Success at Synod

General Synod - July 2014

Over 40 people gathered at General Synod on Monday evening for  the Accepting Evangelicals fringe event.

That in itself was a success.  It had been a very long and emotional day, as the legislation on women bishops was debated and voted through – itself a historic moment for the church – and I secretly wondered how many of the Synod members who had signed up to attend would be too exhausted to come.

I need not have worried.  We actually had more people arrive than we expected, including members of Reform, Anglican Mainstream and a range of church traditions.

Our speakers were David Runcorn and David Ison – Bishop David Gillett had to step down as he is recovering from major emergency surgery (and is making a good recovery) but needs to rest.

David Runcorn is the author of the ‘Including Evangelicals’ section in the recent CofE Report on sexuality – the Pilling Report.  For us this report has marked a watershed, as for the first time, it has recognised the diversity of theological understanding amongst evangelical Anglicans on sexuality.

David Ison , as Dean of St Pauls Cathedral in London is one of the most senior members of the clergy in England.

Both identify themselves as Evangelicals and both spoke passionately and theologically about the need for the Church to continue its journey of understanding on sexuality.  Both argued that the journey is 3-fold – an emotional journey, a hermeneutical journey, and a journey into a new community of faith.

David Ison ended with these words,

“All of us across the church, including the wide variety of Evangelicals and our viewpoints, are indeed on a journey. Wherever we start from, we’re called to grow into Christ: and as we grow closer to him, and are formed more into his likeness, so we grow closer to one another. For all of us, journeying into Christ will make sex and gender less important, and love more vital. We have a vision of a new community in the kingdom of God, and a calling to make that kingdom more of a reality in this fallen world: and the challenge to us is how we are going to build it.”

You can read the script of both speeches by following the links below.  We are extremely grateful to both Davids for giving their time and theological expertise.  The meeting finished with buzz groups around each table and questions to our speakers.  At all times the atmosphere was friendly and enquiring.

The last time we hosted a meeting at General Synod was 10 years ago on the weekend we launched Accepting Evangelicals.  We won’t leave it so long next time – we may even be back next year!

Benny Hazlehurst
Director of Accepting Evangelicals
 
 

For pdf’s of both speeches click the links below:pdf_icon

AE synod address – David Runcorn

AE Synod address – David Ison

 

Newsletter – July 2014

Dear Friends

Church of England edges forward…York Synod 2014

In the lead up to this weekend’s sessions of General Synod in York, the CofE has published its plan for ‘Shared Conversations’ on sexuality.

Over the next 2 years, a series of meetings will aim to deepen mutual understanding, and explore ways of modelling ‘good disagreement’.  The first of these meetings will be in September when the College of Bishops spends two days in small groups with trained facilitators, and will conclude with a similar process for the newly elected General Synod in 2016.

One of the key ingredients in these shared conversations will be honesty and openness.  With this in mind, Canon Simon Butler has tabled a question at this month’s Synod which asks,

 “In the forthcoming process of shared conversations what procedures and process are the House of Bishops establishing to ensure that sufficient confidence is given to its gay members to enable them to safely declare their sexuality?”

Accepting Evangelicals will be at General Synod in York hosting a fringe meeting with speakers David Runcorn and the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, David Ison.  Over 30 members of Synod have signed up to attend.

But also takes two steps back…Jeremy Pemberton

This week it has emerged that Hospital Chaplain, Rev Jeremy Pemberton has been blocked by his Bishop from taking up a new post after marrying his partner, Lawrence Cunningham earlier this year.

Jeremy is already serving NHS Chaplain but when he was offered a more senior position at another hospital trust, the Acting Bishop of Southwell refused to grant him a license (a pre-requisite for Anglican Chaplains) because of his same-sex marriage.

This has led to the strange situation where the NHS, which is an equal opportunities employer, is now having to discriminate against one of its employees by withdrawing the job offer.

The full story is in this week’s Church Times – follow this link.

