Over the weekend of October 5 through 8 2017, over 30 people from around Europe and America met in Werder, Germany for the first Frith Forge conference. In attendance we had leaders from 10 different countries (UK, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Netherlands, United States, and Canada) representing 16 different organizations. From my understanding this kind of event has been tried before, but it hasn't worked well, and hasn't attracted people from the Americas.
This conference came out of discussions on The Troth's International Relations and Exchange Program group where many people wanted to meet in person. It became clear in the planning that the event needed to only involve people and groups that promote inclusive practices. This lead to the focus of the conference to be on inclusive heathenry and how we can work to minimize the power of the non-inclusive groups.
For me, the conference can be seen as two parts. The first part is we were introducing ourselves, our groups, and getting to know each other. What I found interesting is that there really is not that big a difference between all the groups, be it practice or commitment to the ideals of inclusion. The European groups in general were all very similar in policies, mostly because they face similar laws and cultural ideas. The American groups though face some slightly different laws, but culturally there are greatly different expectations. The most stark example of that is the role of the clergy. Americans expect their clergy to be their go-to person for most anything. They expect that their clergy person will be there to give them advice, and provide pastoral counseling. They also expect their clergy to be knowledgeable in everything and able to solve their own problems and issues. This view of what the clergy are in the states does not exist in Europe. Europe it is more that the clergy are knowledgeable in the lore and rituals... but the counseling aspects are minimal to non-existent.
The second, and the most important part of the conference involved the many discussions we had about how we can be inclusive, what that means, and how do we combat the groups out there that are not. We mostly agreed on inclusivity means accepting all that desire to be inclusive. So, skin color, sex, sexual orientation, physical abilities, and any other similar attribute are welcome. What is not welcomed are those that want to stand in the way of anyone practicing our religion. Yes, this is a paradox, we have to be closed to those against our purpose, but an inclusive group is only as inclusive as it's least inclusive member.
There were also the starts to many friendships around the globe at this conference. We have agreed that we want to keep working on this as a working group, or an umbrella organization. There will be more on this when things start to happen. For now, all I can confidently say is that it is in the works. I encourage you to look at the conference website at: https://events.thetroth.org/frith-forge/2017 and see what groups were present, some of the people that were in attendance, and some of the sessions that were presented.