The LGBT Anglican Coalition met in London today for the third time
The eight groups who form the Coalition have agreed to meet every six months with the objective of providing UK-based Christian LGBT organisations an opportunity to share resources for the Anglican community and develop resources for the full acceptance of LGBT people in the Anglican Communion.
We spent the morning focussed on organisational details – media releases, website content and management, how we deal with email enquiries, the purpose of the group (which inevitably provoked a complex discussion), the creation of a welcoming and open churches register and who might participate in ‘A Conversation Waiting to Begin’.
Andrew Marin, author of ‘Love is an Orientation’, had been invited to join us for the day. In the afternoon he told the story of how, when he was 19, each of his best (and only friends) came out to him as lesbian and gay, and how he inadvertently outed them to each other.
Andrew has been in the UK at the invitation of Spring Harvest where he addressed 1,000-strong audiences on multiples occasions in Skegness and Minehead. His experience there reinforced what I have been learning from conversations with young people in Africa and the Caribbean and from the Barna Group research published in ‘unchristian’ and anecdotally in the UK. Young Christians attending Spring Harvest don’t share their elders’ conservative evangelical attitudes to homosexuality. It isn’t an issue for them, they have been longing to be given space to talk about it, it isn’t an issue for them and the judgmental stance of older people leaves them baffled.
A dramatic change took place this year at Spring Harvest. Homosexuality was discussed openly, Andrew’s sessions were attended by huge crowds longing to engage (something the leadership hadn’t been prepared for) and many young LGBT people came out for the first time at Spring Harvest. Andrew is continuing to work with the team, exploring new initiatives based on the ‘Living in the Tension’ gatherings which form a key part of his work with the Marin Foundation in the USA.
Groups in Chicago and elsewhere meet twice a month for 90 minutes, people coming together from a diverse spectrum, LGBT and straight,, ex-gay, conservative, orthodox, liberal, radical, Christian, agnostic, atheist, where openness is expected, pat answers are challenged and all are expected to engage and contribute.
Andrew sowed the seeds for a number of practical ideas with the Coalition. We are already committed to a conversation with a number of conservative evangelicals and a group was authorised to take this forward. With Andrew’s help, we hope to find other ways in which we can live into the tension with those who hold a range of views about sexuality and faith.
Conversations in the Anglican Communion about human sexuality are plagued by the polarised views of extremists at either end of the spectrum – those who place their faith in the ex-gay movement at one end and those committed to human rights at the other. It is a struggle to find people willing to engage in conversations which can live into the tension.
Andrew Marin has been led by God into a ministry which is achieving something of a revolution in the USA, from Boy’s Town, Chicago to the White House in Washington. The work of his foundation is successfully bridging differences in people’s attitudes and bringing them together in a journey to mutual respect. I hope and pray that something similar can happen here, in communities across the UK.