December 2018: recent events, news, and developments at the European Forum; special preview of our Annual Conference 2019
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Dear members, friends, and supporters,

Welcome to our fourth and final newsletter of 2018! (Click here to read previous editions.) There's a lot packed in to this edition - we glance forward to next June, when our 38th Annual Conference will take place in London, UK, and we look back on some of the recent sorrows we've had.

We were especially grateful for the support of all our members, allies, friends, and other NGOs and humanitarian groups when we were forced, for the first time, to cancel one of our conferences in Eastern Europe in November due to threats of violence and other hostile behaviour in Armenia. We were extremely disappointed and distressed to have to take such a decision, however we could not put the lives of our participants at risk. Nonetheless, we will be back next year for another Forum of LGBT Christians of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and we are keeping our LGBTI+ siblings in this region in our thoughts. 

Despite the challenges, the Forum has had a fantastic year, from a beautiful Annual Conference in Albano Laziale with all our member groups, to adding new staff members to our team and representing LGBTI+ Christians at multiple events for NGOs across the European continent. In the spirit of hope and light, from all of us on the Board and staff, we wish you a blessed and peaceful Christmas period, however you may be spending it.

We'll be back in touch in 2019! As always, you can like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more regular updates. 

Blessings, and in solidarity,
The EuroForum team
In this edition...
  • European Forum Christmas fundraising campaign
  • Spotlight on our member group, LGBT Catholics Westminster
  • Annual Conference 2019, London: a special preview! 
  • Forced cancellation of our conference in Armenia
  • European Forum book now available in Russian
  • Transgender rights in the USA: our response to recent developments
  • European Forum representatives travel to Talinn, Estonia, for civil servants' meeting

Image may contain: 8 people, including Damir Kurtagic, Elaine Sommers and Carol A Shepherd, people smiling, people sitting and indoor
Board and staff at our most recent meeting in London
A letter from our Treasurer: Christmas fundraiser
The impact of your donations: group photo of all our participants at this year's Annual Conference in Albano Laziale, Italy 

Dear friends,

“So this is Christmas, and what have we done?” This year we could support 15 of our sisters and brothers from Belarus, Croatia, Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Portugal and Russia to participate in our conference in Albano – all thanks to your generous donations. (Read more about the impact of bringing newcomers to the Forum in their own testimonials gathered here.)

So again, I am asking you to continue with the same spirit – let’s support those, who can’t afford the participation in the conference. Please donate to the Agape Fund! Think about the current events in Armenia and Russia where our activities were forced to get cancelled because of the extremely homophobic and hostile environment there, which was life threatening.

By donating to Agape Fund we also we are not giving many of them exclusive opportunity to be in a safe space with people like them. We also in a way invest in our own future. Because some of these activists will be the new generation of the European Forum and go on with our mission and our dream of inclusive and loving churches on our continent and beyond it.

For the first time in the traditional December donations call I also would like to ask you to donate to the European Forum General Fund. The General Fund supports mainly the expenses of the EF Board, all of which are voluntary positions. The General Fund consists of donations and subscription fees only, and lately it was a bit neglected. It is important to understand that the funding raised from various donors like Arcus, OSF etc. is being used for the various projects and Working Group activities, but as a rule it does not cover the costs of the Board meetings and travel. Please don’t be shy to donate even as little as 5€ – this is also money that makes difference. If each of our Yahoo mailing list members donated only 5€ to the General Fund, it would have resulted in 1500€ income. Think about it.

Please specify your donation in remarks by adding “Agape” or “General”. Thank you so much in advance.

The European Forum Bank details:
Triodos Bank
IBAN: NL68 TRIO 0338 5192 11

It is also possible to donate via PayPal, using the email address as a recipient.

May I use this opportunity to wish you all a blessed Advent Season, peaceful Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Best regards,
Matijs Mihelmanis
European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups

Member group spotlight: LGBT Catholics Westminster
The following message comes from our member group, LGBT Catholics Westminster, who are being extremely active in the upcoming preparations for our London 2019 Annual Conference. Learn more about them below!

