Deep Calling To Deep (part 2): Anna Rogerson

Following on from Part 1 of this series by Andrea King, here we can read Anna Rogerson’s story of God’s transforming work in her life.


Throughout my Christian journey my views on human sexuality have not been static by any means – then again, I have never really had to think too deeply about it. However, God has a way of reaching into our hearts and disturbing us, often unexpectedly.

About 10 years ago, I had a life-changing encounter with God, a physical experience of his presence that caused me to fall in love with Him all over again. I felt called to be baptized a few years later, and experienced another shift. This time it was a little different. I felt convicted and saddened by what I saw around me – broken marriages, broken lives, just so many things wrong with the world. And yes, an increasing acceptance of different lifestyles, one of which was same sex relationships, something I believed to be completely unbiblical.

At that point I pretty much knew what I believed, I was settled in my views, and didn’t really give human sexuality in a Christian context much thought. Because to be honest, I didn’t have to.

Until one day………WHAM! I did.

I’ll never forget the day it was announced – someone in our congregation, in a same sex relationship, was applying for church membership. We had never had to deal with a dilemma like that in our church before. I cried and cried and cried – the tension seemed too much to bear. Because on one hand, here was a woman who seemed perfectly nice, had been coming to our church for ages, and just wanted to be a member like everyone else. On the other, if we said yes, it would mean we – I – would be agreeing with what she believed.  Or saying it was ok. Either way, it would be something that would stretch my conscience so badly it would tear it. I would be doing something wrong. I couldn’t breathe. It was a time of stress, anxiety, and having multiple near misses in the car. All I could do was pour out my heart to God and seek Him.

There was already a culture of fear in the church because at that time many people were sick, and everyone was searching for answers. The devil can use people’s fears, can’t he – it’s one of his most effective weapons if we are not on our guard. Sadly it seems, we were not, as she left the church under what must have been an unbearably dark cloud of despair.

When she came back to our church a year later, my panic returned. All I could do was cry out to God and keep on searching. If only I could find something that would change my view, so I could just agree and be at peace. But no matter how much I prayed, read, or enquired of others, I just couldn’t find anything that made sense to me. No explanation of scripture that I hadn’t heard before, no moments of revelation. Then one day on a train, God spoke to me. ‘I’m not asking you to change your mind. The most important thing is to be in relationship with me’. That brought me some sense of relief, and was the starting point of a wonderful shift in my journey.

About a year after she was accepted into membership, I was on a Footsteps course, and during one of the sessions I had another all-encompassing encounter with God. I felt Him calling me to completely support her, to journey with her, even though it might cost me. Suddenly I was overwhelmed with love and excitement! It was literally like angels were rejoicing in heaven, difficult to describe. Needless to say, I didn’t learn much about Baptist History that day.

At church the next day, I tentatively approached her and tried to explain what God had put on my heart, hoping that she would accept it. Gracious, as always, she did, and suddenly it seemed a real friendship based on love and acceptance was possible. Before me I saw someone who was dedicated in prayer, had a passion for caring for others, and was filled with grace.

Inclusion is now one of the aspects of God’s character that is the most precious to me. One of the books I read in my search for truth was Matthew Vine’s book ‘God and the Gay Christian’. Though I still struggle to bridge the difference in our understanding of scripture, Vine’s vulnerability and explanation of the impacts of exclusion on LGBT people has helped me love and accept people just as they are, as cherished children of God. But it’s God who changes hearts.

Anna Rogerson

Deep Calling To Deep (Part 1): Andrea King

Deep Calling To Deep

Welcome to the first in a new series of blogs by Affirm contributor Andrea King

When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart (Jer 29:13)

Sometimes from the very best of intentions, through strong conviction or values, developed over many years or inherited from those we’ve trusted, we can unintentionally cause pain to others who are different to us.

We don’t intend to. We don’t set out to. But nonetheless, we can become so very sure of our conviction that we either do not stop to consider our impact, or perhaps at times, turn our faces away from the impact we might have; unable, or unwilling, to consider it. Sometimes we’ll provide rational arguments to justify an associated impact of discomfort or pain, perhaps seeing it as an inevitable consequence of staying true to our values or beliefs. That original good intention, our intention of trying to do what we consider to be right or appropriate at the time, becomes an unwitting foundation for harm. We’ve all been there.

It is difficult to know quite what we might do when polarised Biblical convictions create suffering, pain or rejection for some. How do we reconcile this with the Kingdom of God? It becomes a cycle of exclusion, fuelled by the best intentions.

