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Think you can’t be LGBT and a Christian? The Open Church Network says ‘think again’

PinkNews Staff Writer February 18, 2019
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Think you can’t be LGBT and a Christian? The Open Church Network says 'think again'

Think you can’t be LGBT and a Christian? The Open Church Network says 'think again' (RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images)

Many LGBT people have faced rejection from Churches; the one place anyone should expect love and support.

The Open Church Network (OCN) — an online space for pro-LGBT+ Christians — is looking to change this.

According to research conducted by OCN, 86 percent of churchgoers are either supportive of LGBT+ issues or questioning the perhaps outdated views they hold when it comes to the community.

Having been rejected in the past, many LGBT+ people have given up on church but this new data could give them the confidence to either challenge homophobic church leaders or to find a new church that will support and celebrate who they are.

The Open Church Network wants to change attitudes towards LGBT+ people and the Church (OCN)

The Open Church Network — organised by Christian Charity Oasis — is using a series of roadshows to take this message to people across the UK.

OCN events:

• 23 February, 2019 in Bristol

• 6 April, 2019 in Birmingham

• 27 April,2019 in Salford, Greater Manchester

• 18 May, 2019 in Sheffield

• 22 June, 2019 in Southampton

These events are geared towards those who have been rejected by a church or who have struggled to reconcile their faith with being LGBT+.

While each event will see cross section of speakers, seminar leaders, and panellists they will all touch upon the same themes.

The OCN events will help attendees gain a better understanding of the Bible in light of modern research and form a Christian belief that is pro LGBT+, as well as teaching them how to have sensitive conversations in church and take practical steps towards making churches more inclusive of LGBT+ people.

Research by the OCN has shown that despite only 13 percent of churchgoers being openly supportive of LGBT+ people, the length and breadth of that support could be far greater.

All churches should be places of ‘radical inclusion’, where everyone is welcomed, loved and supported as full members and participants. However, many churches’ claims to be inclusive turn out to be shallow promises when it comes to fuller participation.

Many LGBT+ people have been told that it is fine that they come to church but maybe they could just ‘sit quietly at the back’. Preaching, leading worship or other more active roles are informally barred to protect other church members ‘sensibilities’.

According to OCN, despite a large and widely-recognised shift in churchgoer attitudes church leadership and policy have not caught up — making church a hostile place for many LGBT+Christians.

While many still believe that the Christian church takes issue with LGBT+ people, OCN’s data shows there is more support for the community than perceived.

Of those surveyed, 36 percent of churchgoers said that, despite believing that LGBT people should be affirmed and supported by their church, they kept quiet about their views at church and with church friends.

It is this ‘silence’ that OCN argues does the most damage.

The OCN, wants to change this situation. Its research has shown that Churchgoers can be broken down into four groups:

• 13 percent are openly supportive — the vocally supportive

• 37 percent hide their support — the silently supportive

• 36 percent are questioning their attitudes/still have some reservations but similarly do not openly discuss them — the questioning

• 14 percent hold negative attitudes — the strongly opposed

On top of this, 61 percent of those whose views had changed believed this was down to better ‘understanding or interpretation of the Bible’.

This is where the OCN wants to make the change: giving the ‘silently supportive’ the confidence and language to become ‘vocally supportive’ and by using the most up-to-date and scholarly understanding of the Bible to change the wavering views of the ‘questioning’.

Rev Steve Chalke, founder of Oasis said: “It’s high-time that churches take responsibility for the historic and ongoing harm they have caused to LGBT people, as well as to reflect on our developing and evolving understanding of the text of the Bible.

“None of this is about throwing out beliefs in the face of popular opinion. It’s about understanding the latest Biblical research and listening to Jesus’ core message: to love one another.”

Event speakers will include:

• Rev Steve Chalke, founder Oasis

• Jayne Ozanne, Ozanne Foundation

• Toby Draper, trans-activist, founding member of Queer Christian Collective

• Rev Jide Macauley, founder House of Rainbow

• Chris Rose, inclusion consultant

For more information visit the Open Church Network

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