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!

 

Celebrating Unadulterated Love with a Mixed Bunch of Christians

Unadulterated-LoveOur new patron, Bishop David Gillett shares his reflections from attending a recent event organised by Changing Attitude:

‘My Catholic friends tell me that I should always do something special and memorable on my Naming Day which, for me is March 1st, St David’s Day.  And this year I did; I attended the celebration, ‘Unadulterated Love’ arranged by Changing Attitude in London.

It was the first of their events I had attended and I went mainly because It was suggested to me that as a bishop and an evangelical who had formerly been principal of Trinity College Bristol it would show support and bring encouragement to many LGBT people. Well, I am always sceptical about how my being at something can be much of an encouragement, but events certainly proved me wrong!

I was one of two bishops there and, being soon after the House of Bishops guidelines on same sex marriage had been issued, our presence was seen as significant – even though neither of us are members of the House (me because I am retired). I was asked to facilitate a couple of group sessions where there would be opportunity for both straight and LGBT folk to share their stories and challenges etc.

Pervading the occasion was a note of celebration and mutual support, some touches of confusion and sadness, but to my surprise very little anger about how the church was handling the issue of same sex relationships. Rather I detected a sense of compassion for a church that would soon hopefully embrace a wider understanding of the all-encompassing love of our gracious and welcoming God.

There were other evangelicals there who, like me had  come to an understanding of scripture and the gospel which impels us to support those who are, by their God-given nature attracted to people of the same sex, both those who are single and those in a relationship. We exchanged some experiences of how our theological and pastoral position meant we were suspect by a number of our evangelical friends, but also how many more of them were also seeing the gospel and scripture in a more inclusive and accepting light.  My personal concern in the group sessions was to share how important it is for me to celebrate together with my LGBT friends the acceptance of God and his blessing upon all committed faithful relationships, such as my wife and myself had known throughout the whole of our married life together.

But for those who shared with me, the main talking point was how a good number of them had found it difficult as gay and lesbian Christians to be accepted and comfortable within their own evangelical churches, whether they were single or in a relationship. Some spoke of years during which members of their own fellowship ignored them and never spoke to them once they had been open about their sexuality. Others told of similar cold shouldering at evangelical theological colleges. For some there was a determination to continue in the spiritual tradition which had nurtured them, but others spoke of how they felt forced out by the coldness to look for a fellowship which would be more supportive and accepting even though that meant them leaving behind some close Christian friends and the spirituality they had long valued.

However there were indications that the tide was turning. Some were determined to stay within their fellowships and were gradually seeing a dawning of a new sense of acceptance and joy in their relationships with straight Christians in their local church. This sense of acceptance was clearly more marked in the younger age group but it was also evident that many lay folk in evangelical churches were more open than some clergy. Was this, some wondered, because the close ties within the evangelical clergy-world meant that a good number hesitated to embrace a fresh understanding because their friends and colleagues would cold shoulder them too?

But I did not leave the day despondent about the place of LGBT folk within evangelical churches. It is still clearly very hard for many, but the tide is turning and I am confident that the facilitated discussions which are being set up in the wake of the Pilling report will be one means through which many evangelicals will reevaluate their position. I believe also that Accepting Evangelicals will have an increasingly important role to play in accompanying many, particularly clergy as they take a closer look at their understanding of scripture, the gospel and our mission in a society where equal marriage will soon be seen as part of the natural landscape. I know of some evangelical clergy who already offer services of blessing for those in civil partnerships and are also looking for greater freedom to celebrate with those who enter into same sex married relationships as the law allows. Clearly we are in the midst of considerable turmoil over this issue within the Church, but I believe, to quote a phrase that several of us used during the day, ‘the dam is about to burst!’

Rt Rev David Gillett

March 2014

 

 

 

Newsletter – March 2014

Dear Friends

AE’s First Patrons…

We are delighted to announce our first two patrons at AE – Rev Steve Chalke and Bishop David Gillett.  During our 10th Anniversary year, we will be announcing a number of Patrons who will help us raise the profile of Accepting Evangelicals.

The Rt Rev David Gillett was Bishop of Bolton until his retirement in 2008. He hasrev_david_gillett huge experience in evangelical theological education having been Principal of Trinity Theological College in Bristol for 11 years, and the first Director of Extension Studies at St John’s Nottingham. He trained for the ministry at Oak Hill, and has also been a travelling secretary for Pathfinders and CYFA. He is now honorary assistant Bishop and interfaith advisor in the Diocese of Norwich.

David writes,

“Over the years I have come to understand that the scriptures encourage us to support, affirm and celebrate all life-long committed relationships that follow the path in life gifted by God in his creation of each of us as different individuals.  I believe that Accepting Evangelicals is one positive way of supporting same sex couples to receive the same love, blessing and support from the church which I and my wife knew so wonderfully throughout the whole of our married life.”

 You can read more of David’s reflections on the importance of supporting same-sex relationships in this Blog post from December last year – just after the publication of the Pilling Report.

Rev Steve Chalke will need little introduction.  He is a Baptist minister, Founder of OasisSteve Chalke 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.

Steve writes,

“I am honoured to be a patron of Accepting Evangelicals which is an important movement within evangelicalism because it represents the growing shift away from old, excluding and subjective readings of isolated biblical texts towards a much needed more affirming, compassionate, rounded and thoughtful approach to the Bible, humanity and sexuality.”

We warmly welcome both Steve and David in their new role with AE.

Church of England in disarray over same-sex marriage

The Church of England’s House of Bishops has issued ‘Pastoral Guidance on Same-sex Marriage‘ last month, just after St Valentine’s Day.  The first same-sex marriages are due to take place in England and Wales during March.

While they said that same-sex married couples can approach their local clergy to ask for ‘informal prayers’, the statement also banned clergy in same-sex relationships from getting married.  The guidance also states that anyone in a same-sex marriage will not be ordained in the Church of England.

This has shocked and dismayed LGB&T clergy who had been hoping to ‘upgrade’ their Civil Partnerships to marriage later this year.  Civil Partnerships are permitted among Clergy in the CofE.   Read more here.

 

 Uganda joins Nigeria in adopting new anti-gay laws…

After 2 years of uncertainty, Uganda’s President signed into law the infamous ant-gay bill last week.  Despite international pressure, he appears to have decided that he has more to gain than lose in signing the Bill.

While the death penalty has been dropped, the new law still contains life sentences for people who marry someone of the same-sex or even touch someone of the same gender with ‘intent to engage in a sexual act’.

A petition opposing this new law has been signed by over 300,000 people in the last 4 days and can be found at https://www.allout.org/en/actions/kill-the-bill

 

Change Makers Conference

We are very pleased to advertise the Change Makers Conference in Enfield London next month.

The two-day conference is around the theme of Christ centred communities and innovative models of church. It’s a really exciting programme and has wide range of fantastic speakers from around the world – particularly from the USA and Thailand. As part of the programme there will also be a stream which looks at theology, biblical interpretation and some of the themes outlined in Steve’s recent article, Restoring Confidence in the Bible, and also the article on sexuality which he published in January 2013, A Matter of Integrity.

More information and booking details can be found here.

God Bless and Keep You

Accepting Evangelicals