Diversity is incumbent within the body of Christ, it’s a necessary and crucial aspect of reflecting Him more fully. Many members of the LGBT+ community find themselves supported and firmed up by individuals who affirm His unconditional love for all and often more specifically, see a reflection of Him in LGBT+ people of faith. Nonetheless, we cannot deny that the cycle of exclusion simply saps hope from members of the LGBT+ community. Many of us ebb and flow in resurgent hope, disappointment and pain. We often feel less entitled, or even sometimes disqualified, from a hope of salvation, freely offered. Our understanding of an eternal relationship with Him, which we understood to be bought at great price, seems somehow insufficient. It leaves us questioning where and with whom we might ever belong. It can be deeply painful, faith can come at great cost.

And so, I wanted to share one small moment from my ongoing journey with you. I have been attending my local Church for 11 years and about five years ago, having got to know many people within the Church and knowing that there was simply something I must do in Him, I sought membership. I offered to sit with those who had worries, concerns, theological objections and talk it through. A few sought me out. Of those that did, one was respectful in their enquiry. My lasting memory of that time is a few people turning their faces to the wall, literally, as I walked past and particularly of one individual simply saying that people were sick in the church because of that fact that I was there, stated slightly less politely than I’ve described it here. Theologically, this does not stand up, morally this is very simply unacceptable, but regardless, the impact was huge. I stepped away, respectfully. Internally I drew a line, ‘enough’, but if I’m honest, I’d lost hope.

All that was left was prayer. All I could reach was Him. It was raw prayer, no words, pure opening of heart, a cry of the soul.

Stepping away gave a period of time for everyone to reflect. It transpired, that a majority were supportive, card after card came through the door. It gave time for some soul searching. A year later, on Easter Sunday, I returned, due largely to the grace of two Ministers who did not, and would not, let me go, and who modelled grief. The community started to broadly recognise, perhaps for the first time, the impact strong convictions can have when we switch off our capacity to reflect and empathise. Nonetheless, individuals with strong convictions precluding LGBT+ inclusivity remained and with one of these individuals we commenced together on a new journey of sharing our faith, of prayer and mutual reflection together. What bound us both was Him. We both pray a lot, deep calling to deep, and maintained an unwavering commitment to seeking Him – it was our common ground. We respected each other, not seeking any change, just wanting to understand each other more fully, in Him.

About a year ago now –ten years after this journey first began – this individual who I am proud to call my friend, reached a point of revelation, in which the strongly held convictions she embodied were re-framed by Him in prayer, the linked to this, describes her story.

And so, I wonder, how might that help us journey together through the national debates about LGBT+ orientation within the faith community? I wonder how the principles of mutual respect, seeking first to understand each other, and crucially, keeping our eyes firmly fixed on Him in prayer might help?

It just might be that this theological debate is not within our power or skill to resolve, but it remains fully within His. It requires, trust, patience, grace and above all love, but it is without doubt possible.

 

I wonder, would you join us in the journey together, with Him? To seek first to understand, united in Him.

Andrea King

 

 

 

 

 

Some Responses to the Nashville Statement

This week a group of around 150 Christian leaders published The Nashville Statement, a set of affirmations and denials regarding sexuality and faith and in particular LGBT+ issues. This group, it must be said, represent a particular brand of conservative evangelicalism that this particular writer finds to be unwholesome to say the least.

I won’t post a link to the statement here, you’ll find it easily enough if you really want to read it.

There have been a number of responses to the statement online, many from the church and many from secular writers. I want to highlight two responses here that I found to be particularly helpful in presenting a more loving, inclusive and Christ-like representation of the broad spectrum of humanness .

Firstly the ‘Denver Statement‘ written by Nadia Bolz-Weber, an author of several ground-breaking books and a founding pastor of House For All Sinners And Saints in Denver, Colorado.  Nadia responds brilliantly to each of the articles and adds one of her own at the end.

Secondly from Christians United, a similar statement listing their own set of ten articles written in the same style as pairs of affirmations and denials, This statement has initially been signed by a broad spectrum of international Christian leaders and in this case there is an option for the reader to sign on in agreement to the statement.

Here at Affirm our purpose is to support the LGBT+ community, particularly those within the Baptist denomination, but in a wider sense to all those seeking to be at home in an inclusive, Christ-like church, it makes me sad to read the Nashville Statement, but I am encouraged by the responses and by the realisation that the love of Christ is all-encompassing and slowly, very slowly, his church is coming to realise that.

This post by Andy Long, website manager

 

New Site for the Open Church Network

Open Church Network describes itself as ‘A virtual gathering place for people seeking an open conversation about Christianity, theology, church, the Bible and life. A web portal rich in content and resources for those with a personal interest in Christian life or theology; for church leaders, church members and those who are currently finding their way outside a traditional sense of church.  A network with a strong focus on the inclusion of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender within the Christian Church.’

The site is run by the Oasis Charitable Trust and brings together some fantastic content, worth a visit.

You can also follow Open Church Network on Twitter

 

10 Bible Passages That Teach a Christian Perspective on Homosexuality

I found a superb article online recently at the Sojourners website.

