It was wonderful to hear Canon Mark Oakley's talk at the recent Two23 meeting at St Mary Aldermary Church in London. The talk was entitled Living in the Light. Here it is
How does a child who was assigned, say, male at birth, then announce to the world that they are really female?
It's just a lifestyle choice!
We don't agree with the above! But we hear it a lot!
We initially struggled with this but have found lots of information, some detailed medical papers, and now this video from the BBC, on why some people are transgender.
This video is clear and how within the womb the timing of the reception of testosterone is critical. Furthermore, we as humans, are so wonderful because of this seemingly chaotic synthesis of chemicals as we develop. If this does not occur we would very similar and much more susceptible to illness. What this says to us is that we are wonderfully made and our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender children should be truly loved and celebrated.
What this says to us is that we are wonderfully made and our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender children should be truly loved and celebrated.
Recently we received a tweet which just didn't exactly make any sense.
Initially it sounded quite affirming but then again... We sought clarification, which with Twitter can be difficult.
We still love the sinners
Love it when the above 'pearl of wisdom' can be added.
My response about when they had elected to choose to be a heterosexual was fuelled by a book I had read recently 'Why Men don't listen and Women can't read maps'. Getting away from any misogynistic connotations, which were rare, the book explained in some detail how babies develop based upon the levels of testosterone and oestrogen.
This website' Viewzone' explains in far greater detail the science about babies formation in the womb and gender. I then came to an understanding, based upon science, that gender was a probability based upon the chemical balance when the baby was formed in the womb.
How can homesexuality then be a sin?
But still the Church, in various guises, still refuses to consider
As a Christian #Ally, one that wants to stand up for our friends across the world, those who may not have a voice or have temporarily lost their voice due to persistent arguing, I wanted to quell this individual with reason rather than bile. I added that "The terms used especially by Paul are heavily debated. The word homosexuality wasn't invented until CE18.."
Suddenly my 'victim mentality' was to blame. I resorted to Wikipedia!
'Absence of Clear Evidence'....
I think not.
As an ally we stand with the #LGBTQI community, shoulder to shoulder. As Christians we support you, not because Jesus 'ate with the sinners' (something I have often seen), but because of that great commandment "we love one another as Jesus loved us".
The Church, Diverse Church, made these cards which they handed out during London Pride. It was great to see LGBT and straight members of Diverse Church handing these out to the many thousands who thronged the streets of London that wonderful day.
It was great last night to be at the LGBT meeting in my local town, as a Christian, even though I am straight - to show that we care, we will be there and to demonstrate that they have our support.
Why not post the above image on your timeline to show you care?
The Equality & Human Rights Commission report found 88% of LGBT people they spoke to had experienced some form of hate incident leaving them with emotional and physical scars. (quote taken from here)
Surely one of the concerns is that of revenge, retribution? What if the Police action is to delay proceedings or even not to take action?
The online forms to report hate crime require your name. This places you on course to be eventually named.
But so many don't report hate crimes. According to the Stonewall Report issued in 2013 they said that:
This comment from their report is awful:
Victims gave a variety of reasons for not reporting a hate crime or incident but the overriding message is that many lesbian, gay and bisexual people still feel they have to reconcile themselves to abuse and that if they do complain their complaints will not be taken seriously by those in authority.
To say this has to stop is an understatement and doesn't even start to rectify generations of hatred.
We need to focus our energy, utilising the trend of using social media, to ensure that our voice is heard, and that action is taken.
People need to stop being bystanders and stand up for people who are harassed or attacked.
Petitions and writing to our MP does not seem to have the same effect now as in the past.
Rather than direct action perhaps we should adopt the #LoveWins hashtag. Churches need to welcome the LGBTQ+ community more, promote conversation to break down the possible stereotypical views developed over many decades. Schools need to educate the children that diversity is acceptable and that parental views, again developed over many decades, from generation to generation, need to be addressed and changed. The Government need to take steps to ensure that the people can raise concerns and especially incidents when they are attacked/harassed, and that they will be taken seriously and the incidents actioned. One report suggested:
This week we have seen many tweets regarding the comments made by Brian Houston from @Hillsong. The full post is here
"Hillsong Church welcomes ALL people but does not affirm all lifestyles. Put clearly, we do not affirm a gay lifestyle and because of this we do not knowingly have actively gay people in positions of leadership, either paid or unpaid. I recognise this one statement alone is upsetting to people on both sides of this discussion, which points to the complexity of the issue for churches all over the world."
As a straight ally I began to wonder exactly what a 'gay lifestyle' is? (He never mentioned 'celibacy')
Were they referring to wild sex parties that the heteronormative media seems to consider are the 'norms for the LGBT community'?
