An invitation to Davidic Praise!

DavidicPraise

 

AE member, Rev Sam Adewumi, is holding a inclusive evening of ‘Davidic Praise’ in London on Saturday 7th February for everyone who would like to join together for a night of Ecstatic Music Praise and Worship.

The event will take place at St Barnabas Church, Walthamstow and will start at 5:30pm.

Sam is a Pentecostal Minister with a heart to see an Inclusive Pentecostal Fellowship established in London.  He hopes that Davidic Praise on the 7th February will be a stepping stone towards that goal.

Sam writes,

“Davidic Praise” promises to be an evening of dynamic praise and worship experience in the presence of the Lord.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we hope to foster an atmosphere of liberty where people can freely and openly express their love, adoration, and worship for God in words, songs and dance, even as King David did (1 Chronicles 29: 10-13).

We believe that praise is a vehicle of faith which brings us into the presence and power of God, because God inhabits in the praises of His people (Psalms 22:3), God is set to refresh His people with His presence. The psalmist also writes, “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (Psalms 100:4) Because we believe that Praise and worship is the “gate-pass” which allows us to enter the sacredness of God’s Shekinah glory; our hope is that as people encounter God in worship, they will be filled with hope, joy, strength and receive healing and restoration.

“Davidic Praise” is not only dynamic but it is also an inclusive praise, which aims to create an atmosphere where all believers/Christians can come together in worship irrespective of their social class, age, race, gender, or sexuality.  Because we recognize the centrifugal power of music to bring people together. Our long term vision for “Davidic Praise” is to use it as a platform to bring Christian churches of all doctrinal persuasions and diversity together for a yearly praise and worship event. We may have different doctrinal views and postures about many issues of life; however we believe that praise and adoration of our God is one thing we all agree to in common. In praise, we find a common voice, united in the love of the One who gave Himself for us all, whether we are Orthodox, Pentecostal, Evangelical,  Gay or Straight Church.”

Come expecting to be blessed!

DavidicPraise2

 

Rainbow over GCN Conference in Portland USA…

gcnconference 1

Jeremy Marks reports on his trip to Portland Oregon for the Gay Christian Network conference earlier this month.  It was quite an occasion!

“I was so pleased to have been able to go to away at the Gay Christian Network conference in Portland Oregon a fortnight ago.  The conference was excellent, with an absolutely record turnout – of 1400+ delegates, which was way up on recent years.  The organisers had originally expected half that number, and had to change venues to accommodate the much larger conference, at very short notice, which was not only a miracle in that they found they were able to use the Portland Convention Center at such short notice, but also the fact that it all ran so smoothly – a great tribute to the excellent administrative abilities of the organisers – a very young team too!  Moreover, the whole conference was “streamed” live for the benefit of anyone who could not be there in person.  I believe this was the first time this facility had been made available.

A group from Westboro Baptist Church came all the way over from Kansas to demonstrate against the conference on the day of Vicky Beeching’s keynote speech;  I guess that might have been because it was a Saturday, but it also just goes to show how far Vicky’s infamy has spread – which to my mind is a great tribute to Vicky.  It is a kind of back-handed tribute I suppose when a group that is so opposed to what you stand for turn out in force to demonstrate against you, and against GCN.

GCN Conference 2015But what was truly amazing was the way that many members of local Portland churches who’d heard about the planned demonstration also turned out – to protect conference delegates from intimidation or downright nastiness from the Westboro folk.  They formed a “corridor of love” for conference delegates to pass through en route to the conference that day.  These Portland Christian people, standing there stoically in the pouring rain, sang songs and welcomed us personally with greetings such as “Welcome to Portland”; “God bless you” and many other welcoming gestures; I found it so moving that I failed to hold back my tears, because I (and other delegates) have never been given such a warm welcome from other Christian groups, who have clearly got the Gospel message in their hearts and turned out in the pouring rain to express it.