Better news in the USA…Frank Schaefer

Frank Schaefer, the United Methodist Church pastor from Pennsylvania, who was suspended from his church for presiding over his son’s same-sex wedding ceremony, has been reinstated by a nine-person United Methodist Church appeals panel.

In response, Frank Schaefer said “I’ve devoted my life to this church, to serving this church, and to be restored and to be able to call myself a reverend again and to speak with this voice means so much to me,” He intends to continue to work for gay rights “with an even stronger voice from within the United Methodist Church”.

The church suspended Frank Schaefer, of Pennsylvania, last year for officiating his son’s 2007 wedding. The church then defrocked Schaefer because he wouldn’t promise never to preside over another gay ceremony.

Schaefer appealed, arguing the decision was wrong because it was based on an assumption he would break church law in the future.  The appeals panel, which met last week to hear the case, upheld a 30-day suspension that Schaefer has already served and said he should get back-pay dating to when the suspension ended in December.

This Guardian article outlines the details.

And among Presbyterians…

The Presbyterian Church (USA) voted last month to allow same-sex weddings within the church, making it among the largest Christian denominations to take an embracing step toward same-sex marriage.

By a 76-24 percent vote, the General Assembly of the 1.8 million-member PCUSA voted to allow pastors to perform gay marriages in states where they are legal. Delegates, meeting in Detroit in late June, also approved new language about marriage in the church’s Book of Order, altering references to “a man and woman” to “two persons.”  This change will not become church law until a majority of the 172 regional presbyteries vote to ratify the new language. But given the lopsided 3-1 ratio of the vote, approval is expected.
Gay rights activists within the church rejoiced at their victory, which was remarkable for its margin of victory after multiple years of razor-thin defeats.  “This vote is an answer to many prayers for the church to recognize love between committed same-sex couples,” said Alex McNeill, executive director of More Light Presbyterians, a group that has led the fight for gay marriage within the church.

And finally – more Patrons for Accepting Evangelicals…

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We are delighted to welcome two more Patrons for AE!

Rev Ruth Gouldbourne is co-minister at Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church in London, having taught history and doctrine at Bristol Baptist College.

Jeremy Marks Nov 2012 (2)Jeremy Marks was the first ‘ex-gay’ evangelical leader in the UK to turn his back on the idea that God wanted to re-orientate LGBT people – 14 years ago!  Every since he has worked to affirm LGBT people and couples in their faith and sexuality.

See more on our Patrons Page here.

God Bless and Keep You
Accepting Evangelicals

Listening to T

Heath Adam AckleyPublished in the Church of England Newspaper – 6th June 2014

Last summer, an evangelical university professor in the USA was asked to leave his post after coming out as transgender.

Heath Adam Ackley (formerly Heather Clements) was a member of faculty at Azusa Pacific University for 15 years and has been Chair of Theology and Philosophy as well as being ordained in her church, but when he asked the University to recognise his new name and gender he was asked to leave.

“People assumed that I’ve done something – some sex act,” he said. “I’m not violating any sexual conduct and it’s embarrassing that it’s implied. I live a very chaste life.”  Despite vocal support from students at the University, other members of staff were immediately asked to cover his classes.

“I tried to be the best Christian woman I could be… but I have to accept something difficult about myself,” he said. “I’ve never been fully myself; I’ve always been living a lie.”

Sadly, such a reaction is not uncommon among evangelicals and is just as prevalent here in the UK.  As Elaine Sommers writes, “Whilst there are some wonderful examples of ordained transgender people in the Church of England, they are few and far between.  Lay people face problems too. I know of organists, choir directors and others whose positions have been terminated when they disclose that they are trans.  Others are excluded from communion or may be asked to leave, which is devastating for them.”

