In a move that signals wider acceptance for the LGBT community, the Tamil Nadu Theological Seminary in Madurai held a two-hour seminar on gender and sexuality on Friday. Around 30 students, who are being trained as pastors for Tamil churches, attended the seminar by Gopi Shankar, an intersex person and queer rights activist.
Gregory Basker, Dean of Tamil Nadu Theological Seminary, says, “The seminar is a part of the curriculum for students who are training to join the ministry. The idea is to give them face to face exposure to social issues and problems.” The seminary, a conglomerate of the Church of South India (CSI), and the Lutheran Church offers a Bachelors in Divinity and a Masters in Theology.
“I gave them an introduction on how to accommodate gender variants and LGBT people who are part of the church. We are really happy that they are recognising us and allowing us to educate the church about our issues,” says 25-year-old Gopi Shankar, who was the first openly intersex person to contest in the Assembly Elections in 2016.
As the next step, Basker says the seminary plans to invite Shankar to speak to over 200 students at its campus to sensitise them to gender issues. “We are trying to promote values that all creations are equal and there should not be any discrimination. The LGBT community, which is marginalised, should also be integrated into the church just like the poor and the downtrodden,” says the Dean.
While the CSI and Lutheran come under the Protestant Church, the Roman Catholic Church under Pope Francis has also signalled a new era of acceptance for gays. Last month, Pope Francis said Christians owe apologies to gays and others who have been offended and exploited by the church.