Then to crown it all that day, in a moment of sunshine a brilliant rainbow appeared over the conference centre. The significance of the occasion was not missed on the conference delegates because, brilliant though the talks were at the conference with all their obvious technological expertise, a rainbow of that order was such that we had to attribute it to God not man-made special effects!  The Lord was with us; that was clear in all kinds of ways, but especially with the timing and location of the rainbow.

For me personally, the conference was also extra-special because it turned out that a number of close friends that I had made in my “Love in Action” days (that was an ex-gay ministry back in 1987) were also at the conference.  So on the Saturday nighLove in action reuniont we got together for a small party at the home of John Paulk, who was formerly one of Exodus poster-boys (appearing on Time magazine as an ex-gay with his wife Anne).  All of us have, since then, fully come to terms with our God-given (homo) sexuality, publicly apologised for our involvement in that toxic ministry, and now most of us are happily settled in long-term same-sex partnerships.  It was a very special occasion indeed – thanks be to God!

 

If you want to hear more, it would be well worth listening to the conference keynote speakers…

Jeff Chu – author of “Does Jesus really love me?”

Danny  Cortez – pastor of New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, California.  His church was formerly a member of the Southern Baptist Convention, and withdrew the church’s membership as a result of Danny bringing most of his congregation through to a gay-affirming perspective

Vicky Beeching, patron of AE.

Finally, Justin Lee, founder and executive director of GCN, gave the closing keynote address on the Sunday morning.

Here is the link to the keynote talks: http://new.livestream.com/GCNconf  

 

Jeremy Marks

Patron of Accepting Evangelicals.

 

Why I am still an evangelical

Jayne Ozanne

The Oxford English Dictionary has just announced its latest list of words that will be added to its next June 2015 edition. Evidently there are over 500 new words and phrases that have been identified – and defined – this quarter. What I’m always intrigued by is “who gets to decide these definitions?” Who decides where the boundaries fall? What meaning is “right” and what is “wrong”? The same could be said for many of the labels and words that we use within the Christian tradition. One thing I realise is that there is a growing number of “dictionaries” currently in use throughout the Church. These competing editions can depend on geography, and increasingly reflect the language used by each “tribe”- to the point that their use is now a staunch litmus test of tribal membership. Take the word “evangelical”.

This has quite different perceptions depending, for instance, on which side of the Atlantic you are based. It can also have either a positive or a pejorative meaning depending on which church tradition or tribe you are from. Some see evangelicalism as the only form of true Christianity; others see it as a tribe to be avoided at all costs, given what is perceived as having “narrow, judgemental and exclusive tendencies”. These differences do not cause a problem as long as the members of each tribe are in general agreement. But what happens when members of the same tribe seek to apply different definitions to the same word? Who then decides? I am a staunch evangelical. I have been all my life. To be more accurate, I am a fully signed up charismatic evangelical, who is passionate about practising the gifts of the Spirit. Even now, when in the eyes of many I have committed the “unforgiveable sin” of having been in a gay relationship, I still see myself as an ardent evangelical. It is the tribe to which I belong, and the tent in which Christ has placed me.

This will make many readers shift uncomfortably in their seats, and others wonder why on earth I would want to be associated with a group that is regarded as being “out to disown me”. You see, I am an evangelical for the same reason that others see themselves as evangelicals – I have an extremely high regard for scripture, I believe passionately in the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and am ultimately committed to giving my life to spreading the gospel.  So what is all the fuss about? The answer is that many do not believe that my life bears witness to this fact. They believe that I can’t possibly have a “high regard of scripture” if I’m prepared to enter into a relationship with another woman. They probably also believe, but wouldn’t say to my face, that I can’t possibly be having a deep personal relationship with Jesus Christ as otherwise I would “know” this is wrong. I should be heavily convicted by the Holy Spirit, as they themselves feel convicted – that it is sinful. As to sharing the gospel, well they are deeply concerned that I am leading others astray by sharing a false gospel, and as such they perceive me as a false prophet.

