What is RICE all about?

The aim of the Rainbow Index of Churches in Europe (RICE 2020) research project is to rate the inclusivity of churches by country in regard to LGBTI people in Europe.

Why was RICE deemed necessary?

It is common knowledge that successful advocacy for change is impossible without data. Up until now, the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups and its partners have operated based on so-called anecdotal data: stories and testimonies of LGBTI persons of faith. While incredibly rich and diverse, these narratives have only showed a glimpse of the challenges and signs of hope experienced by LGBTI persons in Christian churches. Though presenting the whole complex reality of thousands of Christian communities of all levels, from parishes to global denominations, with their different traditions and structure, would be impossible, the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups decided to make the next step possible: to collect and analyse data on the official position of churches in Europe on their national levels.

Who organised RICE?

The European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups has cooperated with the Protestant Theological University in the Netherlands in order to carry out this research using an 'inclusivity Index'.

Who was on the team of RICE?

From the side of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, the project was led by Wielie Elhorst (former Co-President of EF and RICE Research Volunteer) and Misza Czerniak (Board Member of EF), supported by Rachael Stockdale (RICE Research Officer). From the side of the Protestant Theological University in Amsterdam, the research was led by Heleen Zorgdrager (Professor of Systematic Theology and Genderstudies) and Rein Brouwer (Associate Professor of Practical Theology), assisted by Pilar d’Alo (until December 2020) and Rachael Stockdale (in the final stage of the project).

Who financed this research?

The European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups attracted funding from several sources, including the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands, Council for World Mission, and Open Society Foundation.

What is the “inclusivity index”?

The ‘inclusivity Index’ is an index that rates the inclusivity of churches and presents the situation by country in regard to LGBTI people. The data this research produces are the values (no point, half-a-point, full point) of the 47 presented indicators of inclusivity per church. Co-researchers then evaluate each indicator and assign a value to it. These values are calculated to produce a final score which will indicate the inclusivity of that church.

How many indicators are there?

There are 47 indicators.

How did you choose the indicators?

The academic team from the Protestant Theological University along with the RICE team of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups worked together on creating four categories of indicators: institutional equality and non-discrimination, language and speech, church practices and public policy. These categories (or thematic fields) are essential to measure the full dimension of inclusivity of a church. There was also input from the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups working groups and feedback from the annual conferences.

How did you choose the churches included in this research?

There was an effort to try to include as many majority churches as possible in this research, as well as smaller churches where we could find a co-researcher willing to participate. The European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups also put a call out inviting any suggestion of other churches to be included.

Who answered the questionnaires about each church?

Co-researchers who have local knowledge of the church. This research could not have been possible without the collaboration of these co-researchers, who volunteered their time to assess their local and national church(es). They know from experience about the lived realities of inclusion and exclusion in their churches, they have built rich theoretical knowledge regarding the policies, practices, speech, and statements of their churches, and they are aware of the historical developments at the intersection of the Church and LGBTI. They are epistemologically best positioned and therefore qualified as co-researchers.

Who were the co-researchers participating?

Among our co-researchers there were 44 persons from almost 30 countries: LGBTI persons and allies, lay and ordained, theologians and activists. For some of them, public disclosure of their names as co-researchers could put them at risk of harassment or violence. Therefore, a decision was made not to include full names of the co-researchers in the report. In order to honour them and acknowledge their participation in this research at least symbolically, we publish here their initials: AC, AF, AK, AR, AR, ARV, AS, BB, BBJ, CH, CV, DI, DM, EG, FB, GS, GT, IF, II, IS, JB, JG, JH, JMP, JO, JSW, KG, LT, MA, MB, MC, MD, MD, MM, MM, MN, MS, MS, OG, SH, TB, TP, UG, VB.

What did the co-researchers use to answer the questionnaires?

The co-researchers answered the questionnaires based on their local expertise of the nuances of their church, their own experiences, websites, social media, newsletters, church journals, legal documents, formational material, educational material, liturgies of public worship, book of prayer/worship, liturgy, newspaper reports, public interviews, polls, research results etc.

Why is my church not included in this research?

Unfortunately there were some occasions when we could not find a co-researcher to answer on behalf of a certain church. It is our hope that in future editions of this research more churches will be added. If you would like to submit information on your church, please contact us here.

How will RICE and the outcomes of the research be used?

For the very first time such a comprehensive picture of the situation in European churches in terms of their openness towards LGBTI persons was drawn. Now, having solid data in hand, the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups and other activists working in the area of faith and LGBTI issues will be able to base their narrative not only on personal stories but also on a wide and deep analysis of the situation, policies and practices of churches. Church leaders get a bird’s eye view on their church current standing in the ranking and on the real lives and struggles standing behind those figures. Politicians and representatives of international organisations will have more insight on how inclusion and equality translate into the language of religious bodies and how more justice can be achieved within those bodies and, with their help, in the whole society. And, last but not least, now you, a visitor of RICE website and a reader of RICE report, can spread the message! You can draw the attention of your fellow church members to the concrete data on the drastic realities experienced by LGBTI persons in various corners of Europe. And together, you can make your voice heard: you can push you church to revise its position taking into consideration the recommendations included in the report.

Will there be future editions of RICE?

This is the first year of RICE including the launch of the project, the development of the inclusivity index and the recruitment of co-researchers. It is our hope that this research will be continued in the future.

How can I become involved with future editions of RICE?

Please contact us here if you would like to be involved in future editions of RICE.

How were academic standards met in defining the index and executing the research?

  1. The academic team started with developing a theoretical framework and choosing ‘inclusivity’ as the key concept. Inclusivity adequately describes the intrinsic nature of the church as an institution and community. The concept of inclusivity was defined from social scientific and theological theories of inclusivity, specifically pertaining to sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics. The queer approach was helpful to arrive at a critical concept of inclusivity that was able to uncover realities of false inclusion, performative inclusion (saying but not doing), or peripheral inclusion (silencing voices from the margins).
  2. The academic team then operationalised the exploratory framework of inclusivity by constructing an ‘index’, a set of indicators, i.e. observable and measurable entities, in the form of 47 statements which all say something about various aspects of inclusivity of a church.
  3. In executing the research, the academic team chose a relational, or collaborative, approach. They worked with members of the local groups of the European Forum as co-researchers who have the necessary expertise, are epistemologically best positioned, and therefore qualified as co-researchers. The co-researchers received detailed instruction how to work with the questionnaire and how to value the indicators according to a three-response format. They were also provided with a glossary of the terms used in the research.
  4. The co-researchers were asked to add narrative explanations to sustain the scores on the indicators, and to provide references to official documents, websites, media reports, public statements, and so on, to validate the research from different tools and sources (mixed methods approach). The project research officer was always available to help in case of questions.
  5. Not all European countries have local groups of the European Forum. In countries where there were none, through personal connections (in view of guaranteeing the safety of co-researchers) the project team was able to find qualified persons who were willing to do the research for the church(es) in their country.
  6. During the process of research, the academic team remained open to critical comments from the co-researchers. When the questionnaires returned (October–December 2020) with the scores and the comments, it became clear that not all the questions were formulated as precise and unequivocal as intended. In particular, the Roman Catholic Church Working Group of the European Forum provided excellent constructive commentary on the questions. The formulations or other aspects of the research methodology were not adjusted during the process, but the feedback helped the research team to remain critical and careful in the analysis and interpretation.
  7. Agreements on data storage and preservation (Data Management Plan) were included in the contract between the European Forum and the Protestant Theological University, according to the Netherlands Code of Conduct for Research Integrity.