Is it when those who identify as LGBT+ go out in the street wearing nothing more than a thong, albeit rainbow coloured?
Perhaps as @JandJDad tweeted...
Can the Church hide behind such a phrase 'gay lifestyle' hoping that others can fill in the blanks?
I fear that the Church has to confront the situation with love and action.
Love, in 'welcoming all to the table'; and action, demonstrably showing that the love goes on beyond the door of the Church.
My poem to the Church
Found this today on a website http://feedpress.me/TheLiturgistsPodcast.
Podcast number 20 is entitled LGBTQ and despite being quite long is very informative and worth a listen. Really liked the biological explanation which may satisfy Christians who demand that being LGBTQ is a freak of nature.
The link is here
Firstly, does it?
Many members of churches across the world are publically saying sorry on behalf of the Church. My first recollection is from a Chicago Pride, seen here. This was an evocative image portrayed in literature at that time. Many within the LGBT+ community may not agree that the Church is there yet.
The actual signs say this:
What is missing is that the Church needs to change. Saying sorry as a Christian isn't just a phrase but a transformation of actions, a u-turn. Is the Church prepared for this?
The Church needs to adopt a pro-active stance to welcome and demonstrably show the love that it speaks about, that Love that Jesus showed to all. First and foremost it needs to look within and engage with those who still feel strongly that this is a sin. If this perception remains then the apologies seen above will mean nothing, the Church will continue to be criticised for its insincerity and another opportunity to welcome people will have been lost.
Fact: people are being hurt now.
We are seeing Shared Discussions within the Church of England, reported here in February in Pink News, and other denominations are moving towards seeking a discussion, despite the legal framework changing last year - when do Churches feel that they can move forward?
What is happening to people whilst they deliberate?
Over recent years virtual churches such as Diverse Church have supported hundreds of LGBT+ Christians across the UK when their own churches have not supported them. This is both tragic and wonderful.
Here, we are seeing an affirmation that God loves us all. They also had a big banner at London Pride which stated that 'We Are Sorry' but the individual flyers created great interest amongst the crowds that lined the procession throughout London.
Recently we have seen placards in Liverpool and other pride venues which also state the We Are Sorry.
Together with more discussions and study of the Bible in context, a far greater understanding of the issues facing the LGBT+ community and more of the Church practicing what it preaches about love and forgiveness, we will see continued progress.
Is that progress sufficiently fast enough for all those marginalised by the Church?
I'll leave you with the poem written last month.
May it be history soon, very soon.
How might Church welcome the LGBT Community?
We appear to now have 2 separate camps. Firstly we have a group of people who hold tight to the 'fact' that homesexuality is a sin, that the Bible 'clearly' states that homosexuality is defined as wrong, and that all those whom identify as LGBT+ may be welcomed into the Church but must confess and repent of their sins and do so no more.
I wonder if those already in Church with regard to their sins...'do so no more'?
As a 'straight ally' and once 'fundamentalist', I would now ask myself:
When did I decide that I was a heterosexual?
Therefore, those within the LGBT community must have been born as such and would the God, that I see as one of such incredible love, allow such people to be born to be 'eternally damned' (as I frequently get told on Twitter).
I'll leave the Biblical arguments to those who are far more knowledgeable than I. Below is an accepted explanation that the Bible does not damn the LGBT community but accepts them dearly.
We also have another group who welcome the LGBT community in word but I wonder whether these people need to stand up and truly welcome them more demonstrably. We currently have a series of discussion formats between these separate groups, some in the CoE and soon, I hope, in the denomination I worship in. From what I have seen these discussions are guided with sensitivity.
What may have been missed is the ongoing trauma to many Christians, those who are LGBT, who still remain outside of the Church. Here Vicky Beeching captures that concern in a tweet after the consecration of 2 new female Bishops.
So how might the Church welcome the LGBT Community?
It's a lovely word which is often utilised; however, let us consider what this means with respect to the LGBT community. When the acronym LGBT is used we often forget that it really is LGBT+, or QUILTBAG+ (in fact I recall a video which said that there were 33 'labels' which were in use!). There already is such great diversity; hence, to make it simple, don't worry about it,
just treat them all as human beings.
Yes we will be endeared to some more than others, and one or 2 will rub us the wrong way, as we will do to them, but that has nothing to do with their gender or sexuality but because we are humans - all different but children of God.
2. Push the Boundaries
If we had some children in our congregation, we would move our services towards their needs. Likewise with the older or more mature (or even wiser!) generation, we would cater for them.
Let's stop and ask ourselves, more so ask those we have just welcomed, how can we support you? Let's push our boundaries to warmly, lovingly welcome all into the Church of God.