Elaine continues, “There are also many trans people, and I am one, who have no desire to live permanently as the opposite gender.  If such a person decides to be more open about it, this can bring a strongly negative reaction, especially in a more conservative church, where transgender may be seen as a moral issue.  My decision to come out was therefore difficult, but I didn’t anticipate just how dramatic the response would be.  Having served as a worship leader, songwriter and in overseas mission over many years, news about my transgender identity resulted in me being excluded from all positions of responsibility with immediate effect.  And after many months of discussion, negotiation and prayer, the situation did not improve. With heavy hearts and a sense of rejection, my wife and I left our church of over thirty years, but by God’s grace we found a fellowship which welcomed us with open arms and surrounded us with love, in full knowledge of my trans nature. This was a lifesaver.”

So what can church congregations do to help and encourage trans people?  First of all, don’t assume that there are no transgender people in your midst.  If your church is of medium size, say one to two hundred, you probably have several already, but they are keeping quiet for fear of rejection or ridicule.

The Church has become accustomed to hearing the voice of gay and lesbian people. Sexual orientation has been debated at length, but how often do we consider transgender?   The common response from trans Christians who have tried to share their story is: ‘no one listened.’   When Accepting Evangelicals wrote to the Evangelical Alliance to offer our help in considering transgender issues, the reply we received was sobering:  ‘I note that you feel that it is a subject that merits more dialogue, study and understanding. Whether or not this may be the case I can advise you that the Alliance has no plans to conduct such a study in the near future.’

On the other hand, groups such as Accepting Evangelicals have sought for many years to encourage acceptance of gay, lesbian and bisexual people in the Church, and are now speaking out with transgender people as well.  Last year, when the new Archbishop of Canterbury met with a number of LGBT people, including trans representatives, he indicated a willingness to listen.

For others who are ready to listen, there is now a Transgender section on the Accepting Evangelicals website – www.acceptingevangelicals.org/transgender -or you could listen to Heath Adam Ackley’s ‘coming out sermon’ on YouTube – see below.

Written by Benny Hazlehurst & Elaine Sommers

A warm welcome to Vicky Beeching…

Vickie BeechingAccepting Evangelicals is proud to welcome its newest Patron – Vicky Beeching.

Vicky is a well known broadcaster and writer on religion and ethics. She studied theology at Oxford and is currently doing doctoral research at Durham with a focus on Christianity, gender and sexuality.  Appearing on national TV and radio several times a week, she comments on religious and current affairs and regularly presents Radio 4’s Thought For The Day.

Vicky is also a successful songwriter, performer and worship leader with a string of chart hits and been a regular contributor at Spring Harvest.

Vicky writes,

“Accepting Evangelicals has been a powerful presence within evangelical Christianity for the past 10 years. A prophetic voice ahead of their time, they elevated the conversation long before many were even willing to engage.  I’m delighted to be one of their patrons, partnering with their vision to see the Church accept faithful, loving same-sex partnerships and develop a meaningful theology for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. AE represents a healthy, bright future for the Church, with God’s inclusive love at the centre.”

 As previously announced, Vicky will also be one of our speakers alongside Steve Chalke at our 10th Anniversary Celebration in October.  Tickets are free and available here.

We look forward to seeing you there!

 

New Zealand and same-sex blessings…

by Bishop David Gillett.NewZealand-map 2

When I was in New Zealand earlier this year I had the privilege of leading a seminar for clergy and lay leaders on same sex relationships. At the time I  detected an atmosphere pervading the discussion which I hadn’t found in this country at the time. Even the most conservative present were primarily concerned to understand how I as an evangelical understood that the scriptures encouraged me to support my gay and lesbian friends in their relationships.

A similar spirit of open enquiry and desire for unity within the church characterised the recent meeting of the General Synod there. The doctrinal divisions are just as wide there as here, yet they came to a common mind on the way forward. There is still a long way to go but all agreed to look for a way that allowed those that held to the traditional view of marriage being solely for one man and one woman in life-long union would continue to be able to believe and practice only that as fully faithful members of the church. Those who believe that God wants to bless all monogamous life long relationships, irrespective of gender would also have a similarly secure place and be able to bless same sex unions.

