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?

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