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Presbyterians to host symposium on LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers

Two-day gathering to help equip pastors and church leaders in ministry

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE – First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York is hosting a two-day symposium on the challenges facing LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers. The church, working alongside several ministries within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), will host the gathering entitled “Love Welcome” on Oct. 20–21.

“The symposium will help equip congregations and pastors who wish to be in ministry with LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers and help them understand all of the complex systems they go through,” said Susan Krehbiel, catalyst for Refugees and Asylum with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. “This also gives attendees the opportunity to talk with each other about what this ministry looks like.”

The 221st (2014) General Assembly of the PC(USA) adopted a resolution entitled “the Global Crisis for LGBT People and their Families: A Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Response.” The resolution acknowledges that homosexuality is illegal in 81 countries as well as the persecution that people are facing around the world.

“The conference began as a conversation we had with First Presbyterian Church, and as we talked, we began discussing how this issue intersects with so many ministries within the national church including PDA, the Office of Immigration Issues and Office of Public Witness,” said Ryan Smith, director of the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. “I think the church has spoken very clearly on the need to take action in support of LGBT refugees and asylum seekers and this conference is one way to do that.”

Krehbiel says the persecution doesn’t end when the refugees cross U.S. borders.

“We have found that LGBT persons are at much higher risk of violence in detention centers, not only by guards and detention employees, but also from other detainees,” said Krehbiel. “We’ve heard where some individuals have been placed in solitary confinement for their own protection. The risk of being traumatized is all the higher because not everyone is so welcoming and accepting.”

The symposium will include panel discussions on specific needs of the LGBT community currently in detention as well as testimonials from individuals who have faced persecution in their own countries.

“We’ll also look at physical and mental health challenges and the PC(USA)’s response nationally and globally,” said Smith. “It is important for pastors and congregational leaders to be aware of all of the challenges faced both here and abroad.”

“We are thankful for the leadership of First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York for hosting as well as being the lead organizer of this event,” said Krehbiel. “This kind of event offers a good opportunity for us to engage at the congregational level. Our plan is to use the conference to produce new resources so that those who can’t attend will have new tools that will be useful in ministering to the needs of LGBT persons.”

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In addition to First Presbyterian Church, the symposium is sponsored by Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the Office of Public Witness, Office of Immigration Issues, the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations and More Light Presbyterians. Participating organizations include the Organization for Refugee, Asylum and Migration (ORAM), Brooklyn Community Pride Center and International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP).  The registration cost is $50.


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