This is a remarkable achievement of a loving journey together especially as we realise that some of the South Pacific countries within that Church have legal systems which outlaw the practice of homosexuality.  But they are a church which from the beginning has been committed (variously at different stages through their 200 year history) to give equal and honourable place to different ethnic backgrounds. – notably to indigenous Maori and  to white settlers – as well as embracing  bilingualism.

At times the life blood of the Church of England seems governed more by the spirit of the Act of Uniformity than by such a spirit of journeying together with difference and ‘disagreeing well’ to use our own Archbishop’s concept. We can too easily demonise those who believe differently from us.

On social media I have noticed some who strongly support gay marriage decrying the Church of New Zealand for reaffirming the traditional doctrine of marriage. Hopefully we who support the fully inclusive view of relationships can learn to live with traditional views as we hope they can accommodate our views. There are a couple of reasons why I support their affirmation of the traditional view. Firstly it recognises the reality that there are those who will not be able to move forward and give space to others to celebrate same sex unions if they are not allowed to continue to believe and practice what they hold as dear to them. But secondly I want passionately to affirm marriage between a man and a woman as a basic good within God’s created order. I see it there in the scriptures and I knew the reality of it throughout my own married life. In no way do I wish to deny the God-given intention and blessing of such a wonderful institution. What I believe in is a widening of the main paradigm of marriage (which I believe to be implicit in creation) to include all those who find the person who is their natural life partner to be one of the same gender – for God says to all, gay or straight that it is not good to be alone, (unless we are given a vocation to celibacy, a calling specifically envisaged within the New Testament). I believe same sex marriages too are equally blessed by God and can also provide a wonderful nurturing environment for children.

The Church in New Zealand has begun a journey so that it can give such freedom and fulfilment across the church – though it will be variously practiced in different parishes, dioceses and countries. I hope that we can approach the whole issue with a similar degree of love, acceptance and desire for truth and unity – as we engage together over these coming months in our facilitated discussions.

I have only touched on the main points of the NZ motion – the full text can be found here –

http://www.anglicantaonga.org.nz/Features/Extra/Anga#.U3M

 

 

Announcing our 10th Anniversary Celebration!

Welcome to AcceptanceWe are very pleased to announce details for our 10th Anniversary Celebration this year!

It will be on Saturday 18th October 2014 at St John’s Church Waterloo, London, and our speakers are Steve Chalke and Vicky Beeching.

When we launched Accepting Evangelicals 10 years ago, the phrase ‘pro-gay evangelical’ was thought to be a contradiction in terms.  Yet today, Evangelical Christians are increasingly open to an accepting or affirming theology of sexuality.

We have come a long way – but there is still a long way to go.  So as we celebrate 10 years, we will be looking forward with excitement and hope for the future.

We are delighted to have Steve Chalke and Vicky Beeching as our speakers.

Steve Chalke is a Baptist minister, founder of Oasis Global & Stop The Traffik, and a United Nations Special Advisor on Community Action Against Human Trafficking.  He is Church Leader at Oasis Waterloo and was awarded the MBE in 2004 for services to social inclusion.

Vicky Beeching is a theologian, writer and religious commentator. She studied Theology at Oxford University and is currently doing research for a PhD at Durham University exploring Christian theology, sexuality and gender. She regularly appears on national TV and radio.  She has recently started blogging on marriage and LGBT theology to open up conversations among her readers.

Steve and Vicky are also Patrons of Accepting Evangelicals.

The Celebration starts at 2pm but the church will be open from 12:30 for fellowship – just bring a picnic lunch – and our members are also invited to a brief Annual Meeting at 11:30am to do the charity business for the year.

Full information and tickets are available from Eventbrite – follow this link.  Tickets are free but please register for yours so that we know how many people are coming – and know when the event is full.

If you are coming, please also click on the Event post on our Facebook page to say that you are going – and to invite your friends.

