19 July 2014
Sorry: tiny word - HUGE implications
is such a simple word. Sadly it can never automatically right the wrongs of the
past but, said with deep sincerity and authenticity, creates the potential for
healing and reconciliation.
derives from a prehistoric Germanic root word meaning "sore or
pained". So for a person to be genuinely sorry there must be some pain or
church has never really been good at saying "sorry". It often moves
on and changes without stopping to honestly acknowledge their involvement in
the wrongs from the past. Or ever saying "we were wrong" either through
our opposition and rejection or by complicity and remaining silent about
when the sorry comes it can take a long time coming. Look at how long it took
the Catholic church to say sorry for imprisoning Galileo as heretic; three
I say "the church" I know it is a very general term. In the Nicene
creed we say " We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic
Church." But in truth the church is a fractured entity
that has everything from extreme right wing conservatives who are involved in
politics to contemplatives locked away in monasteries that do nothing more than
pray every day. These two extremes are
as different as black and white. Between the black and white there is every shade of grey. With so many
expressions of Christianity not only in the entire church but also
denominations, if there is anyone who should understand the dynamics and value
of diversity it should be the Christian church.
within the Anglican church there are deep divides on theology, worship and
practices. Somehow or other we, and I mean LGBT people (people of sexual
orientation and gender diversity) that got thrown into the middle of these
divides and we became THE "issue".
was the ordaining of Bishop Gene Robinson in 2003, the first "openly"
gay bishop that brought these divides into the public arena and further
polarised the denomination. When I say openly gay bishop we have to emphasise
the word "openly" because obviously there have been may gay bishops
and priests who served God and their churches. These men were either forced to
remain in the closet or choose to because the
price of honesty was too high. I think this is a sad indictment on the
truce has been called to hold the Anglican Church together.
have often wondered if LGBT people are really that powerful that they could potentially divide a
denomination. I think not. It's just
that we became the oxygen that ignited the smouldering fire of the divides over
power, culture and the authority and interpretation of scripture.
great deal of harm has been done to LGBT people because of the Christian church.
A lot of people have been hurt and damaged. Lives have been lost when the
internal perceived conflict of faith and sexual orientation, or rejection by
Christian family and friends or years of internalised homophobia (self-hatred)
became too much and they ended their lives.
When my autobiography
"A Life of Unlearning" was released I received a daily avalanche of emails from those who been hurt and damaged. Many stories made me weep. I helped found an organisation called Freedom2b which became a support network
for many of these people. Actually 1,000's. One day a post appeared on the
online forum from a young 19 year old man. Stories like his were common but
this one was miraculous.
"I have been a Christian all my life from when I was
about 5... I believe that God is my saviour but have severe trouble coming to
grips with why He would love me.
I’m not "out" to anyone... or sure how to go
about it... or even if I should come out.
I have known I was "different" to those around
me for many years and not attracted to girls My struggle really started 5-6 years
ago when i was in grade 9. I came to the conclusion I must be gay... I have
been raised by a Christian mother in the Salvation Army whose stance was
basically that being gay is wrong. My Grandmother didn't help either. I
remember watching a dancing competition on TV and being told "They are
wonderful, Too bad they are gay. They'll go to hell!"
I have always believed that Christians aren't gay and if
they were there are programs that can fix them.
In year 9 I couldn't come to grips with myself and
attempted suicide. I was caught by a teacher and rushed to hospital. And
diagnosed with depression. I figured
that if I put these feelings in a box and left it alone I would get over it....
but I attempted suicide again in Year 10 and once again in Year 11. I could never tell anyone the reasons why I
wanted to take me life. I felt so much shame.
Which brings me back to this week. I am currently in
Sydney for work and was fed up with myself again. And was planning on killing myself for good last night.
My work involves searching popular social media websites
i.e. Blogger, Twitter etc for mentions of the company I work for. I was
finishing my work, sending it to server and about to write a goodbye email before drowning myself. Before I could finish my email a stray result
came into my inbox. This had nothing to do with my work and didn't match any of
my criteria. There is no reason it should have been there.
It was the story of another young guy just like myself
who had been helped through the freedom2b site. I opened it and howled my eyes
out. Reading about another person in my circumstances and finding out I am not
the only one... Then I found a link to this page and howled even harder Finding
a group of people who believe you can be a gay and a Christian. Even better
seeing the evidence against "Ex-Gay" therapies and classes made me
feel so much better.
I’m so grateful for this site... Without you guys I wouldn't be alive... Literally."
How tragic that this young man's years of unnecessary suffering was caused by nothing more than Christian ignorance and misinformation. And
I wonder how many more are there out there like this young 19 year who have
never heard that God loves them. And that God is no more concerned
about a person's sexual orientation than his is about how tall or short you
are, left-handed, right-handed, the colour of your skin, eyes or hair. These
things are inconsequential to God. Why
has the Church been so fixated about it?
we have moved to new levels of understanding about sexual orientation and
gender identity people have become
conscious of the wrongs of the past.
been involved in a number of apologies over the last few years.
first was getting five
of Australia's former ex-gay leaders to apologise in 2007. These were
people had been involved in ministries and organisations that believed firstly
that to be homosexual (same sex oriented) meant you were flawed or broken and
secondly that through faith and the power of God you could be "healed"
and "cured". I now have seven apologies from Australian former ex-gay
leaders. One is from a straight
man but the rest are gay or lesbian. Most are now in long term committed
relationships. They were apologising for the part they played They acknowledged their ignorance and said
sorry for any harm they may have caused because of that.
second apology was the 100REVS which was a group of 100 ministers who signed a
written apology in 2008. These were ministers from a spectrum of expressions of
Christianity including mainline, evangelical and Pentecostal.
