Sunday 30 August 2009

Greenbelt 2009: On being unremarkable

Day two of Greenbelt, and we've just run a seminar led by Jeff Heskins about the issues surrounding same-sex couples seeking civil partnership blessings in church. As many will already know, Jeff has written a book about his experiences developing a liturgy for same-sex couples at his church in Charlton, South-East London, which you can buy here.

One of the main things Jeff wanted to emphasise about his ministry was simply how unremarkable he felt it had been. His contention was that much of the fuss in the church over same-sex couples stems from the fact that many within the church like to keep gay people at a distance. Taking their interpretation of Romans 1 as their understanding of what gay people must be like, they cling to a belief that LGBT people lead extraordinary, godless, hedonistic lives which pose a threat to families, children and the very fabric of society. His contention was that once they realised that we're just like everyone else, spending Saturday mornings buying flatpack furniture in Ikea and arguing with our children in Sainsburys, then they'd realise there's not much to get in a fuss about.

Some years ago, Libby Purves wrote in the Times talking about the fact that so often middle-class parents react with panic and fear upon discovering their son is gay, only to wonder what they were worried about when he comes home from university six months later with a quietly spoken cellist.

Similarly, when Bishop Gene took to the stage for the first time at Greenbelt yesterday, you would wonder what all the fuss was about. Instead of the highly alternative, wacky and generally 'out-there' liberal campaigner many were expecting, there was a rather conservative man talking in a very gentle and articulate way about faith, God and the Bible.

Some would like to caricature LGBT folks as godless, sex-obsessed libertines intent on undermining the church.

But as Larry King put it when interviewing Bishop Gene
'once they realise you're as boring as we are, it's all over'.

Or as a gay friend of a friend once put it,
'don't they realise we're about as much threat to the fabric of society as Viennetta'.

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