The YMCA and LGBT – thank you

I was the Secretary General of the World Alliance of YMCAs 2011 – 2018. One of the potentially divisive challenges of those years was the LGBT – issue. Being an ordained minister of the Lutheran Church of Norway, I was passionate about the need for justice and full dignity for all our LGBT members. As I took office in early 2011, I initiated a process to lead the organisation to a transparent and clear conclusion to this issue.


Instead of leading a public discourse like so many other organisations did, with heated debates and hurtful formulations leading to unnecessary controversies and trauma, I invited the General Assembly of the global YMCA to appoint a group of representatives from all parts of the world and from all sides of the debate to establish a Safe Space group with time and space to work on these issues and to recommend solutions to the next General Assembly.

I already knew Anthony Venn-Brown of Australia personally. In my mind, he would be the ideal facilitator for this extremely difficult process.

Being a member of this Safe Space group myself, I could observe how this very diversified group of people felt at ease with Anthony’s facilitation, how the process went from phase to phase often with smiles and laughter, and often with deep emotional engagement, all due to the personal skill sets and values Anthony Venn-Brown represented.

After the first session of three full working days, the group was established, had found its methodology and trust and confidence was built, enough to bring the group forward to a phenomenal result a few years after.

Rev Johan Vilhelm Eltvik Past CEO and Secretary General World Alliance of YMCAs.

Rev Johan Vilhelm Eltvik

Past CEO and Secretary General World Alliance of YMCAs

The world’s largest Christian youth organisations had reached consensus to say:

Therefore – the YMCA movement is open and inclusive of all people regardless of their ability, age, culture, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and socio-economic background.

The long-term result of this process for the global YMCA movement is an unprecedented level of inclusivity of minorities and a clear and conscious stand against discrimination and racism of all kinds.

Anthony played a significant role in this process, and on behalf of the Global YMCA Movement, I wrote to him after the process had led us to a great result:

«Dear Anthony, I have a lot to thank you for. You should see your vital contribution to this and rate it as one of your great contributions to LGBT and the Christian communities. You opened a lot of doors and hearts and made this outcome possible.»