A grand ocean liner under a radiant rainbow: even from a distance, the impressive exhibit could be seen in the Olympic Hall. The booth caught the attention of most visitors just inside the east entrance of the Hall. Those who investigated further discovered a holiday landscape with a cruise ship, deck chairs, sand, and a beach bar. Thus Rainbow-NAC presented itself at the first International Church Convention (ICC) of the New Apostolic Church with the motto “all inclusive”.
"All inclusive" - isn’t just a holiday gimmick, but the Church is serious about it. The theme was created by Rainbow-NAC for the ICC event. In the congregations, there will be room for everyone regardless of who they are, how they live, or whom they love because diversity enriches. The principle of “all inclusive” permeated all aspects of the exhibit. The association to a vacation cruise was designed to stimulate the curiousity of attendees and invite them to investigate and come in. The results: several thousand ICC participants attended the booth over the three days of the event.
Information, advice and a sympathetic ear
Rainbow-NAC assisted visitors with an alternating team of 25 committee members at the booth. They stood to answer questions, held discussions, and invited the attendees to look at the hands-on activities. Among the visitors were gay, bisexual and transgender church members, as well as heterosexual members, ministers, and guests. Many visitors came with questions about what the group does and the situation of gay, bi-, and transgender members of the New Apostolic Church. Others had personal inquiries and asked for a sympathetic ear and advice. Representatives of the parents initiative of Rainbow-NAC were on the spot and held discussions with concerned parents and relatives.
On colorful cocktail tables, visitors could fill out a survey that was created especially for the conference. Personal experiences and attitudes about gay, bi-, and transgender people were polled. Over 1,600 visitors participated with the questionnaire, the results of which will be published in a few weeks here. Seating accomodations were provided in the rear of the booth. Attendees could go there to speak with members of Rainbow-NAC or to just relax. Also, there was a cabana where confidential discussions could take place in private.
"All inclusive"- the photo op
Set against the backdrop of the cruise ship, a photo op was present for any of the visitors who wanted to have a picture made in a holiday motif. The images were immediately printed out and hung on two large walls in the middle of the booth, hence a large collage of several hundred people was gradually created symbolizing “all inclusive”, the concept which the Church should symbolize. The ICC participants could also write their thoughts and opinions on colorful post-its and hang them on a billboard. The result was a rainbow wall full of greetings and wishes.
The printed literature offered by the Rainbow-NAC committee stimulated great interest. Buttons with “Love is Colorful”, “Congregations are Colorful”, and “Church is Diverse” as well as postcards in a colorful holiday motif were free. Informative fliers in German and English explained the objectives and activities of the group. The committee also created an 8-page pamphlet for the ICC that expressed what the motto “all inclusive” meant from different perspectives. In brief paragraphs, brothers, sisters, and ministers from around the world explained what “all inclusive” meant to them in the Church. The ICC pamphlet, pictures of the promo items, and more informational materials are available to download from the Rainbow-NAC website.
The Chief Apostle visit
Rainbow-NAC International had personally invited all participating District Apostles in advance as well as European Apostles via a formal invitation. Quite a few of them accepted. The discussions with them dealt with the situations of gay, bi-, and transgender members in their respective districts as well as their international areas of responsibility. On Saturday afternoon, Chief Apostle Jean Luc Schneider visited for a few moments on Saturday afternoon and spoke with the members. In earlier discussions, the Chief Apostle had reported that homosexuality constitutes a huge problem, especially for the Church in Africa. Homosexuality is regarded as sin there, and affected parties will be rejected. In view of this perception, the Chief Apostle asked for understanding, and that no change of the official statement of the Church on homosexuality will be forthcoming, short- or intermediate-term.
In addition to his presence at the booth, Rainbow-NAC offered two events. Parents were invited to a lecture and forum on Friday for the parents’ initiative. Helmut Simon and Jürgen Weiß explained the objectives of the initiative, and the problems and challenges that families of LGBT people often face. District Apostle Markus Fehlbaum subsequently joined in and participated in a round table discussion. Among other things, he reported on the progress being made on a guideline for individual pastoral care for gay, bi-, and transgender brothers and sisters that is being developed in his district with participation of Rainbow-NAC.
Round table meeting with District Apostles and members
The round table meeting posted on the marquee in front of the Olympic Hall, "Meet Rainbow-NAC”, attracted over a hundred visitors on Saturday. Prominent guests at the round table meeting facilitated by André Weiß were District Apostles Wilfried Klingler and Bernd Koberstein. Klingler, who was involved in the talks between the Church and Rainbow-NAC from the from the very beginning, related the history, topics, and development of the official talks. Additionally, he spoke about the challenges that are currently faced by the difficult situation in Africa. Koberstein’s presentation related his personal experiences and conversations from parent’s perspectives. Peter and Ann-Katrin of Rainbow-NAC gave an insight into activities of the group and their personal experiences with the Church. District Apostle Klingler celebrated his 65th birthday on the very day of the event. Those present sang him a song and surprised him with a rainbow cake. In addition, he received an umbrella in the colors of the rainbow, with which he became the first "patron" of the group.
Accomplishments after three days: countless encounters, many personal conversations, a tremendous positive feedback, the impression that visibility had been accomplished to a broad spectrum of the Church, assurance from all the conversations that the work done is important, and the knowledge that we still have quite a way to go in terms of Africa and other parts of the world. But the lasting impression: there are many more steps to take in the future. The belief that "all inclusive" in the Church is possible - if we all work at it.
We say Thank You!
Rainbow-NAC would like to thank all those who contributed to make our presence at the ICC possible. In addition to numerous private donors, thanks are due to the European District Apostles who financed the bulk of the booth’s construction as well as donations that made the printed literature and hand-outs possible. We thank for all your support and the appreciation of our related work!