My post today is part of a larger initiative of more than 50 bloggers all sharing their thoughts on how to ‘bridge the gap’. You can check out the other links at: www.btgproject.blogspot.com
- Conspiracy theories
are things we are all familiar with if involved in the Homosexuality/Christianity debate.
But which side am I speaking about?
Well it actually happens on both sides of the debate. Something new is happening though. An increasing number of people want to dialogue. More and more people are sitting down at the table to talk, having coffee, chatting over a meal, meeting behind closed doors, communicating via email. The major difference being that questions are being asked, people are sharing their stories and most importantly others are listening. It's a new day.
Why is this happening?
The increasing visibility of gay and lesbian people, their relationships and families has contributed greatly to the breaking down of stereotypes and misconceptions of same sex oriented people. We are out in the workplace, out with our families and loved ones, we are out in our churches. You see it's much easier to hate someone you can't see. Before Stonewall and law reforms it was essential to remain closeted as disclosure of ones sexual orientation meant imprisonment. In most countries around the world this is no longer the case.
Creating a space for change
After the release of my autobiography 'A Life of Unlearning' in 2004, I became a contact point for many 100's of people whose stories had not been told. The emails I received were heart wrenching and ignited a passion to make a difference and see what I could do to end the unnecessary suffering of so many GLBT people from church backgrounds. Too many lives have been lost through suicide, people traumatized and others estranged from family, friends and churches.
Being a new kid on the block I could see that some methods used to try and create change actually reinforced stereotypes. A THEM and US entrenched model appeared to be the order of the day. I created a model to work with that was more in line with my personality 'Creating a Space for Change' and so far it has produced some almost unbelievable results. I've often said the enemy is not individuals, churches or political parties the enemy is ignorance and the first thing we need to tackle is attitude and not theology. When a person's attitude is loving, compassionate and respectful then it is much easier to listen and talk.
In 2004 people laughed at me when I said the Pentecostal world will change their views on homosexuality .By creating and informed respectful dialogue some of things that have been achieved are:
- A senior lecturer of a leading Pentecostal Bible College interviewed me on video to play to his ethics class. Copies of my autobiography are in the library.
- I sent a letter to the National Executive of the Assemblies of God summarising all the emails I’d received from readers and requesting a meeting.
- From that meeting, the National Executive rewrote their position statement. The new statement was much more compassionate and whilst we still have a long way to go it did acknowledge that a person could be same-sex-oriented and a Christian. This was very different from the previous statement that said all homosexuals go to hell and must change.
- I was invited to speak at the National Baptist Today Conference – an historic event, in that I am the first openly gay man to speak at a Baptist conference in Australia.
- Students from a leading Pentecostal Bible College interviewed me for their class project on homosexuality and the church. Their presentation concluded that the churches response to the GLBT community has been inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ and that the pentecostal church needs to rethink its position on the issue.
- Assisted in creating and promoting the 100 Revs, a group of 100 ministers from Evangelical denominations who signed an apology to the GLBT community for the wrongs of the church. 35 ministers marched in the Mardi Gras parade.
- Assisted in developing a photographic exhibition ‘Walking Between Worlds’ which documented the lives of 20 gay, lesbian and straight people who walk between the GLBT and Christian worlds, building bridges and breaking down walls.
- Been in an encouraging dialogue with a number of mega church pastors about the issues of same sex oriented people not only in Australia but also the US
- Seen three major Pentecostal churches in Australia change to become welcoming of GLBT people.
- Other things I can't mention at this stage as right wing Christian activists would seek to high-jack the conversation
It's easy to blame and accuse. It takes time and patience to create a dialogue. If it took me 28 years to resolve my faith and my sexuality (and I'm gay) then I have to allow my heterosexual friends some slack and give them time to sort things out. It won't happen though without dialogue. So I guess my question to you today is WHO WILL YOU INVITE TO THE TABLE?