“I was really involved in the church from the time I was thirteen until last year. Actually, I think that was really hard because on the one hand I think the church can have a really beautiful impact on people but on the other hand it can have a very negative impact on people. I think being queer in the church is a really hard thing and that made it really hard for me to come out for myself.” Anna’s story reflects quite well a pretty common reality in the lgbtq community when it comes to dealing with church and faith. It is unfortunate that queer individuals can not see church as a friendly place but things are starting to change. The change started in 2022 when with a bold step that departs from church’s traditional norms, the Flemish Bishops issued a document stating their acceptance of the LGBTQ community. The document reflects a broad global conversation surrounding LGBTQ rights and this new commitment to embracing diversity within the church in a time when queer rights are facing numerous challenges takes on added significance. Willy Bombeek the head of the ministry of lgbtq issues in the Flemish church explains that the main key three points of the document are, the welcome and acknowledgment of lgbtq members, the creation of an environment of empathy and understanding that recognizes the unique struggles faced by this community in church and lastly through the creation of a ministry and lastly, a kind of liturgy service and support for same sex couples. “All this things are in line with what the Pope has asked us to do” states Willy Bombeek when highlighting the importance of Pope Francis recent statements regarding the LGBTQ community. Particularly, his sentiments expressed in the papal exhortation “Amoris Laetitia,” and his recent statement during Lisbon’s Youth Week.
Anna, whose past experiences in the church were marked by adversity, shares worries about how difficult it is going to be to change everybody’s minds in this matter but ultimately stays hopeful. In a similar way Bombeek tells us about the worries that these changes are creating in some members of his community but highlights the importance of “hearing each other, not convincing”. And truthfully there are reasons to stay hopeful since the actions from the Flemish bischops and the Pope’s words seem to have had a domino effect in Europe with new initiatives being started in countries like Germany, France or most recently the Uk.