Third Assembly Input and Results
For two days, our member representatives gathered in five different workshops to evaluate, discuss and propose the guidelines for the Network during the next three years. Each group consisting of 7 to 8 individuals, started with greetings and introductions, which was followed by an initial prayer. Then the workshop Moderator referred briefly to the particular objectives and agenda for the next two days. We’d like to thank each Moderator for their motivation, commitment and creativity to lead each theme and to coordinate the feedback documents that were requested after the Assembly.
In this section, we will review each workshop’s results in terms of the major proposals that will help inform the GNRC strategic agenda.
Mission (Moderator: James Alison)
- Keep the GNRC inner communication lines “On” beyond the Assemblies. The advantage of knowing people around the world is we can personally approach for collaboration or thinking things through. The personal contact by physical meetings or electronic contacts must be developed. Availability and mechanism for consultation and/or collaboration as colleagues working together (not in terms of ‘experts’).
- Full LGBTIQ+ representation. The shape of gay, lesbian, transsexual life is something we must create in our network and share through our GNRC multiple platforms. Only then we can start to change in the wider church. This is an urgent need. We discussed creating useful strategies that open opportunities to engage in supporting LGBTQI+ Catholics.
- Make Proud and Prophetic more than an Assembly statement. In Christianity the sacred is where love is lived because it’s found everywhere, sometimes even inside the institutional church, but never where purity codes rule. The point of being brave is not to make their cowardice look foolish but to create a situation where their cowardice no longer matters.
Visibility (Moderator: Eva Callueng)
- The importance of GNRC visibility as the major unified voice of Rainbow Catholics. Our Church works in a global level but is centralized in the Vatican, then a unified voice is needed beyond the local efforts our local communities may make among laics and the clergy. Together we are stronger, especially under a collaborative context. The Constitution, and the birth of our group is an example of how the GNRC works as a precedent for those LGBTI Catholic groups that work in disguise or are hesitant to meet on a monthly basis.
- The way we portray the GNRC must be an example of its wide diversity. Our diversity is portrayed to everybody, so we move away from the prevalent white/gay/men perspective that prevails among LGBT+ ONG´s. We also have the chance to share our different Church charisms and regional contexts. Both points make help us understand that our local communities obey a history and a local context, but there are special tools and best practices that could also be shared and contributed.
- Our groups history, experience and knowledge are our best assets. We need to recognize the different approaches to the LGBT Catholic phenomena and the transcription/translation into different languages to improve accessibility. Then, local testimonies can make it possible to recognize the common issues and the specific situations faced by Catholic LGBT+. Meanwhile, we must deal with the threats that the most experienced groups are facing, with ageing members and the new ones are aplenty with younger people.
- The need of a strategic Media Plan. We need to set our Media Planning in a more strategic way considering clarity of our target (The Vatican, general Clergy, Laics and other LGBT+´s), the message/language content (prepare official positions and statements in advance of potential controversies and discussions), the tools (Press Releases, Website, Social Networks, Digital Campaigns, Leaflet) and a calendar of implementation (The Yearly Catholic Calendar and exceptional events such as Synods and Vatican Documents launches).
Outreach (Moderator: Robert Shine)
- GNRC functions positively as a global front to counter the hierarchy’s global front. However, change comes from the grassroots in a democratized network that practices subsidiarity. Outreach to and support of the grassroots is thus a central component of any GNRC strategy. A strong global presence requires strong local, national, and regional groups. As of now, GNRC needs to learn more about the grassroots. Many feel not enough is known. But GNRC needs to be a key resource strengthening member groups.
- Explore necessary regionalization given the diverse opportunities / challenges of different contexts. Need “middle management” of regional and national organizers to (a) identify existing Catholic groups, (b) invite them to GNRC membership, (c) build a database of contacts, including ecumenical/interfaith/secular groups, who can help find more groups, and (d) seed and accompany new groups. Board should also consider regional assemblies to increase engagement. Difficulty is that GNRC is a secondary commitment for most people. Could member groups have a person dedicated to GNRC support?
