After spending almost 24 hours in the air, United Church Moderator Jordan Cantwell is in Indonesia to take part in an international conference and symposium focusing on the challenges faced by faith groups and minorities.
According to the Amplify 16 Conference website, the Jakarta event “brings together LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and questioning) Christians and LGBTIQ-affirming Christians for an opportunity to fellowship, share, learn, worship and be inspired over a weekend.” The conference includes an LGBTQ+ symposium.
Cantwell will open the conference on Friday, speaking of her experience and perspectives on how Canadian churches have struggled with LGBTIQ issues. She will also preach at the closing worship on Sunday morning.
The Amplify Conference was started in 2009 by the Free Community Church, which is the only open and affirming church in Singapore. Since then, the conference has met annually as it pushes for more open and LGBTIQ-affirming ministries in Asia. The conference is held in partnership with the Jakarta Theological Seminary, one of only two LGBT-affirming seminaries in Asia.
“I feel very humbled to have been asked to participate in this conference,” said Cantwell, when reached in Jakarta. “The courage and commitment of the Amplify churches in south Asia and of Jakarta Theological Seminary are inspirational. I hope that by sharing some of our story and the experiences of Canadian churches as we have struggled with LGBTTIQ inclusion I may offer encouragement and solidarity. Please hold all who gather this week at JTS in your thoughts and prayers.”
Accompanying Cantwell on this trip is her daughter Hope and the Rev. Michael Blair, Executive Minister for the Church in Mission Unit of the United Church.
Organizers hope the Amplify Conference evolves into a platform to prepare and ordain new ministers for ministry in Asia. The Amplify Network is not a denomination but churches, ministries, and fellowships that are in covenantal relationship to support one another and are committed to be open and affirming to all people, especially toward gender and sexual minorities.
In his letter inviting Cantwell to the conference, Stephen Suleeman, principal of Jakarta Theological Seminary, explained why he was eager to have her speak at the conference: “Many Indonesian churches are still struggling with LGBTIQ issues, and yet in Canada, for two consecutive terms, [the United Church] has elected an LGTTIQ person to become your Moderator.”
The LGBTIQ community in Indonesia faces many challenges. In another letter to The United Church of Canada, Suleeman noted that “there has been some backlash of the LGBTIQ movement” in his home country. He noted certain government officials have even spoken about the “danger” posed by the LGBTIQ community and how it can be “contagious” for young people.