Wednesday, March 27, 2013

An LGBT ministry and conference in El Salvador

As the issue of same sex marriage and LGBT rights dominates US media this week, I thought I would share this article from the Episcopal News Service titled The making of an LGBT ministry in El Salvador.  
It was November 2007. Not long after Torres arrived, a male couple found the church. And then came another gay man and another, and eventually the number grew to six. Bishop of El Salvador Martin Barahona suggested that the group help the diocese begin a ministry on sexual diversity, but the group declined, Torres said. “We said, ‘No, El Salvador isn’t ready.’” 
Two years later, the group was meeting regularly on Saturday afternoons and had doubled in size. 
“We were 12, and we started to talk about our experiences in the [other] churches, and we said maybe it was time to call and invite the people we know,” Torres said. “Half of the people who came wanted to change [their sexual orientation] but that wasn’t our vision or our mission.”... 
The group’s mission was not to make gay people straight, as is the mission of some churches, but rather to help members work through their feelings, Torres explained. “We said: ‘God loves you as you are. If you are gay, it is because of His will, and you have a mission in life.’” 
Since forming the Ministerio de Diversidad Sexual in 2009, a diocesewide ministry, the group has grown to between 25 and 30 people – Roman Catholics, Methodists, Mormons, Evangelicals — many of whom have been received into the church. But evangelizing, Torres pointed out, isn’t the group’s mission either.


The article also talks about a recent first-ever conference on LGBT human rights held in El Salvador hosted by Asistencia Legal para la Diversidad Sexual El Salvador. More than 1,000 people attended the two-day conference.  Presenters talked about human rights, advocacy, solidarity and the societal threats faced by the LGBT community in El Salvador.

US Ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte hosted a reception for presenters at the conference, as descrbed by Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry:
On the eve of the conference’s opening, the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador, the Honorable Mari Carmen Aponte, hosted a reception for Salvadoran and United States conference presenters at the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador.  Ambassador Aponte, who has written forcefully about the importance of LGBT rights in El Salvador, pledged her support for the conference and for continuing the dialogue between the U.S. and El Salvador on this matter.
It was also noteworthy for DeBernardo that the event was held at the Jesuit University of Central America:
One of the most amazing things about the conference is that it took place on the campus of the University of Central America, in San Salvador, the capital.  This is a Catholic school, run by the Jesuits–the same place where six Jesuits and their two housekeepers were assassinated during the civil war.   Omar Serrano, the school’s vice-rector for social outreach warmly welcomed the over 300 participants to this revered Catholic institution.
You can see pictures from the event at the blog of one of the attendees here.



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