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.

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