3. Don't just say, do
It may be easier to welcome them into the Church building but when life is tough, away from the Church, will we stand for our newly found friends? Would you for all others?
If you knew a member of the Church were struggling, would you be there to listen, to offer that shoulder to cry on, to give them material support..? hey we may have to go out of our comfort zone here, but by listening we can offer the actual support they may need away from the Church. [I thought the Church was the people anyway].
We went to Pride in London - miles from our comfort zone, but it was brilliant.
4 Be consistent
Welcoming them into the Church isn't a fad. We are all together, the people of God. This needs to be sustained and support may be needed for those who are still reticent to provide the support. Be there for the ups and downs, like we would do for every other person. It's worth it.
Note that I haven't mentioned LGBT Christians as a single term when I have looked at the separate titles here. The Church welcomes all, not just those who are keen to find a faith. Jesus went to be with the people, not just those who preferred to worship in the synagogue aka Church.
It's time to engage, to be radically different. The Church needs to be active in its discussions, and to welcome all. Let's leave you with a quote from Bishop of Rochester, Rev Gene Robinson which is used in the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in the New Hampshire ''Diocese as what the Church should provide:
“Infinite respect and radical hospitality.”
I have used the template obtained from this article from the Guardian about 'Brands which should walk the talk'.
Hey this is not aimed at bashing the Church.
I wanted it to be a wake up call to highlight that we still have a long way to go along the road to equality, acceptance and the Church to welcome all into its midst, unreservedly, unconditionally.
Many on Twitter saw its meaning and supported it. I hope the Church will also.
We believe that it is vital that parents can support their child, possibly more so if they identify as LGBT+. The trauma the child faces is immense and prolonged but, as a Parents Support Group, we wondered how the parents cope.
In Diverse Church they have run 2 'Twitter days' where first Mums and then Dads could tweet about their lives as they walked alongside their child. It has been seen as greatly encouraging to other parents as well as the young Diverse Church individuals.
[Really worth a look at both links]
For #Transgender individuals they also have the issue of personal pronouns: is it he, she, they or a gender-neutral pronoun? This is very important as it shows respect with their change. Remember that it may not be how they express themselves (how you see their gender) but how they feel inside which determines what pronoun they wish others to use. Here's a link to a guide but really, it's better to ask them for their personal preferred pronoun.
Always better to ask "What is your preferred personal pronoun?" #Respect
We've read 'Dazzling Darkness' by Rev Rachel Mann before but it has never been so real to us until recently.
The book tells the story of Rachel and this part in particular relates so closely to our story. The following quote from the book has encouraged us and reassured us that, as parents, love is the answer.
Please click on the picture of the book cover if you wish to look at the review or buy the book (other alternative book sellers are available and please always consider buying locally).
Can there be a time for leaving the child, the child that you raised?
There's an emphatic No resounding from here but for many LGBT+ individuals, especially transgender, this is not always so.
We recommend have a read of this book and not lose hope if you are insulted and rejected; focus on the love that you have always had for your child. As it has been said a lot on social media since #SCOTUS...
It's been a great first 6 months. It has been wonderful to be able to help families who have been struggling with situations as they come to terms with their children who identify as LGB or T. We are also acutely aware that the struggles facing the parents is nothing compared to the trauma and dilemma facing the individuals themselves. There are few groups looking to support parents in this situation though: notably FFLAG, Diverse Church through its Parents groups, NewRoadParents but nothing that we could find within Lincolnshire. We so pleased that we have received support from these organisations as well as the LGBT Foundation in Manchester and the LGBT Centre in Leicester. Just Lincoln have been so supportive as has the NHS in all its forms.
This says one thing: there is support for parents out there. We are here to walk along side them on thie journey.
Saturday 27th June will be remembered for many things.
In the week previous we saw the horrific killings at the Methodist Church in Charleston; tragedy based upon historical deep-seated racial motives; however, from the pit of despair, we then saw amazing forgiveness. These children, shown below, highlight the power of forgiveness and an opening for the murderer.
What a statement on today's perception of religion -
We walked, waved and held high our banners. Walking through Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and along Whitehall. To quote the Pride in London's website ...
More than 30,000 people in more than 250 groups took part in the biggest Pride in London Parade ever. It took almost four hours for the Parade to make its way from Baker Street to Whitehall, on a route that included Oxford Street, Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square. Hundreds of thousands of people spectated on the route.
And so what? What have we done?
We have stood up and proclaimed that:
The Two23 network (@Two23) have released the great talk from the Bishop Alan Wilson when he spoke about equal marriage on 13 June 2015. Please listen to it here.
HIs book is available from alternative book providers but also here
Our thoughts which capture some of the news and comments about LGBT issues