We look forward to a great day and hope you will join us.eventbritelogo

For Information and Ticktets – follow this link

 

 

Better together – apparently not…

EA logo-largeEvangelical Alliance, whose tagline is “better together”, today announced that it had “discontinued the membership of  Oasis Trust.”.  This was, needless to say, following Oasis and Steve Chalke expressing supporting for same-sex relationships and calling for an open conversation in the wider church.

Evangelical Alliance’s press release can be found here and Oasis has responded here

This is not the first time, of course that Evangelical Alliance has taken action against one of its members.

In 1999, the organisation played its part in ‘outing’ Roy Clements – one of its own Council members – after they became aware of his sexuality, forcing his resignation and leaving him homeless and jobless.

Then in 2001, Jeremy Marks and Courage were forced to resign their membership of Evangelical Alliance after changing their ministry from one which sought to prevent gay Christians finding a same-sex partner to one which supported same-sex relationships.

This decision however, appears to have been much more difficult for the Alliance and 15 months of negotiation has been going on behind the scenes.

The reason for such a protracted deliberation is clearly the change which is occurring among  evangelicals.  Gone are the days when there was one evangelical view on sexuality, and yet organisations like EA try to continue as if this were true.

EA cite Oasis’s failure to “adjust the content of their website/resources and social media output to equally profile the traditional Christian view” as a reason for removing them, and yet EA’s own publications give no space to a more progressive evangelical theology of sexuality.

In actual fact, the loss of Oasis and Steve Chalke from the ranks of EA members will do more damage to Evangelical Alliance than to Oasis, and it seriously undermines their slogan and raison d’être, “Better Together”.

Their website proclaims that , “Unity is what drives us – but not just for unity’s sake. By bringing people together, we are following the John 17 mandate to show the immense love of God, who sent his Son for us” and yet their action today has shown that unity to be conditional on towing the conservative line on sexuality and has little to do with the ‘immense love of God’.

They can also no longer claim to represent “the UK’s two million evangelical Christians” as there are clearly many evangelicals who they no longer represent, or who they are unwilling to represent.

Perhaps the saddest thing comes from EA’s  description of themselves at the bottom of the Press Release.  It says,

“We’re here to connect people for a shared mission, whether it’s celebrating the Bible, making a difference in our communities or lobbying the government for a better society.” 

The Oasis Trust is certainly a leader in Christian mission; Oasis celebrate the Bible and make a powerful difference in communities up and now the country; Oasis are actively engaged in lobbying the government for a better society – and yet because they are exploring a different way of responding to LGB&T people, all that counts for nothing.

Sadly, those of us who have followed Evangelical Alliance expected this to be the outcome, but we rejoice in the new openness that is God is bringing to many others in the evangelical world.   Isaiah 43:19 comes to mind:

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

 

We pray that Evangelical Alliance will open its eyes and begin to perceive this new thing that God is doing.

 

A wonderfully ordinary Christian couple…

“What a lovely couple!”

How many times have you heard that said in church?

There is something beautiful about seeing two people who are in love with each other and it warms our hearts.  And when they are a Christian couple who talk about the Lord being at work in their relationship and the blessings of praying together, then we find our faith is warmed and encouraged too.

But unfortunately, in many churches, that doesn’t apply if the couple are both of the same gender.

While heterosexual couples are welcomed and celebrated, same-sex couples are often treated with discomfort, embarrassment, or suspicion – especially in Evangelical churches.   All too often what is seen is a caricature or pre-conceived image of a ‘same-sex couple’ which inhibits real conversation.

The strange thing is, people who actually take time to listen to same-sex Christian couples, find the same faith and love at work in their lives, and the same grace of God shining through.

But how can we listen if there are no same-sex couples in our church?  And if we worship in an Evangelical church, that is even more likely to be the case.

In response to this dilemma, Accepting Evangelicals has created a YouTube channel and our first video features just such a couple – Martin and Ian.