"As ministers of
various churches and denominations we recognise that the churches we belong to,
and the church in general, have not been places of welcome for gay, lesbian,
bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people. Indeed the church has often been
profoundly unloving toward the GLBT community. For these things we apologise,
whatever the distinctive of our Christian position on human sexuality – to
which we remain committed. We are deeply sorry and ask for the forgiveness of
the GLBT community. We long that the church would be a place of welcome for all
people and commit ourselves to pursuing this goal".
John MacIntyre's statement "yes
we got it wrong" The 100REVS apology was purposely worded to not
include any doctrinal statements. After the apology they clarified.
"We ARE a group
of Christian ministers who voluntarily and individually bring this apology.
We ARE NOT official
representatives of our churches or denominations.
We ARE NOT making a
statement on the biblical position on gay and lesbian relationships".
controversial though. One day you'd see the name of a minster added. The
next day it disappeared. They'd been threatened by denominational
hierarchies that if they didn’t remove their names they would lose their jobs
or parishes. Eventually they got 100 names but only 35 marched in the Mardi
Gras parade. Many once again, fearing denominational
reprisals for identifying with the LGBT community in that way, pulled out.
step ahead your are leader. Two an innovator. Three a martyr. Many have paid a high price to be so far
out in front.
most recent apology I have been involved in was Alan Chambers, the former
president of Exodus international. Exodus international was the largest, most influential, longest running
(37 years) ex-gay/reparative/conversion therapy organisation in the world. In
June last year (2013) Exodus and Alan Chambers said "sorry we were
wrong" and overnight closed its doors. I was privileged to be at the
conference and witness it.
Alan Chambers listened to peoples stories, moved
away from "Christian" legalism and judgmentalism to a place of
Christian love and grace. In his written apology to the LGBT community he said.
know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have
experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame
and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted
sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual
orientation that stigmatized parents. I am sorry that there were times I didn’t
stand up to people publicly “on my side” who called you names like sodomite—or
worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly
that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being
amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I
celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him
that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I
am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me
than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious
rejection by Christians as God’s rejection. I am profoundly sorry that many
have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives.
For the rest of my life I will proclaim nothing but the whole truth of the
Gospel, one of grace, mercy and open invitation to all to enter into an
inseverable relationship with almighty God.
forward, we will serve in our pluralistic culture by hosting thoughtful and safe
conversations about gender and sexuality, while partnering with others to
reduce fear, inspire hope, and cultivate human flourishing."
Some people say sorry all the time. They always
seem to be apologising. It loses its meaning.
When a sorry is genuine there has to be action to give it credibility. St Marks, I know, is doing things and will do things that demonstrate
this is a genuine apology. May you be a shining example to other parishes and
churches. The apologies at this stage have been from individuals and tonight
from the first Anglican parish in Australia, but as understanding and acceptance grows it
will gain momentum and eventually entire denominations which will take this
significant step and begin the healing process.
For an apology to have its full impact though something must happen in
those it is offered to. We are half the equation. Just
as no one can be forced to apologise no one can be forced to forgive. Just as
there are some in the Christian church who refuse to apologise for the harm
ignorance has caused to gay and lesbian people so there are LGBT people who
refuse to forgive. They are hurt, angry and bitter at God and the church.
There are those though who know the power of
forgiveness. Or at least that it can simply be an act of self preservation for
the only person you really hurt by being unforgiving is yourself. Unforgiveness
is taking the poison you intended for another. Forgiveness is setting the prisoner free only to realise you were the
So as you willingly and sincerely say sorry tonight
to the LGBT community there are those of us who say thank you and we forgive. This makes the apology complete. As I
mentioned at the beginning, sorry will never automatically right the wrongs of
the past but, said with deep sincerity and authenticity, creates the potential
for healing and reconciliation.
We can walk arm in arm in together in peace
demonstrating, reconciliation, love and grace to a world which so desperately
© Anthony Venn-Brown is the co-founder and former leader of Freedom2b, Australia’s largest network of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people from Christian backgrounds. He is also an educator and consultant on LGBT/faith issues and leader in deconstructing the ‘ex-gay’ myth. Anthony’s autobiography 'A Life of Unlearning', details his journey from married, high profile preacher in Australia’s mega-churches to living as an openly gay man. Anthony has been twice voted ‘One of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians’ (2007 & 2009) and was one of four finalists for the 2011 ACON Community Hero Award. He is also the founder and CEO of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International.
Labels: gay christian, LGBT apology