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World Congress of Families (WCF)

World Congress of Families (WCF)
A worldwide network of Christian conservative organizations based in the United States, WCF is coordinated by the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society and the International Organization for the Family. It operates primarily as a series of international and regional conferences—congresses—that unite ‘natural family’ activists. An interreligious organization, the WCF enjoys the support of Catholic, Orthodox, and LDS leadership and clergy.

Established in 1997, the WCF was born from discussions between conservative historian Allan Carlson and the sociologists Anatoly Antonov and Victor Medkov. These discussions focused on Carlson’s work on ‘demographic winter’ and what he believed to be the role of feminism and homosexuality in a supposed decline of white, Western populations. These ideas were heavily influenced by the work of Pitrim Sorokin, a Harvard sociologist who argued that a rural lifestyle rooted in a traditional family model is the only sustainable model of human existence. Following these discussions, Carlson founded the WCF out of a desire to unite Christian conservatives across Europe and the United States. Since then, the WCF has advanced the cause of the ‘natural family’ around the world.  

WCF exerts its influence primarily through its member organizations. These organizations are all united in a conservative Christian worldview advocating for the so-called ‘natural family’. Members include:

  • Alliance Defending Freedom
  • Christian Concern
  • CitizenGo
  • Family Watch International 
  • Heartbeat International
  • Human Life International 
  • Hazte Oir
  • National Organization for Marriage.

Many of these are US-based organizations with global reach. Partnerships beyond Europe and the US have slowly expanded. 

The WCF has taken a keen interest in Eastern Europe, taking advantage of the wave of reaction that swept the region after the collapse of its socialist state system. In 2007, it held a major congress at the Palace of Science and Culture in Warsaw, attended by some 3,900 delegates. Ellen R. Sauerbrey, the US Assistant Secretary of State for population, refugees, and migration, was set to attend, but pulled out after pressure from the European Parliament. (She represented the US at an earlier congress in Mexico City.) The WCF has also claimed credit for inspiring Russia’s 2013 “gay propaganda” legislation.

WCF’s influence has continued to grow throughout Europe. Victor Orbán opened the 2017 Congress, which was hosted in Hungary. The 2019 Congress, hosted in Italy, was opened by Italian Deputy Prime Minister, Matteo Salvini, leader of the Liga party. US ambassadors have previously attended WCF conferences. The connections include guest speakers such as the founder of Hazte Oir and CitizenGo, Ignacio Arsuaga, who is a Board Member of the WCF. Brian S Brown, current President of the World Congress of Families, was previously president of the National Organization for Marriage. He sits on the board of CitizenGo. 

Beyond Europe, WCF activism has been tied to homophobic legislation in Uganda, Nigeria, and Ghana. In 2019, WCF hosted a conference in Ghana where delegates discussed bringing forward anti-homosexuality legislation. The Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill was introduced to parliament shortly thereafter. At the global level, the WCF publishes a United Nations Negotiating Guide with the help of United Families International. Members such as Family Watch International hold consultative status at the UN Economic and Social Council.