The Methodist Church has announced it is to be the Greenbelt festival's third major partner, flying in the face of a proposed boycott by a conservative Christian groups who claims the event is being 'gayified'.
The Church will join the Department of International Development and Christian Aid – Greenbelt’s existing major partners - to play a key role which will involve offering free tickets to people in the church who haven't attended in the last five years.
Greenbelt announced a few days ago record ticket sales, despite a boycott by Anglican Mainstream over the attendance of the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who has worked closely with church groups on justice issues. Last year they also urged a boycott over the attendance of the gay Bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson.
In a statement today however, the Methodist Church said it will play a larger role than ever before at this year’s festival – Europe’s longest running Christian event celebrating the arts, faith and justice.
The Church has sealed a three year partnership deal with Greenbelt organisers, which will see free tickets made available to Methodist ministers, deacons, and others who have not attended the festival for the past five years.
The free tickets, which must be claimed before 31st July via the Greenbelt office, will be on offer during the first two years of the partnership.
A Methodist-branded venue with a capacity to hold up to 400 people will also feature at this year’s Greenbelt for the first time.
The event is held during the August Bank Holiday weekend at Cheltenham Racecourse.
Mark Wakelin, Secretary for Internal Relationships at the Methodist Church, said: “We are very excited about the potential of this partnership.
“This is an opportunity for us to live out our shared ethos of ecumenical working, giving people the chance to experience new and creative expressions of faith; and grow as disciples of Christ”.
An estimated 3,000 Methodists make up the 20,000 people who attend Greenbelt every year.
Gawain Hewitt, the Festival Director, said: “The Methodist Church and Greenbelt both have a history steeped in a commitment to social justice and community engagement. We also share a commitment to dialogue, trade justice, environmental and development issues and human rights. Ideologically, it's a perfect partnership, and practically it makes sense too.
"Around 15 per cent of people on site are Methodists. This partnership will allow these relationships to be strengthened and help the Methodist Church to engage with a much broader audience."