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.

 

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.

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.

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!