It has been a couple of months since our last Newsletter, so here’s a round-up of some of the things that have happening with us and around the world…
It was great to see friends old and new at our stand in this year’s Greenbelt Festival.
As before, we have some amazing conversations with a wide variety of people and if you signed up to join Accepting Evangelicals over the weekend, a special welcome to you.
As the weekend drew to a close, Steve Chalke was interviewed by Benny Hazlehurst at the Grandstand (one of Greenbelt’s largest venues). Steve was characteristically frank and open about his support for loving committed same-sex partnerships. If you want to hear the whole Q&A there is a download available from Greenbelt for a small charge – follow this link.
Annual Meeting – a date for your diary.
This year’s Accepting Evangelicals Annual Meeting will take place on the morning of Saturday 30th November in central London – the same day as Steve Chalke is addressing TWO:23 in the afternoon.
More details will be emailed out to members shortly, so if you are going to be in London that weekend, why not come to both!
Hillsong – new openness on sexuality?
Australian based mega-church Hillsong may be signalling a greater openness to LGB&T people, according to Ben Gresham – a young gay Christian in New South Wales.
In his blog, ‘Just as I am’ he takes hope from a recent message which went out to Hillsong churches around the world entitled ’Scandal of Grace’. In the message, Senior Pastor Brian Houston talks about the elephant in the room for the church today – ‘the gay situation’. He drew attention to the rejection that gay people feel when they encounter the church and said that sometimes this rejection can go so deep that it results in suicide. He also acknowledged that when it comes to the Bible – ‘the word we live by’ – many people have differing convictions and that Jesus would be the one ‘breaking through the divide’ to help broken, hurting people.
This is not yet a complete change in direction, as Ben notes, because there are many things which were not spelled out in the message, and no apology to LGBT people. But it might be a step in the right direction. Ben finishes his blog post with this exhortation:
“For those gay Christians at Hillsong I want to encourage you to keep being yourself at church and to keep sharing your story with anyone who will listen. Give your pastors and leaders grace and patience but also keep them accountable… For straight Christians, I want to encourage you and ask that you do more to welcome and include gay and lesbian people at your church. Many of us still face discrimination, hurt and abuse from Christians and churches. Look for ways in which you can show love or stand in the gap. Be like Jesus!”
Spare a thought for Bishop Tengatenga…
You would think that when a Bishop from Central Africa declares his unequivocal support of marriage equality and the sanctity of human rights for all, it would be a cause of rejoicing among those who campaign for LGBT rights.
Yet bizarrely, this has not been the case.
Until recently, Bishop James Tengatenga was the Bishop of Southern Malawi and Chair of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) which is the Anglican Communion’s main policy making body. But in July he resigned both to take up a post at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, USA.
Almost immediately, there was an outcry at the prestigious Unversity because of statements he had made as Bishop of Southern Malawi on LGBT matters. In response Bishop Tengatenga issued a statement saying that his attitude to homosexuality had evolved over time, and that he now unequivocally supported not just LGBT rights, but equal marriage as well.
This was not enough however to save his new appointment and the job offer was withdrawn, leaving him back in Malawi without a job and potentially in danger as a result of his new pro-gay stance.
Despite the publication of a letter signed by 14 leading figures in defence of the Bishop, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and 2 of Malawi’s leading human rights campaigners (one of whom has been praised by the UN Secretary General for work on LGBT rights) the College’s decision is final.
Perhaps the saddest part of the whole story is that something which should have been a good news story has ended so acrimoniously, and any other African Bishops who might have been thinking of swimming against the cultural tide will be much more reluctant to do so now.
Please pray for all involved…
And finally, Oasis Blessing after Civil Partnership…
As the Church of England continues its painfully slow discussions on whether to authorise services of Blessing after Civil Partnership, Oasis has published its own Order of Service on its website – free to download and use.
Entitled “An Order of Service for a Commitment and Blessing Service following a Civil Partnership” the liturgy is both moving and profound. You can download it here.
God Bless and Keep You…