The Rainbow Initiative is Episcopal Migration Ministries’ response to General Convention 2022 Resolution D045 “On Supporting LGBTIQ+ Refugees and Asylum Seekers”, which directed the Episcopal Church to promote support for people who have fled their countries because of persecution based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and/or sex characteristics. The Resolution also directs Episcopal Migration Ministries to focus attention on people subject to such persecution, and to offer information on how they could be better supported.

  • Work with Episcopal congregations to bring visibility and aid to LGBTQ+ forced migrants, with a focus on activities in June 2023 including Pride marches and services, and World Refugee Day (June 20th). Through this work, we hope to foster new partnerships involving Episcopal congregations, forced migrants, voluntary resettlement agencies such as EMM, community groups, etc. 
  • Review and revise EMM materials and procedures in order to ensure that they are fully inclusive of LGBTQ+ forced migrants. 
  • Rainbow Initiative brochure/flyer: PDF | Print-ready PDF with crop marks & bleed
  • La Iniciativa Arco Iris folleto en español: PDF | PDF que está lista para imprimir con marcas de corte
  • EMM Webinar: The Rainbow Initiative: An introduction to LGBTQ+ forced migrants​ & what The Episcopal Church can do with and for them​. Webinar resources: On demand video | PPT Slides (English)PPT Slides en español
  • McGuirk, Siobhan, Max Niedzwiecki, Temitope Oke & Anastasia Volkova. (2015). Stronger Together, a Guide to Supporting LGBT Asylum Seekers. LGBT Freedom and Asylum Network.
    This 2015 guide provides comprehensive information about how communities can best serve LGBTQ+ asylum seekers in the United States. It includes sections focused on an introduction to the field, program essentials, types of services, working with clients throughout the asylum process, ethical considerations, institutional models, and fundraising, as well as a directory of helpful organizations.
  • Niedzwiecki, Max. (2023). We Shall Overcome: A Case Study of the LGBT Asylum Task Force, a Parish Ministry. In Goździak, E.M., Main, I. (eds), Debating Religion and Forced Migration Entanglements. Politics of Citizenship and Migration. Palgrave Macmillan Cham.
    This chapter outlines the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ forced migrants, with a special focus on the role of religion in motivating persecution as well as assistance and resilience. It also provides a case study of the LGBT Asylum Task Force in Worcester, Massachusetts. The Task Force is a ministry of Hadwen Park Congregational Church, UCC, and is the only program in the U.S. dedicated to providing wrap-around services, including housing, to LGBTQ+ asylum seekers. 
  • Video: LGBTQ+ Asylum Seekers in the US: Strengths, Challenges, and What it Means to ‘Belong’. This is an extended version of a video that was first presented at the Reconciling Panel Discussion staged at Church of the Good Samaritan in Knoxville, TN, on June 25, 2023, in connection with Episcopal Migration Ministries’ Rainbow Initiative. In it, Craig Mortley presents a brief account of his own experience as a gay asylum seeker, and explores the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ asylum seekers as well as the contributions they make to their new communities. In addition, he introduces his concept of “belonging”: What does it mean for an LGBTQ+ asylum seeker to really belong in a church or other community as a fully human being whose identity transcends victimhood and struggle?

member states of the United Nations explicitly criminalize same-sex relationships, including five that impose the death penalty
openly LGBTQ+ people enter the U.S. refugee protection system on an annual basis
openly LGBTQ+ people apply for asylum

LGBTQ+ people are often subject to what has been called “religious abuse.” Abuse and social exclusion often continue in refugee camps and resettlement countries. Many LGBTQ+ people flee as individuals and seek asylum once they have reached relative safety, and are thus not able to benefit from the U.S. refugee resettlement and protection programs. LGBTQ+ forced migrants in the U.S. are more likely to be asylees than refugees.

Seeking asylum in the U.S. is especially difficult for LGBTQ+ people due to their social isolation and other factors. Federal funds cannot be used to provide most services to asylum seekers. In addition, most are unable to work legally for at least 180 days after they file their asylum applications, and very little philanthropic attention is directed towards them. These hardships are compounded by their lack of social support.

For more information about the Rainbow Initiative, please contact [email protected].