As we welcome the sunshine and turn yet another page of the calendar, we suddenly find ourselves at the start of June. Until a few years ago, June was just another month in the English calendar, punctuated by the Queen’s official birthday, Royal Ascot and the start of Wimbledon. Yet in recent years June has taken on a new mantle, as Pride month, a month dedicated to celebrating all things LGBT.
I noticed the rainbow flag as I drove home, proudly flying from the flag pole next to the war memorial in my village. It turns out that flag has caused an uproar on social media, some love it, some hate it, some use it as an excuse to name call, and yes, homophobia is rife, alive and kicking in the 21st century. I was deeply saddened as I read the comments, not just to see that many are still hateful and hurtful towards the LGBT community, but also how the LGBT community have built up a wall of defence, and some seemed unable, or unwilling, to accept seemingly reasonable comments as being made in love, not war.
Having come from the LGBT community myself, I recognise that it’s hard not to put up a brick wall and react with scepticism or anger when people start to dialogue about something you are fiercely passionate about. I suspect that many from this community have endured constant abuse. For me it was being called names, being physically assaulted, being spat on, having my car keyed, being chased out of a pub by a group of name calling bigots, as well as having endured teenage neighbours hurling abuse out of their bedroom window at me every time I left the house, seemingly with their parent’s consent.
Perhaps it’s worth remembering these abuses before you post a hateful or hurtful comment. You may not agree with Pride month, but do you need to say that on a public forum such as Facebook? Would your time not be better spent praying for the LGBT community, praying for those who have been hurt and abused, praying for them to find acceptance and love in their communities and praying that we, as the Church, would learn how to love our LGBT neighbours with true grace.
For my LGBT friends who read this, as a Christian I believe that God gives us all free will. As such I respect your free will to choose how you celebrate Pride, but I also would like you to respect how I choose to celebrate my faith. I left the gay community because I chose to pursue a life lived for God. I recognised that God had some great plans for me and I pursued that with all my heart. For me I chose to end my civil partnership in order to follow God, that’s my reality, my choice. I don't see that choice as dissimilar to how as a teenager I made a choice to leave my church community to pursue a lesbian relationship. My concern is that, whilst my teenage choice would be championed and celebrated today, my adult choice has been vilified, called into question and mocked. Why is that?
I would also confess that the church has often got it's response to the LGBT community wrong and many things have been said or done in the name of Christianity which are shocking and not in line with how Jesus deeply loved. I want to say sorry for all hurts caused to you by those of faith and assure you of my love and deep respect for you.
Let’s use Pride month as a chance to dialogue, even if we end up agreeing to disagree. Let us show true love and acceptance to everyone, to ensure that all know that they are valued, loved and seen, both by others in their communities but also by God. It is a myth that God does not love those in the LGBT community, a total myth. God tells us through his word that he so loved the world that he sent his only son to die for us. It doesn’t say he only sent Jesus for a few select people, he sent Jesus to redeem the world. God also tells us through his word that it is his desire that all should be saved. We are all sinners and we all need to be saved from ourselves, not one of us can do that without Jesus.
My heart today is that everyone is able to live free from abuse, free from fear and free from judgment from their peers and through those freedoms everyone feels confident to explore faith, knowing that we all come to God simply as fallen human beings who need his grace and forgiveness.
I hope that you will respect that because of my faith I cannot celebrate "Pride" in anything other than the redeeming love of Christ, but because of my faith I also love you and part of that love is respecting your choice to live your life as you choose to do so.
If you want to find out more about my journey to faith please check out our videos page or you can drop us an email.