Banging that LGBT drum… again

lesbians-839875_1280“The Gay Agenda”

Apparently the worst fear of American conservative Christians. It’s the phrase that’s brought out whenever there’s a small step forward in LGBT rights, whenever society at large decides in a new way that LGBT people are human beings whose love is legitimate, and especially whenever such attitudes begin to penetrate the walls of the church.

In a single phrase, “The Gay Agenda” sums up the fear of the other, the fear that The Gays are not only out to claim their human rights but to convert others to their choice of lifestyle. Give The Gay Agenda a little room to manoeuvre, and before you know it your daughters will be insisting on wearing checked shirts, getting an undercut, and filling your homes with cats. And let’s not get started on what your sons will get up to under the new regime.

For a while, I used to argue defensively against the idea of a Gay Agenda. After all, I’d hope that any rational person, Christian or not, can see that no-one is out to make sparkly little gay converts out of helpless straight school children. No-one is suggesting we replace the Union Flag with a superior rainbow version. Of course we don’t have an agenda. So couldn’t we just live our LGBT lives quietly, avoid stirring up drama, and just ignore those with extreme views about us?

That seemed the obvious stance to me, not all that long ago. Although in the last few years, I’ve become increasingly clear on my own sexuality, I hadn’t spent much time with other LGBT people, particularly LGBT Christians. I hadn’t realised how much we need a gay agenda of a different kind.

The thing about being bisexual, especially when most of your romantic relationships have been with men, is that you get to cruise through life with a lot of straight-privilege. Unless you make a point of it, people assume heterosexuality as a default, and take your relationships as normal.

Although the churches I’ve been part of have generally been churches with a conservative view on sexuality, I haven’t had to worry if I’ll be welcome there. And I don’t just mean they’ve allowed me to take part in worship – as if that’s what counts as a welcome. No, as long as I’ve been with men:

When I’ve had positions of leadership or responsibility in those churches, I haven’t lost sleep over being found out.
When I’ve started new relationships, I haven’t had to agonise over whether I can mention it to my friends.
When I’ve been struggling with a break-up, I’ve not had to question if it’ll be okay to ask for prayer from my home-group.
I’ve never had to consider that my love life could make others feel awkward.
I’ve never been self-conscious about holding hands in church.
I’ve never stopped myself from showing off pictures of my new love, and giggling over them with friends.

As long as I’ve been with men, I’ve sailed through on a wave of social acceptability.

But in the last 6 months or so, I’ve had the privilege of connecting with an incredible community of LGBT Christians, through Diverse Church, Two:23 Network, Accepting Evangelicals and others. I’ve had chance to listen over cocktails, cider, coffee and Facebook threads.

It’s hit me square in the eyes that gay Christians, and others in same-sex relationships, have to put up with a whole load of invisible oppression. It’s not just the outward, obvious homophobia that cuts deep – although that’s damaging enough. It’s the unspoken rules, the awkwardness, the difference. It’s the little things that you’re made to feel uncomfortable about, the being constantly conscious of your use of pronouns, aware of what physical contact you make, censoring your own social media, remembering who can know what, keeping track of who might be listening.

I’ve been regularly astounded by prayer requests of LGBT Christians who are being hurt by their churches, their families, their friends. There’s anger, there’s confusion, there’s pain – but the prayers are so often for grace. Help me to find the strength to deal with this graciously. Help me to forgive these people who are hurting me. Help me be like Jesus when other people aren’t. These are the prayers of people who deserve to be welcomed – in reality, not just in theory.

Churches, when you say you’re welcoming to LGBT people, do you know what a welcome means? 

You who say you can love people while condemning their relationships, do you know what you’re trying to claim? 

Can I be just as much myself in your church when I’m dating a girl as when I’m dating a guy? Will you really welcome me?

It’s no secret that the Church of England is monumentally dragging its heels on LGBT equality – and making a total hash of dealing with the fact that so many of its members and ministers are moving forwards. Take, for instance, the case of Jeremy Timm, a licensed Reader who had his ministry taken away from him by the Archbishop of York because he chose to convert his civil partnership to marriage. And this from a Church which is supposed to value marriage.

There’s no escaping the fact that our Church teaching on this is not only outdated but in places, just plain wrong. Would-be-priests are still required to (depending on who you ask) read and understand, or agree to live by, the 1991 document Issues in Human Sexuality. Here’s what it’s got to say about bisexual folk:

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 14.03.39

Ambiguous. Always wrong. Inevitably unfaithful. Counselling. Inner healing.

Surely even the most conservative views of sexuality have, by now, seen that bisexual people exist who are not just… confused? It’s not that I keep changing my mind. It’s not that I’m going through a phase. It’s not that I need to ‘discover the truth’. I know the truth: I can be attracted to either men or women. And where on earth did this idea come from that bisexual = unfaithful? As if because I’m attracted to more than one gender, I’m a liar and a cheat? Could I possibly be welcome in a Church that requires its priests to see me this way?

There’s no doubt that as an institution, we have a lot of mess to clear up.

This is why we need a gay agenda. This is why I’ll keep banging that LGBT drum. Not because I want to rid the world of straight people and convert your kids. Not because I’ve got nothing better to talk about.

But because there’s a generation of gay young people growing up in the Church, needing to know if they’ll be really welcome to stay. Because there are bisexual people drawn to Jesus, but appalled by a Church that calls them sick, confused, unfaithful. Because there are faithful Christian trans people staying away from the Church they want to call home, because it’s not safe while people won’t use the right pronouns.

An LGBT agenda is a justice agenda, and the Church won’t reflect the justice of the Kingdom of God until we get it. 