They talk openly and honestly about coming to terms with their faith and sexuality – about how God brought them together – and about the blessings they have received through their relationship with God and each other.

They are not famous Christin celebrities – they are just an ordinary couple who have promised to love each other for the rest of their lives – but for those who are willing to listen, the same quiet love and warmth shines through their stories, and the same faith in God.

At the end of this short video, there are some questions for personal reflection, or for a small group discussion.  If you know someone who has never had the opportunity to listen to a couple like Ian and Martin, perhaps you could send them a link.   Or perhaps you could suggest to your church or fellowship group that you spend a little time together hearing from this same-sex couple in their own words.

We hope that each person who watches this video will see what those of us who have the privilege of knowing Martin and Ian see – what a lovely couple!

Justin Welby and that radio phone-in…

Justin Welby - RadioIt is now almost 2 weeks since the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby linked acceptance of same-sex relationships with the murder of Christians in Africa.

“I’ve stood by a grave side in Africa of a group of Christians who’d been attacked because of something that had happened far far away in America, and they were attacked by other people because of that and a lot of them had been killed.  We have to listen to that. We have to be aware of the fact” he said.

Asked about why conducting same-sex marriages in the CofE can’t be left to the conscience of individual clergy he said, “Well, why can’t we just do it now? Because, the impact of that on Christians far from here, in South Sudan, Pakistan, Nigeria and other places would be absolutely catastrophic.”

He then finished the interview by reiterating the threat of violence by quoting the attackers, What was said is ‘if we leave a Christian community in this area’…I’m quoting them, this is not obviously something I think…’if we leave a Christian community in this area we will all be made to become homosexual and so we’re going to kill the Christians’. The mass grave had 369 bodies in it and I was standing with the relatives. That burns itself into your soul, as does the suffering of gay people in this country.”

While there was an immediate chorus of disapproval from many commentators, others found themselves stunned into silence at the enormity of the charge. Could it be that by accepting and blessing same-sex relationships, we would be condemning large numbers of Christians to death?

It was not the first time that I had heard of Justin Welby making such a connection.  I was told some days before of him making exactly the same link in an answer to children in a school visit.  Presumably the point had hit home there, and so he thought it was ready to be broadcast on a wider stage, but what played well in a school did not play well in the media.  The echoes of his statements have been reverberating around the UK and indeed the world ever since.

The effect has been felt most keenly in the United States, not least because he appeared to blame the mass grave which he visited on events ‘far, far away in America.’  During his visit there last week, he was asked to clarify his comments and asked to justify the linkage he was making, but without success.

At the bottom of the controversy there appear to be 3 issues at play:

1.   How accurate is the assessment which Justin Welby has given?

There have been many who have questioned the accuracy of the assertion he made.  This has not been helped by the Archbishop refusing to give any more information about the mass grave he was taken to.  Was it is Sudan or Nigeria or perhaps somewhere else?  Who told him that these Christians were killed because of church acceptance of sexuality, and was that true?  Unfortunately, without more information, there is no way to assess the validity of the claim.

The Episcopal Café website in the USA has noted that “secular human rights groups have documented many massacres in Sudan and Nigeria, and attributed none to the actions of gay-friendly churches”.

Similarly on this side of the Atlantic, Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow commented that , “The tone of the Archbishop’s answers seemed to be that we needed to trust him on this because he was right” and also lamented the fact that “He has also said that he won’t provide any evidence to back up what he is saying.”

The sad truth is that mass violence in many parts of Africa is commonplace.  Recent events in both South Sudan and Nigeria have demonstrated this and this month’s anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda is a grim reminder of how far such violence can go.  The reasons for violence are complex and deep rooted.  History, tribal and religious identity, as well as politics, and the actions of political leaders all have their part to play.  At the end of the day, men of violence will always find an excuse to justify their violence, but that does not mean the excuse given is the true cause.

