (2015÷2019) and the Methodist Church of Southern Africa’s (2020) policy change to be inclusive of all people.
- At the 11th Assembly of the WCC in 2022, the publication which the reference group drafted (which started in 2012) titled, “Conversations on the pilgrim way” an Invitation to Journey Together on Matters of Human Sexuality, publication was endorsed by the WCC for their members to utilise.
- The credibility of IAM is reflected in the long-standing partnerships we have with Academic institutions, faith leader training spaces and donor relationships.
We value collaborating with other faith-based organisations in organising and advancing our work from an interfaith perspective. One of these partners is the Global Interfaith Network for People of All Sexes, Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Expressions (GIN) is an international membership-led non-profit organisation that promotes safety and inclusion for all people of faith and spirituality.
In conclusion, IAM is eager to partner with German donors and/or government agencies for development, that is concerned with the eradication of religious instigated homo‑, bi- and transphobia on the African continent. Working with global north partners like Germany on this important topic is of utmost importance to protect the gains we’ve made thus far and to continue with movement building to fulfil our goals.
Thank you and best wishes with the rest of the discussion and conference.
Ecclesia de Lange, director of Inclusive and Affirming Ministries
Web page: www.iam.org.za
Click here for the photo gallery from the conference.
An event for the Hirschfeld Eddy Foundation project “We believe in change”: Human rights, freedom of religion or belief, and non-discrimination. All publications for the project can be found under the tag WBIC-2023 (some content in English).