20 years on for LGBT+  Catholics Westminster

2019 will be a year to remember for the LGBT+  Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council. Not only are we delighted to be co-hosting the European Forum's Annual Conference with other UK-based member groups, but we shall mark the 20th anniversary of Masses welcoming LGBT+ Catholics, parents, families and friends in Westminster Archdiocese, London. It's a bittersweet anniversary because the 1st Mass in a now-closed Convent was celebrated two days after a fascist bomber killed 3 people and an unborn baby, injuring 83 others, in Soho's Admiral Duncan pub.

The LGBT+ Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council is a relatively young member of the European Forum. It was the now defunct but former EF member, the Roman Catholic Caucus of the Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement, which started the Masses in May 1999 and LGBT+ Catholics Westminster has grown independently from those early days. Known as the "Soho Masses", due to our earlier use of Soho's Anglican parish church, St. Anne's, our pastoral activity was eventually recognised by the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster when we were invited to bring life to a "dead" Catholic parish, still in Soho.

This vibrant LGBT+ community went from strength to strength, establishing a unique status within Westminster Catholic Diocese in 2007. However, this soon attracted the toxic attention of fundamentalist Catholics who protested at our presence, complained to Vatican authorities, and published wildly calumnious 'reports' about us. Constant in his support for us, Cardinal Vincent Nichols invited us to relocate from Soho's Church of the Assumption to the nearby Farm Street Jesuit Church in 2013, as a way of detoxifying the situation.

Our highly diverse community, including refugees and asylum seekers from a range of African, Asian and Middle Eastern countries, received a warm welcome from this prominent Jesuit parish church. Our own LGBT+  Pastoral Council is represented on Farm Street Church's Parish Council. We have pages on both parish and diocesan websites, and a monthly entry in the Diocesan Newspaper. We've been amazed by, but also welcomed, a number of LGBT+ people seeking communion with the Roman Catholic Church!

We not only receive from the parish but also contribute through providing musicians, readers and Eucharistic ministers for 2nd & 4th Sunday evening Masses welcoming LGBT+ Catholics. We have an active Younger Adults Group and some of our members are involved in a current Trans Listening Process commissioned by the Catholic Bishops Conference. We also hold an annual World AIDS Mass at the church, when the work of Catholics for AIDS Prevention & Support is displayed for a number of days in a side-chapel. We were also key in the founding of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics.

So, if you're in London for a 2nd or 4th weekend, you'll receive a warm welcome at our 17.30 Masses and social gathering afterwards. 



Forced cancellation of the Forum of LGBT Christians of Eastern Europe in Armenia
In mid-November, the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups and the “New Generation” Humanitarian NGO (Yerevan, Armenia) were forced to announce the cancellation of this year’s Forum of LGBT Christians of Eastern Europe and Central Asia that was due to take place in Yerevan on 15–18 November 2018. We are still deeply distressed and disappointed that political violence, death threats, and vandalism directed at LGBTI people were such a threat that this peaceful gathering could not safely take place. Read more in the press release (English, Polish, Russian, Dutch, Spanish, German, French). You can also read coverage in Gay Star News and
Call for new Board members!
Would you like to be a part of the European Forum's decision-making body? Do you have skills that you'd like to bring to the organisation? Then apply to be a Board member! Open positions this year are Co-President, Secretary, and Eastern European Coordinator. Please contact either Jonathan Brown ( or Olga Gerassimenko ( if you are interested - new Board members will be elected at our AGM in June.  
Our statement about attacks on transgender rights in the USA 
The European Forum was shocked and saddened by the news in October that the US Department of Health and Human Resources has issued a memo to Government Agencies proposing that gender and sex are one, and that they are “determined on a biological basis”, if necessary supported by genetic evidence. Such a rigid viewpoint rules out any possibility of recognition of those with variant gender identity and could also affect some people with intersex conditions. Read our full statement on the troubling developments here.
Cover of Let Our Voices Be Heard!
Key European Forum book now available in Russian
We were excited to announce recently that you can now buy our book, Let Our Voices Be Heard!, in Russian - Пусть услышат наши голоса! (As well as several other languages.) Special thanks to our former Secretary, Ineke Lautenbach, for making this happen. 

