News from our co-director, Luke and One Body One Faith

Here at Affirm we are thrilled to let you all know that Luke Dowding, our co-director has been appointed to the role of Executive Director at One Body One Faith, two years to the day since their launch date.

Chair of One Body One Faith Trustees, Reverend Canon Peter Leonard, said, “The Trustees are delighted that Luke has accepted the invitation to become OneBodyOneFaith’s new Executive Director. He arrives at a very exciting time in the organisation’s long history and brings a range of skills and experience which will build on and develop the excellent work done by outgoing Chief Executive Officer Tracey Byrne. The Trustees would like to thank Tracey for her commitment and dedication and are very much looking forward to the future under Luke’s direction”

Luke has a degree in Theology from Spurgeon’s College and a Masters in Biblical Studies from King’s College London.  A Deacon and Trustee at Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church he also finds time to act as a Stonewall School and Faith Role Model and in a faith context, as Co-Director of Affirm he’s a pioneer of LGBT+ inclusion within the Baptist Union of Great Britain. He is Co-Founder of Soho Gathering, and Faith & Belief Representative and Deputy Chair of the Community Advisory Board for London Pride and Committee Chair for Christians at Pride in London.

Luke is a fervent campaigner and fundraiser for LGBT+ rights in Albania, believing that at the core of Christian identity is the inclusion of the marginalised regardless of their beliefs or orientation, and he was recently appointed the first Patron for “Streha”: the first shelter for LGBTQ+ homeless young people in the Balkans.

Luke will also bring to OneBody a breadth of business management experience from his 8 years of working within the advertising industry in London, where he now provides Inclusion and Diversity training for corporate, charity and faith bodies.

Luke is married to Steven, the first same-gender marriage to be held at Bloomsbury Central Baptist and the first within the wider Baptist Union of Great Britain.

 

Stonewall 100: University chaplain and Affirm member named gay role model of the year

A university chaplain has thanked other Christians for “loving me just as I am” after being named Stonewall’s gay role model of the year.

Ray Vincent, associate chaplain at the University of South Wales, and a long standing Affirm member, received the award for championing LGBT equality within the workplace.

Read the story on the BBC site here.

 

Affirm’s Co-Director stands for president of Baptist Union

Here at Affirm we are thrilled to hear that Dawn Cole-Savidge, one of our co-directors, has been nominated for the presidency of Baptists Together in 2020-2021.

Dawn has prepared a statement and a testimonial video which can be seen here, along with similar statements from the other candidate, Yinka Oyekan.

Affirm’s other co-director, Luke Dowding, writes on Twitter “Her standing for nomination, and indeed the way in which she was nominated, is a powerful witness to her ministry and what I am certain will be a progressive, inspiring, and thought-provoking tenure as President of the Baptist Union of Great Britain should she be elected.”

Please encourage your church to use it’s voting power in Dawn’s favour. We will be praying for Dawn as the election proceeds.

Benny Hazelhurst: an inspiring life

Here at Affirm we were sad to hear that Rev Benny Hazelhurst passed away over Christmas, after a long battle with cancer.  Benny was a great support and friend to many of us for many years.

Affirm co-director Luke Dowding has written a beautiful tribute over at the One Body One Faith site. You can read Luke’s piece here

Two great events in London this December

We’ve just published details of two events in London in December, go to the events page for full details, including times and booking details.

An excellent opportunity here to enjoy a weekend in London with a Friday evening at Bloomsbury Central Baptist church, followed by a fantastic day conference at St john’s Church Waterloo. Too good an opportunity to miss? Why not treat yourself to a nice hotel?

The Complete Guide To Studying And Living in the UK as an LGBT Student

We were asked to provide a link to this very interesting article by Ella Stefannson, it’s well worth a read.

The Complete Guide To Studying And Living in the UK as an LGBT Student

Studying at a university is supposed to be about learning, growing intellectually, having fun and enjoying the student life at its fullest. But, for marginalized groups like LGBTs, more often than not it’s about exclusion and prejudice. Although most prejudice towards LGBT people that once were common and are now diminishing, studying as an LGBT student is still challenging.

Affirm launch event in October

A very special date for your diaries: 

Affirm is delighted to invite you to our gathering in October where we will be reflecting on our journey so far, and looking forward to the task ahead of us. We are delighted that Jamie Fletcher (A Queer, Trans, Non-Binary, Christian, Artist and Activist based in Leeds; she works freelance as a theatre and film director and musician, as well as having co-founded Queer Church Leeds) will be joining us to offer a keynote speech. We will be sharing in worship and communion with one another, as well as the chance to enjoy fellowship before and after the event. 

All are welcome to this event, there is no requirement to register and there is no fee. There will be an opportunity to make a gift towards the expenses of the day.

We would appreciate an e-mail if you are planning to come, please let us know how many people may be coming along with you, this will give us some idea of numbers. If you would rather just attend on the day that’s fine too, we respect your privacy.

Deep Calling to Deep, Part 3 – The Wrestle

The current rhetoric around faith sector inclusion of the LGBT+ community is disappointing.

It seems we are still a way away from understanding how we might hold different theological views but disagree respectfully.