They believe this is what St Paul mentioned would happen in the End Times, and which Jesus himself warned us to guard against. But if this was true – why then do I see so much fruit in my life? As Jesus said, “Do people pick grapes from thorn-bushes or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit” (Matthew 7). Why does God continue to answer my prayers? Why do I see his power constantly at work in my life; his voice whispering in my inner ear; his healing power touching the lives of people who have been deeply hurt and broken by a Church that has shunned them. I know that some of you will be tempted to stop reading at this point. Please don’t. My plea is that you engage with those who hold views similar to my own and ask them why they hold such a high regard of scripture. Challenge them that if they, like I, believe “that Scripture cannot be set aside” (John 10:35) then how do they reconcile what God is saying through his word? How do they interpret those verses? And then please ask yourself, why do you believe what you do? How long have you spent studying it all? How do you reconcile the fact that the gospel that you believe should be preached is clearly causing so much pain and misery, and is hampering the spread of the gospel?

Please be warned though that to do this requires an open heart and mind – and perhaps most importantly a humble spirit. We need to let go of our fears and trust that God himself will defend his Gospel. We need to release ourselves from the burden of feeling that we are a remnant charged with taking “a last stand”. I passionately believe that God is shaping and moulding us all through this, so that ultimately a re-envisioned Church will arise that is fit for purpose in the 21st century. After all, isn’t that what this is all about? That God’s Kingdom comes and that his will is done? On earth – today, right now – as it is in Heaven? Where by the way sexuality will no longer be an issue!

Published in Church of England Newspaper

Reflections from The Reformation Project Conference…

Reformation Project DCAE Member, Kim Post Watson reflects on the Reformation Project’s Conference in Washington DC earlier this month.

 

“As a dual US and UK citizen, and a straight ally anywhere I go in the world, I was thrilled to be in Washington DC for The Reformation Project conference in early November.  The Reformation Project exists to train Christians to support LGTB people by making a biblical case for inclusion.  It also provides practical support to LGBT Christians and their families, and their conferences offer many opportunities to create friendships and strategic partnerships.

The focus of this regional conference was to better equip LGBT Christians and their allies to make a biblically-based case for affirming and integrating LGBT people into all aspects of church life, including making the case that God affirms same-sex marriage.  There were also inspirational talks and helpful breakout sessions for parents of LGBT children, pastors, a variety of denominations, various ethnic groups and those with global connections.  Following the main sessions, all participants worked in small groups with experienced facilitators to defend their views using role playing.  It was incredibly helpful.

The Reformation Project was founded by Matthew Vines, author of God and the Gay Christian: What the Bible Says—and Doesn’t Say –About Homosexuality, where he tells the moving story of coming out while at Harvard University.  I had read his book, and another highlight of the conference was seeing his parents, who are my age, attending and fully supporting his work, and working to do their part in changing peoples’ hearts.

My role as an ally in an evangelical church led me to the sessions where evangelical pastors and academics spoke about their journey, and their church’s journeys towards becoming affirming.  It was tough stuff; many had been fired or had their church removed from their denomination.  Other stories were so inspiring.  I particularly enjoyed hearing Danny Cortez from Los Angeles talk about his journey towards affirmation.  Knowing that he might get fired, he talked to his family about coming out as an ally and making his church affirming.  At the same time, his own teenage son came out to them.  Although his denomination removed him, 60% of his church chose to stay with him in an independent, evangelical church.

I was also so honoured to meet Ken Wilson, who wrote A Letter to My Congregation, a charismatic Vineyard Pastor, who is standing by his faith on this matter, while the Vineyard USA is not ready to move forward.  I noticed that it was far easier for pastoral allies closer to the end of their careers to be vocal; they did not have to be so worried about being fired.  Brian McLaren was not at the conference, but he is a good example of someone with a platform in the evangelical world because he’s not employed by a local church.

The highlight of the conference, for everyone I think, was the closing address by David Gushee.  Dr. Gushee is a well-respected evangelical scholar, and one of the foremost Christian ethicists in America.  He released a book called Changing Our Minds at the conference and gave a resounding call to end 2000 years of discrimination against sexual minorities in the church.  It’s been widely reported in the US media.  He reports that he’s getting hundreds of emails a week, primarily from young Christians who are so grateful for his work and who are in pain in their churches.