WCC at 70: report of the day's celebrations 
On 23 August 2018, the World Council of Churches celebrated its 70th birthday. Read more in this report from some of our Dutch members about how the day of celebration went down!
Thank you celebration for donation to Agape Fund 
Just last week, European Forum Treasurer, Matijs Mihelmanis, travelled to Nauheim, near Frankfurt, Germany, to thank in person the extremely generous parish who last year decided to donate 1,400 euros to the European Forum's Agape Fund (see beginning of this newsletter for our Christmas appeal). The incredible support of this congregation, which belongs to the regional branch of the Protestant Church of Germany (Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland - EKD), helped enable us to plan for the year ahead and to provide much-needed financial support to Annual Conference attendees who would otherwise be unable to come. 


Stefanie and Matijs at the service in Nauheim

"The European Forum Board decided to thank them with the book Let Our Voices Be Heard! and letter of gratitude," says Matijs. "I brought them personally to Nauheim and took part in their service, where Stefanie Bischof, who works as a pastor there, baptised five children. At the end of the service I gave a little speech. I stressed their support was very important and thanked them for their friendship. It was an uplifting experience to be there on second Advent Sunday."

Romanian referendum to change the definition of “family” fails
Back in September, the European Forum urged a boycott of the referendum taking place in Romania (and supported by the Romanian Orthodox Church) to constitutionally alter the definition of "family" to cover married heterosexual couples only, impacting not only LGBTI+ people but also other "unconventional" family set-ups. Thankfully, the referendum failed to reach the 30% electoral turnout required to legitimise it. Read more in our press release here.
Image may contain: 4 people, people sitting and indoor
European Forum representatives at meeting in Talinn, Estonia
In November, Co-President Wielie Elhorst and Programme Officer Misha Cherniak attended a meeting in Tallinn, Estonia for civil servants on LGBTI+ issues, as NGO representatives. Misha can be seen in this photio participating in a panel about multiple discrimination faced by LGBTI+ people and the intersectional approach to non-discrimination, which is a cornerstone of our own approach here at the European Forum.
European Forum goes to ILGA-Europe Conference in Brussels
In November, representatives of the European Forum attended a very fruitful edition of the ILGA-Europe Annual Conference. Watch this space for a more detailed report!

Annual Conference 2019 in London: special preview 

The Board and staff of the European Forum were recently treated to a tour of the accommodation planned for next year's Annual Conference in London, UK. As some of you know, we will be based at the lovely Goodenough College in Bloomsbury, Central London. We also had a very inspiring meeting with the prep team, who are doing a fantastic job. Big thanks to them, and we can't wait until June next year. 

If you want to know more about accommodation, theme, and what else is to come, you can now view a special preview made by the organising team by clicking on the "Preview Leaflet" link at the bottom of this page. 

Watch this space for further information about registering for the Conference, which will become possible within the next few months - we'll also be sending the link via our Yahoo Group, and posting it on Facebook and Twitter
Our meeting with the prep team for London 2019 in November

Upcoming events
  • "Building a Bridge" reflection evenings with LGBT Catholics Westminster | various dates throughout 2018 and 2019, London, UK (more information)
  • ILGA World Conference 2019 | 18-22 March, 2019 in Wellington, New Zealand (more information)
  • European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups Annual Conference 2019 | 26-30 June, 2019 in London, UK
Merry Christmas and a happy New Year from all of us at the European Forum!
Is there something else you'd like to see in our newsletter? Let us know!
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