About two dozen people gathered June 25 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Logan Square to hear from the Rev. Pieter Oberholzer, founder and chief financial officer of Inclusive and Affirming Ministries (IAM), the largest faith based LGBTQ-rights organization in Africa.
He was in Chicago, by way of his home country of South Africa, to speak to members of the faith community about how religious leaders in Africa still adhere to patriarchal and fundamentalist values and how that mindset hurts women and the LGBTQI community.
Rev. Jen Rude of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries shared what her group is doing to expand ministry opportunities for publicly identified LGBTQ people to become ordained ministers and lay rostered leaders in the Lutheran Church.
Oberholzer told the crowd that he is a non-practicing minister due to his sexual orientation and because he has a partner, Fanie Zondagh, a music teacher. "We don't have any welcoming or affirming programs of any denominations in South Africa because we don't have a community of people concerned with LGBTI rights," said Oberholzer.
He added challenging authority is against the culture because they are a clan people. Although South Africa has one of the most progressive constitutions for LGBT people, there is still violence in the Black communities and many religious and political leaders in his country would like to see LGBT rights removed from South African law, Oberholzer remarked.
Chicago is not his only stop in North America; Oberholzer will be traveling to other parts of the United States as well as Canada and Mexico. IAM has also been building partnerships with other southern African organizations to help them integrate sexuality with spirituality so they are empowered to become more welcoming, inclusive and affirming of their LGBTI members.