I am a new member of Accepting Evangelicals, and I look forward to being a part of the work.  My husband and I live in South London, and we try to reach out to young or newly out LGBT Christians in our church and area.  You can get in touch with me through Benny if you know a young person who could use Sunday lunch with welcoming parental figures.  I met a British woman who I was able to network with some people I’ve met through this group and Diverse Church. What a privilege it is to partner with you.

Kim Post Watson

 

Newsletter – November 2014

Dear Friends

David GusheeLeading Evangelical Theologian speaks out…

David Gushee is renown in Evangelical Theological circles in the USA and beyond.  He is the Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University in Georgia, a columnist for Christianity Today and his book ‘Kingdom Ethics’ was named Book of the Year when published in 2004.  He has also won the Christian Journalism Award from the Evangelical Press Association no less than 3 times!

Now David has gone on record to say he supports LGBT relationships.  Speaking at the Reformation Project Conference in Washington last week, he said, “It took me two decades of service as a married, straight evangelical Christian minister and ethicist to finally get here,” his speech says. “I am truly sorry that it took me so long to come into full solidarity with the Church’s own most oppressed group.”

He also published his newest book “Changing our Mind” last month to help others on that journey and has written in the Washington Post of his change of heart and mind.

VICKY-BEECHING 2AE Patrons in the news…

Steve Chalke and Vicky Beeching, AE Patrons and speakers at the 10th Anniversary Celebration have continued to make waves this month in publications and awards.

Steve is reported in Christian Today as saying, “Churches can’t criticise same-sex relationships and still welcome gays”.  Challenging the accepted Evangelical line of welcoming all but challenging ‘lifestyle’ he says, “Gay people don’t find evangelical churches to be an environment in which they feel welcome or can thrive. It isn’t possible to believe that gay relationships are sinful and still be truly welcoming. However nicely you say that desire for someone of the same sex is sinful, you’re still saying it.”

Vicky Beeching has been named in the Independent Newspaper’s Rainbow List 2014 – their list of the most influential LGBT people in Britain – and she has been placed 3rd out of 101 people!  She has also given an extended interview with the Huffington Post on her faith, sexuality and coming out.

If you missed our Celebration last month, you can read and hear some of the main contributions on the AE Blog and see photos on our Facebook Page.

Professor Timothy ChappellWelcome to Professor Timothy Chappell…

We are also very pleased to announce our latest Patron and our first from the Academic world.  Timothy Chappell is Professor of Philosophy at the Open University and has a keen interest in Ethics.  He has written numerous books including the standard text for the Open University on the Philosophy of Religion.

You can read about Timothy and all our Patrons here.

Book now for next year’s Oasis conference on Sexuality…

Oasis Church WaterlooAndrew Marin, Vicky Beeching, Tony Campolo, Rachel Mann and Steve Chalke are among the speakers at next April’s major conference in London on ‘The Church, Sexuality, Mission and the Future’.

The 2 day conference aims to provide an environment where speakers with different views on sexuality can engage in positive creative conversations.  One of the aims is to consider what a truly inclusive Church community looks and feels like.  Other aims include reading the Bible more deeply, in an honest, affirming and consistent manner along with how we can walk with other Christians who think differently to us on these issues.

Early Bird Tickets are available at a discount until 31st December.

 

God Bless and Keep You

Accepting Evangelicals, Better for Everyone!

10th Anniversary Celebration – Better for Everyone!

B0PFBR1IYAAFPqUOur Anniversary Celebration in London today was full!  All but 5 of the tickets were booked in advance and over 250 people gathered in praise and celebration to mark the landmark.

After lively worship led by Two:23, we were treated to a deeply personal interview with Vicky Beeching before an impassioned address from Steve Chalke, Baptist Minister and founder of Oasis.

The theme of the whole day was celebration at how far we have come in our first 10 years, as well as drive, vision and determination for the next ten!

A common theme for all the speakers was our new strapline for Accepting Evangelicals:

Accepting Evangelicals
Better for Everyone

and as AE Director, Benny Hazlehurst said – Accepting Evangelicals are better for everyone  – better for LGB&T Christians, but also better for the Church, better for the Gospel, better for Evangelicals.

