The human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has said that he is looking forward to speaking at the Greenbelt Christian festival this weekend. Tatchell said that, while not being a Christian himself, “we have more in common than divides us”.
This year has seen a sharp rise in bookings for Greenbelt, which is expected to draw around 21,000 visitors. It will run from tomorrow (Friday 27 August) to Monday 30 August at Cheltenham Racecourse. Major sponsors include Christian Aid and the Methodist Church.
Tatchell told Ekklesia, “I'm honoured to be invited to Greenbelt, and especially honoured that I've been invited to do three separate talks. I hope I will offer some challenging ideas, and in turn be challenged by the audience. During the question-and-answer sessions, I'll be very happy to accept criticisms and counter-arguments.”
The socially conservative group Anglican Mainstream has called for a boycott of Greenbelt because of the invitation to Tatchell, as he is known for his campaigns for gay rights.
Anglican Mainstream's Lisa Nolland drew criticism in May, when she suggested that Tatchell's presence at Greenbelt would put children at risk.
Writing this month, she was keen to emphasise that “I hugely admire Peter Tatchell's defence of human rights and religious liberty”. But she added, “I am appalled by some of his views, because I believe they are toxic to human wellbeing”.
Nolland suggested that Tatchell's comments about the diversity of sexualities imply acceptance of paedophilia.
In reply, Tatchell said, "Dr Nolland and her friends should re-read the Ten Commandments, where it warns against bearing false witness”. He accused Anglican Mainstream of giving a “highly biased, selective and distorted account of my views”.
He insisted that he strongly opposes child abuse and said that Anglican Mainstream never mention “my proposals to help young people make wise and responsible sexual choices” or “my suggestions about how young people can be better protected against sexual abuse”.
Amongst other subjects, Tatchell will be speaking about the “struggle for queer freedom” in Africa. He has praised African Christian human rights campaigners, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and Bishop Christopher Senyonjo of Uganda.