THIS MONTH has seen Pride events all over the country. It’s 50 years this year since the first Pride March in London in 1972.
To mark this milestone, I was one of a number of faith leaders interviewed on BBC local radio on Sunday 26th June.
A pre-recorded interview with me and Rabbi Anna Wolfson from the liberal Jewish tradition, was broadcast on more than half of the BBC’s 40 regional stations.
In it, I shared a little of my journey with faith and LGBT identity:
I was brought up in the Roman Catholic Church, and I chose to make a commitment to it as a young adult, and so I did consider ordination. I got half way through [training for] ordination to Catholic priesthood, and I still have a tremendous sense of calling, but I left that because I had a crisis, of identity, of faith, because I had an unhealthy image of God and of myself, and it wasn’t a firm and healthy foundation on which to build a life commitment to ministry. Although that was a tough thing, I don’t regret leaving that behind because it wasn’t life-giving for me at that time.
I also reflected on the unexpected growth of the Open Table Network, the charity which I now coordinate:
I believe in a God of surprises, you know, the call to ministry has not let me go, and I now find myself leading a charity which has grown from one community 14 years ago to 24 communities in the last 7 years. This is not my kingdom I’m building, it’s not under my own strength, this is not something I could have ever asked for or imagined. It continually amazes me and surprises me. It’s where I’m called to be and to minister now.
and what motivates me to be part of the movement for greater welcome, affirmation, inclusion and empowerment of LGBT+ Christians:
I had a dream a couple of years ago where I imagined my younger self, I could really see myself as an 18 year old, around the time I was having another crisis, really, and my teenage self came up and gave me a hug. So there is a sense in being the change that we want to see. I can’t go back and make it better for my teenage self, but I can do anything within my power and with God’s help to make it better for others.
In a live interview with BBC Radio Merseyside, I shared how the Open Table Network has been raising awareness of Pride Month and our work through a growing number of requests to explain why Pride, and our ministry, matters.
I explained how the origin of the first Open Table community in Liverpool in June 2008 became linked with the formation of Liverpool’s first official Pride festival in 2010:
within a few weeks of our first meeting, there was an 18 year old gay man, Michael Causer, who died in hospital following a brutal homophobic attack. And so our origins became intertwined with how Pride in the Liverpool City Region has developed because the first official Pride festival in Liverpool in 2010 was directly informed by the city’s response to Michael Causer’s murder in 2008… It’s really become part of our DNA that we’re linked with the celebration of Pride through starting at this time of year, we’re linked with the origins of Pride in the Liverpool City Region, so it’s a story that we’re telling increasingly each year.
The interview moved on to how things have changed for LGBT+ people in society, and in church circles, in the last 50 years, and in the 14 years since the first Open Table began. I acknowledged that:
the Church of England was involved in campaigning for the decriminalisation of homosexual acts in the 1960s, so that was quite a prophetic thing to be doing, but there are voices within the Church of England that perhaps wouldn’t support such a position today.
I also affirmed the contributions of those who have gone before us, and with whom we work in partnership, who have made ministries like the Open Table Network possible, including Quest, the LGBT+ Catholic charity, which began in 1973, and OneBodyOneFaith, which began in 1976 as the Gay Christian Movement:
we stand on the shoulders of giants who’ve been doing this work for many years, so our work wouldn’t be possible without them.
I also reflected on the surprising and unforeseen growth of the Open Table Network, from one community to 24 across England and Wales in seven years, which is both a sign of progress and a sign of need:
We didn’t realise it would become a movement that would go national, so even seven years ago I wouldn’t have believed that we’d have a charity supporting so many communities, and talking to more than 100 other churches about how to be more sensitive and inclusive for LGBT+ people.