- Develop principles for organizing. Rather than universal strategies and tactics, principles can be adapted to unique contexts. Principles could include: respectful and humble communication, personal testimony, a focus on personal invitations to collaboration, employing GNRC-developed information materials, etc. Most members in our group heard of GNRC by word of mouth; this personalized approach is difficult, but the main way outreach needs to be done.
- Identify the benefits of membership in addition to clearly articulating the mission/vision in an accessible way. Offer a package on the website with promotional information that could be referred to after one-to-one invitations. This material should include videos and be in several different languages. Benefits include being a resource sharing network that allows for solidarity work and reciprocal learning.
- Influence the formation of priests, seminarians, and pastoral workers. These groups are often ill-equipped on gender and sexuality, but opportunities for regular engagement with member groups could lead to them being resources and could start/strengthen groups in their area.
Spirituality (Moderator: Argel Tuason)
- The Importance of GNRC thru its Prophetic role. The GNRC works within the Church as faithful Catholics (not as non-Catholics), allows for a diversity of voices in the conversation and should listen to the Holy Spirit. This calls us to attend to the “signs of the times”. The Network ought to work for theological change (specifically: rethink our theological understandings of gender using psychology, sociology, lived experience, history, etc.).
- Strengths of GNRC including its internal and external resources. We need to keep sharing information with one another: Spiritual, liturgical, communal, social, theological, etc. We also need to engage more deeply in ecumenical dialogue. Some of us are already doing this in our small groups – we can share this information at GNRC.
- Our Hopes for the GNRC. Search and implement the best spiritual and liturgical practices. One such spiritual practice is the contemplative form of prayer called Christian Meditation. One concrete idea offered is a possible collaboration of the GNRC with the World Community for Christian Meditation.
- We need to be more aware of the Language we use. Practice and include non-binary language in prayers, official documents, gatherings, and personal conversations. It is a must to encourage others to be more inclusive and be aware of LGBTQ+ – phobia; not just homophobia.
Capacity (Moderator: Michael Brinkschröder)
- Assisting member-groups in fund-raising. This support was considered crucial for new local organizations to start with grant applications for projects. This best practice should be institutionalized in the future through a regular office hour through which GNRC offers grant writing assistance to its member groups and offer organizational and practical advice for leaders of member groups.
- Rapid PR Response Team. The statement of GNRC on decriminalization needs to be tied to a news event or a campaign, otherwise it can’t create an interest. Vatican statements are a good opportunity for the GNRC to attract media attention. But for this we need a rapid response team that can release a statement within less than 24 hours.
- LBTQ – Women’s Leadership Training. Such leadership trainings are needed for strengthening the position of women in the groups of Rainbow Catholics on all levels, starting with local groups, national and regional as well as global. Lesbian women often need a reference lesbian to feel comfortable enough to get involved. A women’s pre-conference before the 4th Assembly would also be helpful and could be the crowning conclusion of the regional trainings. Another format could be a mentoring program.
- GNRC Office in Rome. This should be a priority for the next Board of GNRC. It would enable our organization to do advocacy for decriminalization and the protection of human rights addressed to the Dicastery’s and the international religious orders as well as to promote best practice examples of rainbow pastoral work. It would also be a good place for holding theological conferences and work together with Embassies of supportive countries.
- Financial Administration. The GNRC needs a clear accounting system. As soon as we get more than one grant, the financial administration gets more complicated and needs a clearer system. The GNRC may need to buy a program for it. The Board may ask its internal auditors for advice as well as other advisors who had implemented similar systems. Also, the extension of the Italian accountant role needs to be reviewed to get the best from it.
- Strategic Plan. The GNRC needs an overall strategic plan that includes all areas of goals (not only the decriminalization campaign). This should be developed in a way that assures the participation of all the member groups and our allies.