Wednesday 26 August 2009

Greenbelt 2009: First post

Well good evening,

This will be the first of several posts from the Greenbelt festival in Cheltenham.  Several of us at Changing Attitude will be blogging the latest goings on over the weekend, assuming the combination of camping, rain, mud and laptops does not cause IT meltdown.

On top of my involvement in Changing Attitude, I'm personally also involved in OuterSpace, which is just one of the LGBT groups involved in providing LGBT-focused content at Greenbelt, and creating a space where LGBT Christians can get together and have fellowship.  

When OuterSpace started working with Greenbelt at 2007, we were really interested in taking a different tack to many of the seminars on LGBT issues many of us had attended previously at Greenbelt and other Christian festivals.   This is how we described what we were trying to achieve, which in many ways also echoes the approach of Changing Attitude:

OuterSpace is committed to the church and to helping everyone find their way in the church, no matter what their background.

We try to look beyond the dry intellectual debates that surround the whole area of gender and sexual orientation, and to focus instead on hearing the stories of real people’s faith, in order to understand the different journeys that LGBT Christians are on.

It is by humanising the debates, by sharing experiences and by engaging in constructive dialogue that the church, in all its forms, can begin to reflect the reality of the world around it, and start to make a positive difference in people's lives – both within and outside the church.

Each year at Greenbelt, OuterSpace will outwork this belief by hosting speakers, discussions, times of reflection and times of fellowship - all with the aim of supporting LGBT Christians on their journeys of faith, and helping all churches to understand what it means to have LGBT people as part of their communities.

It was in some ways amusing, in other ways rather disturbing to see our words quoted on the Anglican Mainstream blog earlier this year as evidence of the 'gayification' of UK evangelicalism.  Needless to say, nobody gets 'gayified' at Greenbelt (whatever that means) unless being 'gayified' means opening your mind to the possibility that LGBT people are often well-balanced individuals with a genuine faith.   My goodness, what a dangerous liberal idea..

One of the most valuable things we've done as part of OuterSpace, and which we'll be doing again this year, is our stall in the Greenbelt resource centre.  There we've heard all kinds of stories from all kinds of people.  Young people who have been forced to leave churches, parents of LGBT people who have fallen out with longstanding Christian friends over it, vicars and pastors looking to understand how they can reach out to LGBT people in their own congregations and communities.   

It's sad that even in 2009, often the only perspective on LGBT people you'll hear at Spring Harvest or New Wine is one which either denies the existence of LGBT people, or caricatures us as deluded, confused, or worse.  (It goes without saying that this flies in the face of the vast majority of professional opinion, not to mention the reality of so many healthy happy LGBT people in the UK.)  However loving the intention of such groups, the effect is in so many cases simply to drive people away from the church, and even away from God.  

That's why we are so grateful to Greenbelt for allowing us the opportunity to suggest to LGBT people on the brink of leaving church that there IS another way, and that there is good news in the church for LGBT people.

On the cusp of another Greenbelt, we're looking forward to being able to report back positive stories of LGBT Christians getting on with their lives, and doing great things for God, their churches, families and communities.

And if you're coming along, or just are interested to see what we'll be up to this year, please do check out the OuterSpace website:

Bye for now - I'm off to track down my waterproof trousers...



  1. AIDS Rate 50 Times Higher in Homosexual Men: Center for Disease Control - Look at this biased nonsense out today

    An official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the CDC's estimate Monday that in the United States AIDS is fifty times more prevalent among men who have sex with men ('MSM') than the rest of the population. Dr. Amy Lansky revealed this statistic during a plenary session at the 2009 HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta.

  2. Some reminders of the importance and value of the Outerspace/Changing Attitude work.

  3. Funny you should mention hacking.

    Christian dating site for those who want to find someone who shares a belief in fundamentalist Christianity has been hacked.

    The hackers apparently were from an online group called 4chan. These were the guys who hacked former governor Sarah Palin's email account and allegedly defamed her by mentioning that she was from Alaska and a Republican.

    For some reason people who have accepted Jesus into their lives and don't believe in dinosaurs have become a fascination for 4chan.

    They broke into the Christian dating site and used data they found there to break into Facebook accounts and create havoc.

    It might have been a response from 4chan for hacking of the newsgroup for worshippers of atheism by born-again Christians. Jesus apparently ordered his followers to attack Richard Dawkin's site.

    There is sure some strange goings on right now and that from so called Christians!!

  4. Anon 1
    The statistic itself isn't biased but the interpretation is.

    Correlation in statistics is NOT the same as causality. For instance statistically, married people are happier than single or co habiting people but that does not show whether getting married makes you happier or that happier people are more likely to get married.

    That single AIDS figure leaves out for example
    The receiving partner is 3 times more at risk in any sexual encounter. In heterosexual couples men pass it to women far more easily than women to men.
    Anal sex is much riskier and is not limited to gay men (despite the popular perception many gay men dislike it and don't practise it) and the risk here applies to heterosexual couples also.
    Gay men even more than lesbian women are far more likely to be promiscuous which is the greatest risk factor in any STD. If long term relationships between men were accepted and encouraged this factor would decrease. But does anyone suggest that recognising gay marriage might have an effect in controlling the spread of STDs including AIDS?
    My real point though is don't throw statistics unless you are a qualified statistician and even then be careful how you aim.

  5. It's revealing that Alex writes "It is by humanising the debates, by sharing experiences and by engaging in constructive dialogue that the church, in all its forms, can begin to reflect the reality of the world around it,..."

    I agree that the church should reflect society by including every member of it, including the LGBT part, but the church is not supposed to adopt society's standards. We should "not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."(Romans 12:2)

    All people, regardless of the ways in which they are tempted, should be welcomed into the church and lovingly helped to resist temptation. This includes the temptation to sin through sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage.

    Yours for constructive dialogue.


  6. For constructive dialogue:

    After the great Wars, there was a general crisis in religious belief because of that experience which the churches have never really overcome. Since that time people do not go to churches in Europe in serious numbers.

    Most of the hopes which were assocaited with churches became focussed on institutions such as the EU and the UN. These institution have promoted peace and justice in the way that institutions existing at the time of the Wars were seen to fail.

    The churches have been left clinging to the past, with a majority of people who were unwilling to deal with what happened in society in a way that means anything much to a broad spectrum of society. Any attempts to do so have been stopped because of the church demographic.

    The EU and the UN have continued the Christian agenda of their foundations, the thrust of Christian Europe and this is seen in work for peace and justice, including equality legislation.

    The phrase 'We should "not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."(Romans 12:2)' can not in any case be applied blindly to any pattern in the world and is not applied so in other areas of life, sometimes where it should perhaps.

    The challenge for evangelical Christians is not evangelical Christian gay people, who are an easy target as they accept many of the premises of the argument against them regarding use of the Bible: the key issue.

    The challenge for evangelical Christians is to find a way of relating to the Bible in a way that acknowledges the reality of the world and can equip them to communicate God's love for the world.

    For evangelical Christians who want to engage with the world and work for God in it start with T. S. Eliot's Waste Land and think about how you begin to address the utter bleakness of that poem and the utter meaningless of much of what purports to be culture today which fills the yarwning gap in most people's lives. Don't let the handful of clobber texts distract you from your ministry to people who need your words of God's love.