Advertisements

About Claire

@claireylegs Keen on Jesus. Keen on justice. Ministry assistant in the Great North East. Blogger. Find me in: coffee shop / church / pub / bed.
This entry was posted in Evangelicalism, Recent posts, Sex and sexuality and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Banging that LGBT drum… again

  1. Anton Green says:

    I always like your posts Claire. In my City there is an evangelical anglican church where the vicar has appointed someone who is engaged to marry a same sex partner as youth worker. So the church has consciously and with diocesan support declared itself as accepting. Sadly one third of its congregation has regretfully left. Some of these folk are dear to me as I have known them for years. Their difficulty is crucially in the area of the interpretation of scripture reinforced by years of conditioning. Whilst they can set aside Paul on women as not applicable to all women, everywhere through all time, in part because of the positive emphasis of the “all one in Christ” verse they can’t set aside their response to Leviticus, the Pauline scriptures and their view of a kind of creation ordinance because when they look those scriptures soberly up and down they can’t buy the various rewordings or reinterpretations…and so to them even the great theme of compassion is not enough to allow them to set aside their view of a level of orthodox scriptural inerrancy and they are generally sad but resolved. The thing is they are not extremely fundamentalist but just regular evangelicals with a conservative theology. They are not bigots but they feel that they cannot surrender their position without loosing their firm foundation. It makes me sad that even so there cannot be settings where the two viewpoints can co-exist in love…but I guess the other two thirds at the church in question are on balance ready to give it a go. An interesting development locally. I am keen to see whether in a city with 9.00% lgbt population many Christians will flock to this particular rainbow flag….an accepting evangelical church where curiously none seemed to exist before. So those who left clearly could not come to any acceptance of even the narrowest category which is a committed exclusive same sex partnership. if confronted with bi-sexuality I expect they would be bewildered and might think it was at least in part due to the re-emergence of personal choice rather than by nature. For that reason your particular experiential and subjective testimony is very significant. There are still not so many voices to be heard on the issue. As to your comments about the particular challenge bi sexually attracted people have faced in traditional settings…it does come across powerfully. Therefore I value it. Hope all is going well for you in your new community life experiment.

  2. Emily says:

    Claire,

    Thanks for posting this. I want to start by saying that as Christians we all are sinners, saved by the grace of Christ. We are also so so so loved by God and we should reflect Gods love for us in the way we love others. I know I sin. There are so many ways I try to live life on my own and so many times that my will comes above Gods. I’m slowly learning to put God first and make sure that I allow The Lord to ‘Lord’ over my life. I constantly fail at this, but that’s what grace is for. I hope never to judge you or any other Christians, or other people. I care about you and want to love you with the love of Christ. There are many ways each of us get things wrong and I know I get many things wrong. My understanding of the bible is that God designed men and woman to be in relationships together. I also understand that marriage is between a man and a woman, and a lifelong commitment. I also understand that greed is wrong and coveting what others have is a sin. Also we are called to love our neighbour as ourselves, and not put ourselves before others. I constantly want what others have, whether it be clothes, or a better car, or to own a house which I can use to serve God. I often put myself before others. I ensure I have food to eat each day and often eat too much when others in our cities can’t afford to eat. I pray that as I get to know God better I will sin less. I will love others before myself. I will stop striving to be middle class and comfortable but that God and his people come first. I also pray for you that as you get to know God more he can lord over your life too and all your hopes and plans will be submitted to him. Wherever you’re at right now, God is the only one who should judge and not the church. We are sinners saved by grace and we all get things wrong. We should love one another and love God and his word more. I’m not quite sure what I’m trying to say, but I guess I want to say I’m not judging you. God is the only one who should judge each of us. It pains me when the church is legalistic, it’s so hard to live by Gods standards and we all need to sort ourselves out and take the plank from our own eyes before we judge others. But we are all responsible if we call ourselves Christians to make sure that we are right with God and that he is Lord.

    Emily

    • Claire says:

      Hi Emily,

      Good to hear from you, thanks for the comment. I’m really encouraged because there’s so much in what you say that I totally agree with – I guess that’s easy to forget, that while Christians may disagree with each other on issues like same-sex relationships (or whether to baptise infants, or charismatic gifts, or whatever else Christians disagree about!), there’s so much that we share and those are the most fundamental things. You and me, we’re both people who have sinned and turned away from God, both people who have been rescued by God’s grace, both people who have come to know love of Jesus demonstrated through his death and resurrection, both people who have been given the Holy Spirit to help us grow in the likeness of Christ, both people who have put our hope in the coming kingdom of God and look forward to eternal life with him. Those things that make us family are much stronger that the things we think differently about.

      The reason I’ve come to the conclusion that same-sex relationships can honour God, and that God can bless them too, is not because I’ve stopped looking to God as my Lord – it’s the same way I’ve come to conclusions about other aspects of my faith, through studying the Bible, through prayer, through asking the Holy Spirit to help me understand. And I see God working in me for good through my relationship (and other people’s), I see the fruit. I’m sure you’ll have come to your conclusions in the same ways! Really happy to compare notes if it’s something you want to chat about any time.

      It’s good to hear all that God is doing in your life – it sounds like he’s challenging you on lots of the comfortable sins that we all find it easy to tune out from. I’m in the same sort of place – God’s putting his finger on lots of my habits and comforts at the moment, challenging me on how I spend my money and my free time, how deliberately I listen for his voice and his calling in each day, how deeply I engage with the Bible, my attitude when I’m serving my church. So thanks for your prayers.

      And thanks for the reassurance that you don’t judge me, same back at you 🙂

      Claire x

  3. Anton Green says:

    Hi Claire…this seems to be the last post I had from you….but is it actually the last sent out or have I slipped off the mailing list? I have just enjoyed listening to Ash Wednesday live from Lambeth. Were you in attendance as a community member?

Have your say:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s