Working for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender affirmation within the Anglican Communion.
Wednesday, 15 April 2009
Encouraging news from Spring Harvest for LGBT Christians
For many LGBT Christians, large evangelical conferences like Spring Harvest might seem like the last place you'd expect to find a welcome. Even in recent years, accepting one's gay or trans identity has been positioned as a desperate, but misguided and sinful 'lifestyle choice', of which surely no good can come. Evangelical leaders and preachers who are privately supportive of LGBT people are often nervous of being seen as 'soft on sin' or lacking in Biblical rigour if they acknowledge it in public.
However, this year, Spring Harvest was different.
In the main series of Bible teachings from the main stage, and with the endorsement of the Spring Harvest leadership team, the speaker posed the following question:
'How is it that in the 2000 years since Christ came, we have managed to make generations of gay and lesbian people believe that they are not welcome in our churches?'
Although those speaking fell short of overtly condoning same-sex relationships, much of the teaching appeared to point the way towards a reappraisal of the traditional line on sexuality. Preaching on the circumcision debates in the early church, the question was raised as to what the equivalents for our society might be; what are the unnecessary burdens the church still places on people today as a prerequisite for belonging to the Body of Christ? Exclusion based on sexuality was overtly criticised in the light of this passage. To underline the point, a meditation featuring images of gay and lesbian people was played during worship to help people explore the reality of the fact that God's love extends beyond 'people like me' to include everyone.
All in all, the message was very clear - LGBT people, their partners and their children ARE welcome at Spring Harvest, and should be so in churches which would align themselves with Spring Harvest.
Clearly there is still work to be done in assuring the full inclusion of LGBT people at all levels of leadership in evangelical churches, whether Anglican or not. However, if Spring Harvest is indicative of the mood of the debate in mainstream evangelical Christianity in the UK, then clearly there is not much appetite for falling out of fellowship with other Christians based on issues of sexuality. Encouragingly, it seems that the voices within the church which refuse to acknowledge the experience and faith of LGBT people are increasingly an extremist minority.
To give a sense of the tone of teaching at Spring Harvest this year, a prayer from the main stage:
May God bless us with discomfort At easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships So that we may live from deep within our hearts.
May God bless us with anger At injustice, oppression and exploitation of God's creations So that we may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless us with tears To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war, So that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and To turn their pain into joy
And may God bless us with just enough foolishness To believe that we can make a difference in the world, So that we can do what others claim cannot be done: To bring justice and kindness to all our children and all our neighbours who are poor.
Wimbledon-born, post-war baby, Wandsworth-baptised, attended kindergarten Sunday School at 3, confirmed at 12, saw a new light at 16, never stopped since then chiselling away at myself in faith. Part-time archaeologist in my 20s, 3 years an architect in Basingstoke, where I was given my next vocation, to the priesthood. Studied theology in Cambridge where I was tutored by Dr Rowan Williams. Served as curate at St George’s Camberwell for 3 years and was then sent to St Faith’s Wandsworth to build a new church and school and in 14 years, to be further chiselled, out from the closet and into a more adult, open and confident person. I trained as a psychotherapist in a body-centred school, worked part-time as a hospital chaplain in Roehampton, and in 1995, founded Changing Attitude. CA has grown from small beginnings to an international network with groups in Australia, England, Ireland, Kenya, New Zealand, Nigeria and Scotland. Changing Attitude is ambitiously working for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the Church of England and the international Anglican Communion. I live near Devizes, Wiltshire, where I pray and meditate, garden and cook, and play with a steam railway in the garden.
Rev. Christina Beardsley
The Revd Dr Christina (Tina) Beardsley grew up in West Yorkshire and was educated at Sussex University, where she met her husband, Rob; at St John’s College, Cambridge, where she was a research student; and at Westcott House, where she trained for ordination. She has worked for over three decades in pastoral ministry in the Church of England. In 2000 Tina co-founded the Clare Project, a transgender support group in Brighton & Hove: http://www.clareproject.org.uk/
Tina is the author of The Transsexual Person Is My Neighbour: Pastoral Guidelines for Christian Clergy, Pastors And Congregations, published by the Gender Trust:
Born in the east end of London Brenda followed a career in the Home Office. In 1971 she was appointed as Immigration Officer in the first intake of women to the service, and undertook Diplomatic Service postings to Pakistan and Sierra Leone. She took early retirement in 2003 and worked for Changing Attitude as administrator. She came to faith at an early age in a Baptist Church, and remained an evangelical. Her first real contact with the Anglican Communion was as a member of the congregation of Karachi Cathedral. For twenty years she was involved with the Evangelical Fellowship for Lesbian and Gay Christians, and since 1996 with the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, serving four terms as Co-President. In 2007 she was appointed to the Advisory Committee of the Lesbian and Gay Religious Archive Network. In 1996 she co-authored `Not for Turning’, about the so-called ex-gay movement in the UK. Brenda had been in happy partnership with Pam for twelve years.