A newly established gay Christian group, Changing Attitude Sussex, is aiming to make churches in the local community more gay-friendly.
Changing Attitude claims they are: “Drawn by God’s love to work for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the Anglican Communion.”
Last month, over 70 people attended the group’s first meeting, held at the Chapel Royal on North Street, Brighton. The meeting was addressed by the National Director of Changing Attitude, The Rev’d Colin Coward, who urged attendees to “challenge the hostility gay people face in some churches.”
The organisation describes itself as “dedicated to telling the truth about Christian teaching on homosexuality and to working for the full inclusion of LGBT people in the church.”
The Sussex group is set to create a dossier entitled ‘Which Church?’ which will categorise churches in the area based on how gay-friendly they are. The brochure will divide local churches into categories ranging from ‘open and welcoming’ to ‘judgemental and rejecting’.
Provisional group convenor, Keith Sharpe, told the Badger: “Church leaders increasingly make overt homophobic statements which foster hatred and bigotry and demonise gay people. It is very damaging for gay people’s mental health to find themselves in a judgemental and rejecting church, and we hope that our ‘Which Church?’ dossier will give them the information they need to make an informed choice.”
The group has received hostile reviews from some church leaders, including the Bishop of Lewes, Wallace Benn.
Benn is the president of the Church of England Evangelical Council, a traditionalist group that is opposed to the ordination of gay bishops. In a recent letter, he wrote: “In classic Christian teaching, homosexual actions leave the actors facing God’s judgement without Christ’s mediating work. Teaching which encourages such behaviour is profoundly cruel, as it encourages people to sin.”
In 2008, Benn boycotted the Lambeth Conference in opposition to Archbishop Williams’ attempts to liberalise the church on sexual issues. However, in an online article he wrote: “Compassion and care are needed. Homosexual people should be warmly welcomed in our churches. God loves us, whatever our orientation”.
In 2003, Dr. Jeffrey John became the first openly gay man to be appointed a bishop. Dr. John, who was celibate at the time, later stood down so as not to divide the church.
The University of Sussex chaplain, The Rev’d Canon Dr. Gavin Ashenden, commented: “There are a large number of gay people as well as Christians in Brighton, and a good many know each other and like each other as people.
Several of the Brighton churches are enthusiastically welcoming and protective of the gay community, including St Nicholas, the Anglican Parish Church of Brighton, and of course, the Metropolitan Community Church, which is made up mainly of LGBT Christians.”