Following a conversation with a few others of a view that faith sector leaders, ministers in local churches, were entitled, or perhaps even Biblically justified in excluding LGBT+ community from inclusive worship in Churches, I wrote the following poem.

I wonder if in a position of privilege and inclusion, from the perspective of a majority, exclusion and the impact of exclusion, is really understood.

This poem is one small snapshot of how it feels.

To members of the LGBT+ community and our friends and supporters, I say this. Grieve yes, it’s inevitable and necessary; but please, please do not walk away. Do not permit exclusion to become an acceptable norm. Stand. Stand up, together, join the conversation and we just might challenge the preconceptions. We will need to model how to disagree responsibly, respectfully and with grace.

I hope this video of the rehearsal for the Greatest Showman might inspire you.

The wrestle, Father

 

How can I be chosen for this, if no one here will have me?

How can I sustain this path, when the cost required breaks me?

Where can I go from here when my doubt threatens to swamp me?

The threat of displeasing you, the look in the eye of the other as they regard me.

I would prefer to retreat, to hide and to run

To leave this place to You

I am not what you think

I’m not big

I’m not strong

There is little left to renew

Yet I trust you and I love you, like there is nothing else

I give it all for you.

 

It brings me back, head bent,

With shoulders in-turned

Lost and alone

But with You.

I despair, I lose hope

I tremble and I fear

But I hear your gentle voice

You call to my heart

Remind me of where we have been

And encourage me to rejoice

 

Rejoice as I weep?

Rejoice as I wish

There was another path out of here.

Rejoice as I stumble

And fall to my knees

And beseech yet again

Why me?

Why here?

 

I hear that it’s not possible

That I can’t belong

Because of all that I am

And have been

 

You tell me there is hope

There is beauty

And redemption

You play the strings laid in my heart

 

And so, I rise to my feet

Though I cannot lift my head

Cannot believe that You really mean me

 

As I rise I know that our journey has been precious

That it enables me to see

 

To see hope and restoration

In the hidden and the buried

In the places no one else will call home

 

To see future

To see purpose

To see the power of restoration

To know a place that you have crafted as Your own

 

I see radiance and enormity

Become a glimmer and a trickle

To small heart and souls that reach to You.

Souls that are hidden and abandoned

Buried beyond recognition

But treasured and embraced by You.

 

And so brokenly I travel

I journey by Your side

Resting and leaning as I go

 

Learning to discern, through the gift of your light

Where to travel

How to reach You

To come home

 

I recognise a preciousness

Buried in the forlorn

Who recognise the limitations of here and now

 

They recognise Your Kingdom

And grasp it with both hands

As they reach for you, from here, on the ground

 

There is envy from the wise

And the rich and the brave

Who subsequently notice Your call

They do not sacrifice, they do not  crawl

They worship and they praise

With eloquence and elegance above all.

 

You value the heartfelt

Those earnestly searching

You value the humanity they bring.

They expect little

Have less purpose

Are lost in Your glamour

 

You radiate

They absorb

And they sing.

 

So I praise You

Your compassion

Your commitment

And your care

That makes broken hearts new.

 

I trust in your purpose

Resting fully in prayer

And I stand to

Breathe in

Only You.

 

Andrea King

Book Review: 4 Views on Pastoring LGBTQ Teenagers

I wrote this review for the magazine ‘Progressive Voices’, but as one of the authors is Affirm’s own Gemma Dunning, it seemed appropriate to reprint it here.

4 Views on Pastoring LGBTQ Teenagers

Shelley Donaldson, Gemma Dunning, Nick Elio, Eric Woods (Mark Ostreicher, General Editor)

The Youth Cartel

This is the first in a proposed series of books, published by the Youth Cartel, presenting different views on contemporary topics. Each author presents their thoughts in an individual chapter, which is then responded to by one of the other authors.

Don’t pick up this book expecting a unified view on the subject matter. Whilst it is apparent that each of the authors has a passionate and caring heart for young people who are exploring their sexuality, it is equally clear that they don’t always agree with each other’s position. Their responses to each other are compassionate, thoughtful and well presented – most of the time.  They each have a clear view of their own thoughts and debate strongly with each other, at times it turns into a bit of a bun fight as each seeks to examine their writing partner’s thoughts in the light of their own views and experience. I suppose that is what this book, and this series of books, is all about. LGBTQ teenagers need loving, caring, thoughtful pastoral care and each author has their own ideas about that.

Each author comes from a different background and brings their own personal understandings and religious background to the game.  Three of the authors are American, whilst Gemma Dunning, a London based Baptist minister, is the sole UK representative. Liberal and (marginally) conservative views are represented. Three have a holistically inclusive viewpoint and, in sometimes differing ways, want to support and accept all young people into adulthood, whatever their gender identity or sexual orientation. One author takes the view that ultimately sexuality can be ‘remade’. A position that many readers will find distasteful to say the least, but at least his position is represented here.

Editor Mark Ostreicher sums up with final thoughts and some useful appendices that provide practical advice and resources. The book as a whole is at times inspiring and at other times exasperating. You, as a reader, will inevitably find material here that is helpful and supportive, alongside some that is frustrating, but on the whole, it is a book that will promote debate and discussion within churches, among youth leaders, pastors and counsellors and this debate can only be healthy and promote a deeper understanding.

Andy Long