2.   Even if it is true, should we give in to people of violence?

This is always a difficult question.  Our instinct is to protect the vulnerable whatever the cost, and if it were some abstract issue which did not affect the lives of real people, then perhaps we should take a step back, rather than expose others to unnecessary risk.

But attitudes to LGBT people and their relationships are not abstract issues, and indeed, LGBT people also suffer greatly from violence and even murder by those who like to use violence in Africa and elsewhere.  The growth of so-called ‘corrective rape’ against women accused of being lesbians also demonstrates the flimsy nature of such excuses for violence.

Yet the same African Bishops who warn of the danger to Christians if the Church of England blesses same-sex relationships are often the ones who have supported new draconian laws against LGBT people and their support groups.  By doing so, they fuel the atmosphere of suspicion, discrimination and violence against that community while doing little or nothing to challenge the ill conceived fears on sexuality in their own congregations.

The civil rights movement in the USA and elsewhere has always had to face down the threats of those bent on perpetrating violence.  While it is wrong to ignore the threat of violence, it is also wrong to simply bow to its pressure.

3.    How should the church proceed in the light of all this?

The best and most balanced analysis of what Justin Welby should have said is reproduced below.  Sadly, it may well be discounted by many simply because of who wrote it – you can find out who it is by following the link at the end.  It recognizes the dilemma which the Anglican Communion faces, while also making clear statements about the principles on which we must build.

‘So how might the Archbishop have responded differently? Perhaps something like this: “Look, the church must consider many things in discerning whether a change is warranted in our consideration of blessing the marriages of same-sex couples: what scriptures says, how the church’s historical understanding has developed, and our own experience of gay couples’ relationships. We are in the midst of that discernment right now. In addition, we must always be aware that our decisions here in England are being watched by the world’s 80 million Anglicans and their enemies; sometimes being used as an irrational and unwarranted excuse by those enemies for violence against Christians. I have seen the graves of those who have suffered because of these unjust and irrational connections between LGBT people and murder, and it breaks my heart.

Even so, we cannot give in to the violent acts of bullies and must discern and then pursue God’s will for all of God’s children. Violence and murder of Christians is deplorable, but so is violence against and murder of LGBT people. And as the spiritual leader of the world’s Anglicans, permit me to point out, it is not helpful for some of our own Anglican archbishops, bishops and clergy to join in support of anti-gay legislation and rhetoric in their own countries, thereby fueling the hatred and violence against innocent LGBT people, who are being criminalized and murdered for who they are. These are complicated issues, and with God’s guidance, we will discern what is right to say and do.”’

For the author’s name – follow this link

Let us know your thoughts.

Benny Hazlehurst

 

Newsletter – April 2014

Dear Friends

New – AE Facebook page!facebook_logo

Accepting Evangelicals now has a Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/acceptingevangelicals

Please make sure that you visit it, ‘like’ or ‘follow’ it and share it widely. We value your comments – this provides an opportunity to hear your thoughts on news and opinions. If you would like to recommend a link for posting, please email it to benny@acceptingevangelicals.org

First same-sex couples marry in the UK

This historic law to allow same-sex marriage in England and Wales was passed in July 2013 but became a reality last weekend for the first same-sex couples who celebrated their weddings on 29 March 2014.

Religious institutions are exempt from being required to officiate at marriage ceremonies and the Church of England remains protected by the ‘quadruple lock’.  However, some denominations are having internal discussions on the future possibility of supportive clergy being permitted to ‘opt in’ to hold marriage ceremonies on their premises.  The Baptist Union discussed this recently on 19 March where the Revd Stephen Keyworth shared a straw poll. People were asked for their personal position about the blessing of same-sex relationships and then to place themselves on a scale between the two extremes of: ‘no, not never, ever ‘and ‘yes, I can’t understand why we’re not doing it now’. He said there were two peaks: “No, I can’t see that I would, but accept that others do…”, and “Yes, I don’t see a problem, but accept that others think differently.” Those at either extreme were small in number. Stephen continued, ‘In my experience in this role…. this mirrors precisely the attitudes which are present in our Union.’

