Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sexuality and Faith, November 12,13, Chennai, INDIA

I leave for India Monday to attend a consultation in Chennai entitled "Sexuality and Faith."   I have been an Episcopal Priest for almost 10 years, an Indian for 37, and I had not planned, in the words of Mordecai,  for such a time as this.   Because of dumb luck and kind friends, I know this meeting is happening.  Because I am a sucker, I will frame a few of the conversations we will have together.  Because God is great, I will hear anew the words of gospel liberation entrusted to every generation in every culture in my home.  I did not think to imagine this day.

This consultation is for Indian Christians, primarily Christians engaged in the HIV/AIDS work in India.  The statement of purpose is below.  The list of speakers is impressive.  Almost all from distinguished local Universities and a few visitors from the U.S. like me.   It makes me wonder who we've decided we're listening to in our Anglican Communion listening process.  If you are interested in supporting these kinds of conversations, please contact me.  We would like to do this annually, all over India.

I will  post and/or twitter [wsvarghese] while we're meeting.  Please include our meeting in your prayers.

Chennai, India
November 12-13, 2009

            The purpose of this consultation is to engage Christians in conversations regarding Christian faith and human sexuality, with a particular focus on enhancing sexual health in relation to HIV and AIDS.

            Discussing the relationship between human sexuality and faith proves difficult in almost any part of the world.  Yet if religious leaders are to be both pastoral and prophetic, education and dialogue are imperative.

            As India confronts the world-wide pandemic of HIV and AIDS, certain formerly taboo topics must be examined.  Not only must the sexual orientation and practices of heterosexual persons be explored openly and candidly, but also the sexual orientation and practices of other persons, such as men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender persons.    The latter two groups are highly stigmatized by both society and religious communities in India.  Their needs are overlooked, even at a time when UNAIDS is emphasizing that prevention (and other) messages must be specifically targeted their way.

            The recent ruling in the Delhi High Court overturning legal discrimination against same sex relationships has been met with great hostility by certain leaders within the Christian community.   Often the human rights of gays and lesbians are totally devalued

This conference on “sexuality and faith” will provide traditional and alternative Christian voices and visions of mission and ministry.    Possibly the deliberations will yield a public statement that will provide a contrasting theological perspective on issues related to human rights and sexual health.

Persons, who are generally marginalized and stigmatized in conversations among Christians, would have an opportunity to share their perspectives.  This consultation would provide an opportunity for persons in the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender community of India to speak in a safe understanding setting, as well as for other Christians who stand in solidarity with them.

Sponsored by: Concern for AIDS Research and Education Foundation, India
In association with: Center For the Church and Global AIDS, USA