The Celebration was rounded off with prayer and a Blessing from Bishop David Gillett, another of our Patrons, who encouraged us all to take a vision home for what God was calling us to do.

If you weren’t able to be there today (or if you want to hear it again) you can hear parts of the Celebration by using the Mixcloud links above.

You can also see what people thought on Twitter using #AE10.

All in all it was a great day which demonstrated that the tide is definitely turning for Evangelical attitudes to sexuality.  There is still a long way to go, but today was a milestone along the way.

AE Annual Report 2014

Produced for the 10th Anniversary Celebration and Annual Meeting, 18th October 2014

Introduction2014

During 2013/14 we have seen significant progress in our campaign for LGB&T people in the Church.

  • During the year we have been delighted to welcome a team of Patrons for Accepting Evangelicals.  Bishop David Gillett, Rev Steve Chalke, Vickie Beeching, Rev Ruth Gouldbourne and Jeremy Marks have all become Patrons and helped to increase our public profile.  You can find out more about each of our Patrons on the AE Website. We also hope to announce more Patrons soon.
  • The Church of England ‘Pilling Report’ on sexuality included a specific section on an inclusive evangelical theology which quoted extensively from AE material.  As a result, an inclusive evangelical biblical view has been recognised for the first time as valid part of the spectrum of theological views in the Church of England.
  • Our membership continues to rise and visits to the AE website have doubled.  We have also launched a Facebook page and a YouTube channel (more below).
  • There have been further indications that The Baptist Union of Great Britain is relaxing its ban on ministers performing sex-sex blessings and has now published a statement saying that Ministers will not be disciplined for conducting blessings which have the backing of the local congregation.
  • The Association of Christian Counsellors in the UK has rejected ‘reparative therapies’ and have required all their members to stop providing it.
  • On our 10th Anniversary weekend in July, we held a successful fringe event at the Church of England’s General Synod in York.  Over 40 members of Synod attended and heard from David Runcorn (author of the inclusive Evangelical section in the Pilling Report) and David Ison, the Dean of St Pauls Cathedral in London.  This was our first return to General Synod since our launch in 2004.

As a result, we are hopeful that this increasing momentum towards the acceptance and celebration of LGB&T people and partnerships will continue.  Our aim continues to be promoting the acceptance of faithful, loving same-sex partnerships at every level of church life and the development of a positive Christian ethic for LGB&T people.

Trustees and Steering Group

The Trustees and Steering Group has met four times over the past year, co-chaired by Martin Stears-Handscomb and Elaine Sommers.

Many thanks to our Trustees:

  • Martin Stears-Handscomb (Co-Chair), Mike Dark (Treasurer), Jeremy Marks (Secretary), Ray Khan, Mel & Benny Hazlehurst.

and to our additional steering group members:

  • Elaine Sommers (Co-Chair), Nim Njuguna, Alex Huzzey, Bren Marks, Rob Day, Sally Layburn, Hazel Thorpe and Jane Newsham.

Membership, Website and Social Media

Membership of AE rose by 24% between June 2013 and September 2014 from 643 to 796.

The use of the AE Website is increasing as we continue to post regularly on the AE Blog, and keep members involved via Newsletters. In over the past year we have seen the average number of visits per month rise from 5,600 to 10,500. The number of pages viewed has increased further from 18,000 per month to 42,200.  Web hits have risen in the same period from 66,400 to 94,500 per month.

In April this year, we also launched the Accepting Evangelicals Facebook Page which has been a huge success, publicising relevant news, stories, and articles.  The most popular postings so far were those about Evangelical Alliance ‘discontinuing Oasis Membership’, about the Baptist Union changing its approach on same-sex blessings and most recently about the American Pastor who wrote on how to respond if your child tells you they are gay.  Each of these posts reached several thousand people.   ‘Like’ us on Facebook to get updates on postings.

