This month we are focusing on the UK with reports from Greenbelt, Courage and the new Two:23 Network.
The stand at this year’s Greenbelt Festival was a huge success with a constant stream of people stopping to talk, ask questions or voice their support.
It was the first time there had been a pro-gay Evangelical stand at the festival as Accepting Evangelicals, Evangelical Fellowship, Courage, The Baptist Network and new network, Two:23 joined together in designing and staffing the stand.
We gave away over 1,000 leaflets, articles and postcards, and over 50 new members joined Accepting Evangelicals.
A big thank you to everyone who helped with donations towards the cost or who volunteered to help out – it would not have been possible without you!
On Saturday 15th September (2012), the Courage ministry held a special service of Celebration & Thanksgiving for 25 years of ministry. This also marked the time when Jeremy Marks finishes Courage, having believed for a couple of years that the Lord has new plans for the future.
Courage is unique in being a ministry that started out in 1987 with very traditional evangelical convictions – that you cannot be gay & Christian (only a Christian who endeavours to overcome homosexual temptations) – but became a ministry that fully supports same-sex partnerships. Today, as evangelical Christians, Courage believes that committed loving gay relationships are legitimate and entirely appropriate for gay people, and are to be celebrated in God’s sight.
In the time of sharing, Jeremy spoke about the privilege it has been to work for a quarter of a century with some of the most wonderful Christian people you could meet; to walk alongside them and provide a safe place of fellowship to help them grow in their relationship with God, whilst going through some of the most testing and traumatic times of their lives.
Six other moving testimonies were shared in a service of hymns and worship, completed with a special address given by Revd Dave Tomlinson under the title “Be Proud of Who God Made you” (his talk is on the Courage website at: http://www.courage.org.uk/articles/article.asp?id=231)
Another important feature of the service included the announcing of the new Two:23 Network (see more below) by members of the team who have organised this new expression of evangelical Christian ministry to LGBT people.
Although the Courage ministry in its “official” form has now finished – so no more Courage meetings or retreats – Jeremy will continue to offer pastoral care to the seemingly unending new enquiries that come in, as well as maintaining support for Courage members as needed. And he will be more available to write and take on speaking engagements as requested. All his “Courage” contact details remain in place. However, a new Post-Courage blog has also been set up through which people can keep in contact with what Jeremy is doing. (See www.jeremymarks.me.uk )
Alex Huzzey writes: “Last year, Jeremy Marks (Courage) drew a number of individuals together, many of whom have been involved with Courage in the past, with the express purpose of talking and praying about a possible new ministry. This process has now led to the development of the Two:23 Network. Similar to Courage, Two23′s focus will be on pastoral support and fellowship, and therefore will work in a complementary way to Accepting Evangelicals’ campaigning focus.
At a time when many of our churches are still sadly struggling to cope with fully affirming and including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, our vision is to create a space where absolutely everyone is welcome, whoever you are and wherever you’re at in terms of church or issues of sexuality and sexual identity. If you’ve never been to an LGBT-affirming event before, we hope you’ll feel especially welcome and safe, whether you’re straight, gay, lesbian, bi, trans – whoever you are!
The name Two:23 references a verse from the prophet Hosea, who uses his own life as an allegory for God’s promise to the outsider, the excluded, to those who don’t comfortably fit in … I will say to those called ‘Not my people’, ‘You are my people’; and they will say ‘You are my God. Hosea 2:23
Our launch meeting will be on Saturday 24th November 2012 at St Mary Aldermary Church in central London. Our speaker will be David Ison, who is the new Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral. Arrive from 2pm for a 2.23pm start, and you can find more details at: www.two23.net”
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