The Methodist Church has held a working group consultation which closed in February and further discussion will be on the agenda at the annual Methodist conference to be held at the end of June. The United Reformed Church will take the opportunity to discuss the issue at its General Assembly in July later this year.

Quakers have long supported same-sex marriage and state on their website “Quakers see God in everyone and that leads us to say that all committed loving relationships are of equal worth and so Quakers in Britain wish to celebrate them in the same way”.  Unitarians will be free to conduct same–sex marriages in their places of worship if congregations wish to do so.

Cutting Edge LetterThe Cutting Edge Consortium and the LGBTI Anglican Coalition issued a joint press release and held a press conference on Friday 28 March, the day before the first weddings were permitted to take place, to announce a statement signed by a number of religious leaders of different faiths expressing support for same-sex marriage.

“We rejoice that from tomorrow same-sex couples will be able to marry in England and Wales. As persons of faith, we welcome this further development in our marriage law, which has evolved over the centuries in response to changes in society and in scientific knowledge.

We acknowledge that some (though not all) of the faith organisations to which we belong do not share our joy, and continue to express opposition in principle to such marriages. We look forward to the time, sooner rather than later, when all people of faith will feel able to welcome this development.”

Two of the signatories to the joint letter are Steve Chalke and the Bishop David Gillett, patrons of Accepting Evangelicals.

Accepting Evangelicals is committed to encouraging theological discussion and prayerful reflection on the nature and historical development of marriage – please see again our statement on same-sex marriage.

Uganda update

February saw the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014, signed into law by the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni. This new measure strengthens already strict laws against gay people by imposing a life sentence for certain violations and making it a crime to not report anyone who breaks the law.  Currently, thirty-eight of fifty-three African nations criminalise homosexuality in some way and harsh legal penalties lead to a culture of physical abuse, vandalism to property, death threats and ‘correctional rape’.

Amnesty International reports that arrests of people suspected of violating anti-gay laws are arbitrary and people detained are often subjected to torture and abuse by authorities.

One writer highlights the problem here http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/02/uganda-anti-gay-bill-signed:

“Frank Mugisha, the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, the nation’s primary gay rights group, reports that police are rounding up thirty to forty suspected homosexuals each week. In some cases, simply being unmarried and spending time in the company of people of the same gender is enough to arouse police suspicion. Mugisha also says that the bill’s passage has brought a surge in anti-gay vigilantism and that religious leaders in the suburbs surrounding Kampala have been calling for gays to be killed or burned over the public address systems. “The situation is extremely worrying,” Mugisha says. “We are living in fear.”’

So, in the above climate, the response of Bishop Christopher Senyonjo is an extraordinary and hugely courageous stand.

WorldVision-LogoWorld Vision USA reverses its non-discrimination policy

On Monday 24 March, World Vision U.S. (a Christian organisation which organises child sponsorship in some of the poorest areas of the world) announced it would no longer discriminate against employing Christians in same-sex marriages.

However, within two days it issued a further announcement reversing that decision after receiving an avalanche of criticism from evangelical leaders.  President Richard Stearns had hoped that the original decision would bring unity but found that too many supporters saw the policy change as inconsistent with what they felt should be World Vision’s commitment to biblical authority.  More importantly, over 2,000 of the 1.2 million children sponsored by World Vision U.S. had been dropped by sponsors.

Meanwhile, World Vision UK has issued its own statement saying “World Vision UK does not discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation.”  Read the full statement here.

And finally – LGCM is looking for new Chief Executive

The Lesbian Gay Christian Movement  are looking for a dynamic Chief Executive to succeed Sharon Ferguson and continue the work of eradicating faith-based opposition to full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in church and society. Full details can be found here.

God Bless and Keep You
Accepting Evangelicals