And just to top it all, we have also created a YouTube Channel posting two videos so far, both featuring interviews with LGB&T Christians about their life, faith and sexuality.  Many thanks to Alex Huzzey for his hard work in setting this up. We would like to produce more videos but need someone who has skills and experience in video production and editing to take this forward.  If you have such skills or know someone who does, please contact us.

Transgender Issues

Following last year’s Annual Meeting where Elaine Sommers spoke about Trans issues, we have developed the Transgender section of the website and Elaine is Co-Chair of AE.

We also provided a half page article for the Church of England Newspaper entitled ‘Listening to T’ which was published earlier this year.

If you would like Elaine to speak at your church, fellowship or group, please contact us.

Other Events and Speaking Engagements

Invitations to speak have continued to come from a variety of sources over the past year including:

  • SEITE (The South East Institute of Theological Education) contributing a full day at their Easter residential for ordinands
  • A weekend workshop on sexuality in the St Paul’s Church,Walsall, West Midlands
  • Houses of Parliament – for an event reflecting on the journey of same-sex marriage legislation through Parliament – organised by Parliout
  • General Synod Event at York
  • Two:23 where our Director Benny Hazlehurst spoke in September

We also wrote to Spring Harvest to apply for an exhibition stall at their events this year, but they refused our application.  We are intending to ask again next year.

Press and Media

During the year we have issued several press releases – including

  • Welcoming the Pilling Report to the House of Bishops
  • Announcing new Patrons to AE
  • Supporting Steve Chalke and Oasis when Evangelical Alliance removed them from membership
  • Supporting Vicky Beeching in her courageous decision to ‘come out’ publicly

We have also supplied two articles to the Church of England newspaper including “A Case of Mistaken Identity” which produced a strong reaction amongst more conservative evangelicals.

We were invited to provide an extended article for Anvil Theological Journal entitled “Cracking the Binary Code”.  The article is at No.2 in their chart of most downloaded articles from their website.

Working in Partnership

We have continued to work in partnership with Evangelical Fellowship, Affirm (Baptist Network), Christians Together at Pride, LGB&T Anglican Coalition, and Two:23.

Members of the Steering Group have continued to meet formally and informally with leading figures in the debate on sexuality and the Church, including a meeting at Lambeth Palace with the Archbishop’s Adviser on Reconciliation, David Porter.

Finance

Income for the year 2013/14 was £2,982 down from £3,099 the previous year.

Expenditure rose from £2,089 to £2,387 during the same period.

The main reason for this was that we paid for a stall in Greenbelt during both years. However, the donations towards the stall (from members and sister organisations) fell by £228 from 2012/13 to 2013/14 whilst the cost rose by £276. Despite this we recorded as surplus of income over expenditure of £595 taking our reserves to £2,242.

Our finances are generally sound. However, there is a concern that regular donations only come from a small group of people leaving AE vulnerable should people’s circumstances change.

Donations can be made to AE by cheque, Paypal, and CAF, and we are registered with HM Revenue and Customs to claim gift-aid on donations from taxpayers.

God Bless & Keep You
The Trustees of Accepting Evangelicals

 
pdf_iconPDF version available here
Annual Report 2014 – Accepting Evangelicals

Newsletter – September 2014

Dear Friends

10th Anniversary Celebration less than a month away…

Welcome to AcceptanceIf you haven’t got your ticket for our 10th Anniversary Celebration yet – act now!  Tickets are going fast and we only have around 100 left.  It takes place on Saturday 18th October at St John’s Waterloo, London.

Our speakers are Steve Chalke and Vicky Beeching and worship will be led by Two:23.

AE Members are warmly invited to our Annual Meeting of the charity at 11:30am, and the church will be open to everyone from 12:30pm to bring a packed lunch and share fellowship together.   

There will be an opportunity to have your say on video and to write your prayer on our ‘Prayer Roll’ before The Celebration Service which starts at 2pm.

Tickets are free and available from Eventbrite, but when they’re gone – they’re gone!

We also need your help…can you help

Can you help us with our Anniversary Celebration?

