A conversation that matters: #OpenChurch2015 conference


Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.

This was the aim of last week’s two-day conference Open Church: The church, sexuality, mission and the future hosted by Steve Chalke, Baptist minister and founder of international charity the Oasis Trust.

Steve hit the headlines two years ago when he called for an ‘open conversation’ around same-sex relationships and marriage in response to the UK government’s consultation on changing the marriage law. Despite being described by prominent US evangelical Tony Campolo as:

one of the most prominent preachers in the United Kingdom, and an icon among Evangelicals

the Oasis Trust had its membership of the Evangelical Alliance discontinued and Steve Clifford, EA’s general director, said:

The danger we all face, and I fear Steve has succumbed to, is that we produce ‘a god’ in our own likeness or in the likeness of the culture in which we find ourselves.

I followed these developments with interest, and chaired a discussion with Steve Chalke when he came to Liverpool in October 2013. I’m not from an evangelical tradition (though I flirted with Charismatic expressions of Catholicism as a young adult), and I’ve spent the last ten years running a youth group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people. So I booked my place on the Open Church conference with an open mind, to see whether this conversation would be as open as Steve hoped.

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Reflecting on our identity as LGBT people of faith and as an LGBT faith community

Modern  icons

Image 1 – A selection of modern icons from Brother Robert Lentz OFM which we reflected on during the day.

BY POPULAR REQUEST, members of the community that meets monthly at St Bride’s Church, Liverpool for the Open Table LGBT service spent a day away again this month, six months after our first away-day last October.

Following the theme of identity and individuality we explored in last month’s service, we developed and deepened this at St Joseph’s Prayer Centre in Formby on Saturday 7th May.

As we approach the seventh anniversary of the Open Table service in July, we also reflected on what it means to be a community of LGBT people of faith.

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LGBT History Month: What’s your story? #LGBTHM15

LGBT History Month logoFEBRUARY is LGBT History Month in the UK – marked every year in the UK since 2004 to remember and celebrate the lives and achievements of LGBT people past and present.

It was set up by Sue Sanders, founder of Schools Out, a group for LGBT teachers since 1974.

LGBT History Month is a wonderful opportunity to explore the lives of people who have come before us, those who have made an impact on the way that lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people can live their lives today.

Each year LGBT History Month has a theme – The theme of this year’s campaign is ‘Coded Lives’, featuring people from history who have lived ‘coded lives’ – i.e. hidden their true identities in various ways: diaries, slang, artwork and clothing.

They are:

  • LesbianAnne Lister, a diarist from the 1700’s who wrote in code to record her intimate feelings for other women
  • GayKenneth Williams and Hugh Paddick, actors who performed on BBC Radio in Polari, the language used by gay men to communicate with each other to avoid detection when their relationships were criminalised
  • BisexualFrida Kahlo, a Mexican painter who portrayed her ‘otherness’ in striking self-portraits
  • TransChevalier d’Eon, a diplomat who lived publicly as a man and a woman
My contribution to the campaign was to find new ways to share stories I have previously posted on this blog.

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WATCH: Project Triangle – LGBT youth visit Auschwitz

projecttriangleTODAY is the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp in Poland where around 1.5 million people died because they were different.

In September 2009, I accompanied ten young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people from Merseyside on a five-day cultural exchange trip to Auschwitz and Warsaw working with a group of young Polish LGBT people from the Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH).

The exchange enabled the group to understand the Holocaust and the fate of many LGBT people at that time, its impact on European and LGBT social history, as well as challenging past and present issues around hate crime. Continue reading

2014: A big year for UK marriage equality

Keep calm and support marriage equality2014 was a big year for marriage equality in the UK.

Same-sex marriage is now possible in the United Kingdom, with the exception of Northern Ireland. As marriage law is devolved to the governments of each country in the Union, the status of same-sex marriage is different in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Continue reading

Loving from the bottom of the heap – a gay Christian reading for Christmas

Love AnywayAt a carol service last Sunday, hosted by Open Table, an LGBT Christian community in Liverpool, I read one of the readings, which I found moving, inspiring and too good not to share:

The most powerful place from which to renew the face of the earth is the bottom of the heap. Continue reading

Diversity Role Models – challenging prejudice one story at a time

Diversity Role Models logoA YEAR AGO I trained as a volunteer with Diversity Role Models, a charity which offers workshops in schools featuring positive LGBT or straight ally role models who speak directly to young people about their experiences, to challenge bullying by promoting empathy. They began in London in 2011 and are now expanding across the UK, including Merseyside where I live and work. I have been with them into several schools across the region this year, which has been a great privilege and pleasure. During the workshops two role models speak for five minutes each to tell their story, then answer young people’s questions. Here is the story I tell:

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Would Jesus save the railways?

The name Jesus in graffiti on the side of a train

Last week a YouGov survey won the booby prize for the most stupid question in an opinion poll:

Do you think Jesus would support or oppose renationalising the railways, so they are run in the public sector rather than by private companies?

It’s unlikely Jesus would have held a view, given that public transport had not been invented. But as one wag pointed out on Twitter: ‘He arrived by Virgin‘!

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