Pontypridd church’s radical marriage policy

Here’s an announcement we were sent from St David’s Uniting Church in Pontypridd, they have taken a radical and challenging stand for equality. Please send them some words of encouragement.

All Are Welcome

In striving to live into God’s kingdom of justice and joy, St David’s Uniting Church, Pontypridd have passed a proposal to promote equality in regards to their marriage policy.

Currently legally unable to conduct same gender weddings, the congregation has made the decision to cease conducting heterosexual weddings until this changes, whilst offering a common blessing ceremony for all couples in the meantime.

Their sister congregation, Castle Square URC, is registered to conduct weddings for all couples and it is hoped that St David’s Uniting Church will be able to follow in their footsteps soon. Until that time comes, they will continue to fight for equality, justice and welcome for all people, whatever their sexuality or gender, both in the church and in the wider community.

“This will be a prophetic witness of God’s extravagant love for all for those within our parent denominations who think differently,” said Bethan Walkling, church elder.

“At a time when many are turning away from the Church because they see it as judgmental, this could be a great way of sharing God’s good news of great joy for all people, which of course includes the LGBTQ+ community,” added Revd Dr Phil Wall, church minister.

“This decision isn’t about restricting our range of services but extending the blessing of loving relationships and ensuring that we do so with full equality to all. This is in line with our calling to bless all sorts of relationships in God’s name – couples, families, colleagues…the possibilities – like God’s love – are endless!”

Iestyn Henson, church elder.

 

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.

 

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?

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.

Public Statement Of Concern

We at Affirm have prepared a public statement expressing our current concerns regarding the discourse on human sexuality and gender identity within the Baptist Union of Great Britain.

A PDF version of the statement can be viewed or downloaded by clicking the link below

Affirm.April2018Statement.AssociationConcerns.

Please feel free to contact the team with any comments or questions

Regards

The Affirm Team

Book Launch Event – Gemma’s Book

Affirm Trustee Gemma Dunning has co-authored a recently published book ‘4 Views On Pastoring LGBTQ Teenagers’. Some of you will have been at the recent Two:23 event where the book was launched in London.

If you missed it there is another event taking place in Newport, South Wales and we’d love to see you there.

Details below:

Charlotte’s Story

This is the latest in our series of videos, please share the link and use the video n your own churches and home groups if you find it useful. We’d love to hear from you with your thoughts about this or any of our resources, get in touch through the contacts page.

Charlotte is the pastor of a small Baptist Chapel in the South Wales Valleys. In this story she tells us about the journey that the church has been on towards a full affirmation of the LGBT+ community, which includes offering same sex marriage on equal grounds with heterosexual marriage.

 

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

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