We need a small band of volunteers to help as stewards, serve drinks, and generally welcome people to make them feel at home!  Please email benny@acceptingevangelicals.org if you can help.

We also would be grateful for donations to help us stage the event. 

The day will cost around £1,000 and will put a big dent in our funds without your help.  Membership of AE is free, and we always run AE on a tight budget, but we believe that our 10th Anniversary is worth spending some money on.  If you are able to support Accepting Evangelicals financially, please follow this link for information on how to donate.

Bishops meet for ‘Shared Conversations’…

Earlier this month, the Bishops of the Church of England met for two days in ‘Shared Conversations’ on sexuality.  The hope was that by having dedicated time to pray, talk and listen to each other, the Bishops might find a way to understand and respect differing viewpoints without deepening the divisions which have plagued the church.

Our prayer at Accepting Evangelicals is that the meeting will have brought out a deeper level of openness and honesty among the Bishops than ever before – see AE Blog.

Matthew Vines and the Reformation Project…

Matthew VinesThe Reformation Project was established in 2013 in the US to train Christians of all denominations to support and affirm LGBT people through a thorough knowledge of what the Bible actually says about same-gender relationships. Twice a year, they run residential regional Training Conferences designed to ‘introduce people to biblically-based cases for affirming and integrating LGBT people into all aspects of church life’.  These conferences provide opportunities for sharing experiences and networking for people in similar (quite conservative) situations and areas. Alongside the conferences, the Project supports local chapter groups which might organise anything from public speaking events, walking in local Pride Parades, offering Bible Study series and other activities.  The Reformation Project’s website is a valuable source for materials to initiate conversations – please see 10 Bible-based reasons to support LGBT Christians

The Reformation Project’s President, Matthew Vines has become well known for his passionate plea for biblically-based acceptance in his March 2012 speech ‘The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality’  The speech has now become a book which covers his extensive study and his own story in God and the Gay Christian: What the Bible says and doesn’t say – about homosexuality.

New US Evangelical Group Announced…

evangelicals for marriage equalityThe launch recently of a new US organisation Evangelicals for Marriage Equality drew both support and criticism from evangelical circles. The group’s mission is to ‘cultivate a new conversation on the issue of civil marriage equality, so that evangelicals understand that it’s possible to be a faithful Christian and a supporter of same-sex marriage’. A spokesman for the group, Brandan Robertson has written ‘It is because of our commitment to follow Jesus that we feel compelled to speak out for the equal treatment under law for all people, whether or not they share our convictions’.

The group emphatically does not campaign for changing the sacramental definition of marriage held by the Church but does “believe that in a religiously diverse society, no one religious perspective should determine who can and cannot be married.”

One member of its advisory board is Brian McLaren, writer, blogger and speaker (recently at this year’s Greenbelt). The website offers an opportunity to show support by signing its Statement of Belief

God Bless and Keep You
Accepting Evangelicals

A Woman’s Courage and the House of Bishops…

Coming OutIt takes enormous courage to ‘come out’.

Announcing that you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender to family, friends and work colleagues is often stressful, frightening and risky.   There are fears of rejection, confrontation or ridicule from those we love, care for, or work with.  It is a step which we should never underestimate.

Yet at the same time, it is a step which also brings huge benefits.  Feelings of liberation, freedom, personal integration, and relief are commonplace.  The liberation of no longer having to live a lie, or exist in the shadows.  The freedom to truly be yourself with others. The relief at having faced up to the fears and conquered them are often overwhelming – even when the revelation has resulted in conflict or rejection from some.

But it still requires courage.

Last month, one of our Patrons, Vicky Beeching took that momentous step. And her ‘coming out’ was not done in a quiet limited way – she came out to the world. In national newspaper articles, TV interviews, Web posts and social media she proclaimVicky Beechinged her sexuality publicly for the first time. If by some chance you missed this – here is the news-breaking article in The Independent and video in The Guardian.

