I’ve recently created this doc about an area I’m going to be moving into and thought it would be appropriate to share it with the Freedom 2 b[e] members.
Globally, the church has been grappling with the issue of welcoming GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) people into congregations, understanding their relationships and accepting leadership roles for some decades now. Many though are just beginning the journey.
Recent surveys reflect a shift, not only in attitude towards, but also understanding of same-sex-oriented people in mainline, evangelical and pentecostal congregations.
Ps Brian Houston, former president of the Australian Christian Churches and senior pastor of Hillsong, says in his statement Issues of Sexuality & Sexual Expression ‘This (issue of sexuality) is a global challenge that most of the world’s churches are grappling with, and we, like them, are trying to balance theology with compassion. We do not profess to have all the answers, nor has the church worldwide always got it right, and we, like them, are trying to balance theology with compassion’.
Sadly, lack of understanding, grace and compassion has caused much unnecessary suffering. We’ve lost lives through suicide, others have been rejected by friends and some no longer have contact with families or with the household of faith. The majority of gay men and lesbians who married, believing this would solve their ‘problem’, have found the relationship unsustainable. The eventual break up has left all involved with much hurt and pain.
Entrenched prejudice, preconceived ideas, misinformation and judgement have contributed to polarisation instead of resolution. Wrongs have occurred on both sides of the debate. The extreme views and actions of some, who feel they have the right to speak on behalf of Christianity, have brought disrepute to the church of Jesus Christ.
Previously, the term ‘gay Christian’, was never used unless there was a negative statement proceeding such as ‘it’s impossible to be a’ or ‘there is no such thing as a’. The words ‘gay’ and ‘Christian’ were seen as contradictory. The Gay Christian movement was birthed in a lounge room in 1968 and has mostly functioned outside the boundaries of traditional Christianity. Through churches and web-based ministries there are now 10’s of thousands of Gay Christians who have reconciled their faith and their sexuality and are seeking church communities where they are welcome. Some have called this the Rainbow Revival.
Churches questioning traditionally held beliefs and seeking to move to a place of welcoming GLBT Christians need assistance to ensure the dialogue is not high jacked by conservatives and that polarisation is minimised. Safe and respectful spaces need to be created to accommodate all people as we embark on this journey together.
Negotiating these uncharted waters successfully requires education, wisdom and sensitivity. This needs to happen at three levels:
1. The pastoral team
2. The church leadership
3. The congregation
Areas of possible consideration could include:
1. Minimising polarisation in the congregation
2. Transitioning the congregation
3. Issues of morality and relationships
4. A biblical basis for welcoming and accepting GLBT people
5. Documentation and policy
6. Appropriate language and terminology
7. Specific needs of GLBT people
8. Understanding the GLBT community – history and culture
9. Gay men and lesbians are not a homogenous unit – what are the differences?
10. Deconstructing the myths about gay and lesbian people
11. Up to date scientific research on sexual orientation
Anthony Venn-Brown – Background
Anthony Venn-Brown is well equipped to assist church leaders and congregations on this journey having lived and worked in both the Christian and Gay worlds.
1972 – 1991
• Pioneered and pastored several churches
• Founded Youth Alive NSW and the Australian Evangelists Association
• Organised and led church leadership study tours to cutting edge churches in the USA
• Crossed denominational barriers and was the first Pentecostal appointed to the Lausanne Congress for World Evangelism Australian Board
• Founder and Director of Every Believer Evangelism involved in equipping individuals and churches in the areas of evangelism through training and crusades
• As an Evangelist, was a conference speaker and popular preacher in the mega churches of Australia as well as overseas
• Influenced the paradigm shifts within the Assemblies of God that contributed to denominational growth
1992 – present
• Voted one of The 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians
• Anthony’s autobiography ‘A Life of Unlearning- a journey to find the truth’ has won several awards and soon to be released in its third edition
• Co-founder and Convenor of Freedom 2 b[e], a growing network of GLBT people from Pentecostal, Charismatic & Evangelical Backgrounds
• Spoken at Gay Christian conferences in the USA and UK
• Worked with 100’s of individuals to resolve the perceived conflict of their faith and/or their sexuality
• Assisted with bridge building projects such as ‘The 100 Revs’ and the ‘Walking Between Worlds’ photographic exhibition
• Worked extensively with people in mixed orientation marriages and ‘ex-gay’ survivors
• Board member of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Business Association
• Volunteered for a number of GLBT community organisations such as the Aids Council of NSW (ACON)
• Created a model for an informed respectful dialogue Creating a Space for Change
Anthony is an ambassador (not a gay activist) for his community who seeks to serve the church to gain greater understanding and always provides a comfortable and respectful space where people can ask the often-unasked questions. Agreed levels of privacy and confidentiality are always maintained.
Anthony has extensive experience as a one on one coach, facilitator, trainer and presenter.
Depending on where you are on this journey as an individual or church, it is important to first assess the specific needs of your situation and then custom design the program that will be of optimum benefit.
Internationally Accredited Professional Coach (ACC ICF) – Author – Speaker
Tel: +61 (0)2 9699 2448 Mobile: +61 (0)416 015 231