10 Bible Passages That Teach a Christian Perspective on Homosexuality was written by Layton E Williams in June 2017. It is a wonderful response to Christians who refer to those verses commonly known as the ‘clobber passages’. This is an excellent resource and well worth a read. We can’t reproduce it here so I’m posting an offsite link.

In Layton’s introduction she states:

‘Here are 10 Bible verses that emphasize the value of love over the law, the God-belovedness of all people, and the special affirmation of those who have been historically rejected as unclean or unholy.’

Layton E. Williams is the Audience Engagement Editor at Sojourners. She also writes about the intersections of faith, justice, politics, and culture with an emphasis on sexuality and gender. You can follow Layton on Twitter

Please do check this article out it’s absolutely brilliant

Gathering Voices

Gathering Voices is an event that is taking place in Manchester this October. It is A collaborative day conference of Christian organisations working to explore ways to improve the experience for all LGBTQAi+ Christians

With key speakers Ruth Hunt (CEO Stonewall)

& Rev. Rose Hudson-Wilkin (Ch*aplain to the Speaker to the House of Commons)

.This promises to be a fascinating day and Affirm will be represented there too.

Details below

Saturday 14th October 2017 09.30 a.m. to 5.30p.m.

Cost: £35 (including refreshments)
Cross Street Chapel, Manchester http://cross-street-chapel.org.uk/

Organisations confirmed so far:
Accepting Evangelicals, Evangelical Fellowship of Lesbian and Gay Christians, Outcome, Sibyls, Stonewall, Two:23

Tel:. 020 8411 0040 (home) 07714 278865 (mobile) e-mail: contact@eflgc.org.uk

N.B. The closing date for accepting bookings is the 30th September 2017

 

Scottish Episcopal Church Approves Equal Marriage

Luke Dowding – 12th June 2017

Great joy mixed with great sorrow; that is how I feel about the recent decision made by the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church earlier this week (June 2017).

Firstly, great joy for those represented in our family in Christ in the Scottish Episcopal Church. Great joy that it was with overwhelming majority of both Bishops and laity, and a comfortable majority from clergy, that the vote to allow same-sex marriages in the Episcopal Church of Scotland was passed. This vote will ensure that a fundamental change in canon law will occur, in which it will no longer say marriage is a lifelong union between man and woman. It will also make provision for those in employed and volunteer positons to decline involvement in same-sex weddings based on decisions of conscience and different theological interpretation. This brings Scottish Episcopal churches to the same position that Baptist churches within the Baptist Union of Great Britain are in (because of our different Ecclesiology and recent decisions of the BU Council).

Secondly, deep sadness for the strife and bitterness caused by the continued dialogue of opposing sides regarding human sexuality. This is not limited to the Anglican Communion but it is deeply entrenched within our Baptist family as well. While Bishops within the Church of England cut ties with their counterparts in Scotland, and “missionaries” are being sent to reconvert those they consider “lost”, so behind so-called “mutual respect” there are those within the Baptist Union who continue to close doors, frustrate productive engagement and undermine those who have an inclusive vision of Kingdom building.

The news from Scotland is one to thank God for, but it also serves as a frank reminder of all that we have still yet to achieve.

Luke Dowding is Co-Director of Affirm

Book Review – ‘119’ by Jaime Sommers

Book Review

119: My Life As A Bisexual Christian

Jaime Sommers

Darton Longman Todd

In 1991 The Church Of England published ‘Issues In Human Sexuality’. It’s true to say that much Christian thinking has come a long way in the years since that document was published, but the title of this book refers to clause 5.8 of that document and the 119 words that were devoted to the subject of bisexuality.

In Christian life today, more so in progressive Christian life, many of us have come to understand that a person’s sexuality is a part of their identity to be celebrated rather than condemned, although this remains a hot topic in evangelical circles.

However bisexuality often seems to be the silent partner in the LGBT+ arena, possibly less well understood than ‘L’, ‘G’ or even ‘T’. So Jaime’s book is a welcome and compelling read.

This book is a beautiful, inspiring and at the same time disturbing autobiographical portrait from a wife and mother of twenty plus years with a happy family life whose bisexuality resulted in her being bullied and abused by the very organisation that should have been there to offer support.

I won’t spoil the story for you as it’s well worth a read, but Jaime’s journey through college and the charismatic Christian groups of the early ‘90’s through to training as a reader in the Anglican church reveals someone whose Christian faith was integral to her life and it becomes a tragic tale as we read of how the church responded to her sexuality with a disciplinary regime that brought her to a place of judgement and isolation. As someone who works as an advocate for the LGBT+ community within the Baptist church I found ‘119’ an informative and enlightening resource

Andy Long

This review originally appeared in ‘Progressive Voices’, the magazine of PCN Britain and is reproduced here by kind permission.