Working for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender affirmation within the Anglican Communion.
Sunday, 26 July 2009
LGBT Voices at Greenbelt
As one of the organisers of OuterSpace, one of the organisations which is providing LGBT content at Greenbelt this year, I'm a bit baffled as to why Lisa Nolland is so incensed by the fact that Greenbelt permits our involvement in the festival.
I'm also an evangelical, and core to my faith is the belief that salvation comes through Jesus Christ. As far as I'm aware, it doesn't come through holding a particular position on homosexuality, although from the way Lisa talks, you might think that it did.
Of course I also believe that scripture is instructive and authoritative for Christians. But on lots of issues, including divorce, the flatness of the earth, women in ministry, evolution, contraception, polygamy and the rightness of slavery, the Bible has appeared to point in a different direction to what most evangelical churches in the UK would now believe. Findings from science and personal experience have rightly always affected and qualified how evangelicals interpret scripture.
This doesn't of course mean that people who would argue for a revision on the acceptability of gay relationships, on this token alone, are necessarily right.
But it does mean that even evangelicals need to look at the new evidence prayerfully, sensitively and intelligently, and listen to the experience of gay Christians and of secular experts in the field, before coming to any hard and fast conclusions either way.
The reality is that even in the USA, the only Western country where there is any significant ex-gay movement, the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Psychoanalytical Association all believe that homosexuality should not be treated as a mental disorder, and that human sexuality cannot be changed using reparative therapy. What's more, the evidence from the world around us is that lots of gay and lesbian people are leading long-term, mutually fulfilling relationships. (Lots of gay people aren't, as Lisa noted from the recent Pride events, but nor are lots of straight people.)
I can understand why Lisa Nolland's understanding of the Bible may lead her to a place where she believes that gay relationships are unacceptable. However, what I can't understand is how she can be so certain of that, so certain that she would not even allow LGBT people to have a voice in any Christian context.
At Changing Attitude, and in OuterSpace's sessions at Greenbelt, we do not seek to silence the voice of ex-gay experience, and we welcome public debate. We are all Christians, and all part of the Body of Christ, and therefore our intention is not to vilify or caricature those who would disagree with us. Rather we seek to provide opportunities for LGBT Christians to explore how to live out their faith and their sexuality or gender identity in a constructive and spiritually healthy way. Some may indeed come to the conclusion that an ex-gay movement might be the appropriate way forward. We're simply keen people make that decision from a place of knowledge, rather than ignorance.
If the Bible is as clear as Lisa Nolland makes it out to be, and the claims of the ex-gay movement are as convincing as she would have us believe, then surely there is nothing to fear in allowing people to hear the other side of the argument, and make up their own minds?
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.