The response has been mixed while many have welcomed her openness and honesty, others have reacted with varying degrees of shock and dismay.  The Christian Post began its response with the words, “Believers throughout the English-speaking world were shocked and saddened to hear that Vicky Beeching, a greatly loved songwriter and worship leader, has announced that she is gay” and advised its readers to be restrained in their reactions, “To lash out at her now in immature ways will only drive her further from the cross, and while it is fine to speak the truth to her in love… praying for the Holy Spirit to convict her of her error is even more important.”

And yet the next morning Vicky tweeted, “Waking up & knowing you can truly be yourself is such a refreshing feeling. Slept better last night than I have in years. #Grateful.”

Through her courage and the strength that God gave her, she had found a new freedom in life and faith – the freedom to be herself after decades of being made to feel she had to live a lie.

Bishops CrossNext week, the Church of England’s College of Bishops meet to talk about sexuality.  They will spend 2 days together with facilitators trying to find a way to have open conversations on the issue.

According to the CofE briefing paper, “Under the direction of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Director for Reconciliation, Canon David Porter, a team of around 20 trained facilitators will support a process of conversations across the Church of England. They will bring the skills necessary to ensure that the process provides a safe place for all viewpoints to be expressed and to keep the conversations to the objective of seeking understanding rather than having any predetermined trajectory.  The process will begin at the meeting of the College of Bishops in September where the bishops will spend two days working in small groups with facilitators.”

These shared conversations are essential for the Church of England, but they will only work if the conversations are truly open and honest.  That will take courage.

There are many Bishops who support same-sex relationships but have been too afraid to say what they really think.  As one diocesan Bishop said to me at General Synod, “Benny, you know what I think, but I’m chicken – I am too afraid to say it!”

There is also a sizeable minority of the Bishops who are gay themselves.  For many of them it is an open secret – one which is only protected by the loyalty and compassion of others which will not ‘out them’ to the world.  How stressful must it be for them to continually keep quiet or deflect the conversation or sign up to statements which strike at the very heart of their being.

If the shared conversations next week are to move the Church forward, there must be a greater honesty, greater courage, and greater grace at work than ever before.

Women are renowned for their moral courage, and although there are no women Bishops in post yet, perhaps the courage of people like Vicky Beeching can inspire and challenge our Bishops to have a more open and honest conversation next week.  It is certainly long overdue.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

Benny Hazlehurst

 

Upcoming Events

There are a number of events over the next couple of months, which will be well worth attending:

TWO23-logo20th September – Two:23 at St Mary Aldermary, London

Two:23 is a network of Christians, connected by LGBT (Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) issues, who have discovered that God loves us just as we are.

Accepting Evangelicals Director, Benny Hazlehurst is their speaker on 20th September.  Everyone is welcome and there is no charge.

Also before the meeting, there is an informal lunch for Parents of LGBT people – for more information see the Two:23 website – http://two23.net/

LGBTAC27th September – ‘To Have and to Hold’ Conference on Marriage

A day conference organised by the LGBTI Anglican Coalition at St John Waterloo.

‘Recognising current unease in the Church of England over same-sex marriage, the conference will ask whether there is a theological basis for expanding the definition of marriage. If so, what might a theology of equal marriage include?’

Speakers are: Professor Adrian Thatcher, University of Exeter : Rev Dr Charlotte Methuen, University of Glasgow : Dr Scot Peterson, Oxford University : Rt Revd Dr Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham.

Tickets cost £25 (£10 concessions) and include lunch.

More information available at: http://www.lgbtac.org.uk/index.htm and tickets from www.ToHaveAndToHoldTheTheologyOfMarriage.eventbrite.co.uk

Accepting Evangelicals is a member of the Coalition.

Vickie Beeching18th October – Accepting Evangelicals 10th Anniversary Celebration

Steve Chalke OasisDon’t miss our 10th Anniversary Celebration!

Our speakers are Vicky Beeching and Steve Chalke. It is 10 years since we AE was launched and we will be reflecting on progress over that time as well as looking forward to the next 10 years!

The Celebration starts at 2pm with praise and worship, but the church will be open from 12:30pm to bring your packed lunch, meet our Trustees, and share fellowship with others.

Tickets are available free from Eventbrite here – but they are going fast – get yours now.