Sex and Sensibility - a creative conversation between the Rev Sally Hitchiner and Peter Tatchell

By Virginia Moffatt
February 24, 2016

Peter Tatchell, Sally Hitchiner and Simon Barrow

Last night Ekklesia and Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church were delighted to co-host a creative conversation between leading LGBT activists, the Rev Sally Hitchiner and Peter Tatchell to mark LGBT History Month. 

Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church has had a long tradition of promoting equality, and we are proud to be based here. It was entirely fitting that the evening began with the Rev Simon Woodman, one of the ministers, describing the church's support for gay rights and their recent registration as a venue for same sex marriage. 

Our co-Director Simon Barrow then introduced the speakers before facilitating a discussion that was thoughtful, and, at times, extremely moving.

The conversation began with each participant describing their experiences growing up in evangelical churches.  Sally found her calling to be a priest; her understanding of her own struggles with sexuality leading her to start Diverse Church, a safe space for young LGBT evangelical Christians.  Peter's understanding of the world from a rationalist perspective brought him to humanism, atheism and a lifetime of campaigning for equality. Both were inspired by other equality campaigns, and in particular, the work of Martin Luther King. 

As they talked, it was fascinating to see how much social change has happened in their lifetimes. When Peter was born the 1950s, homosexual behaviour was still illegal. At the time of Sally's birth in the 1980s, the gay liberation movement was beginning to be a powerful force for change, leading to greater support for the LGBT movement. Today things feel very different. Same sex marriage is legal, and whilst young people still face discrimination when coming out, particularly within the churches, homophobia is much less common.

The discussion moved to how we make change happen in churches who are still reluctant to recognise the LGBT community. Both speakers acknowledged there is a role for strong uncompromising campaigning, and quieter, dialogue between different parties and that a combination of these approaches is important.  It was also good to recognise how far churches have come, whilst acknowledging there is still a long way to go before we have true equality. 

At the end of the evening, I reflected that what had emerged from their conversation was the importance of hearing and understand people's stories in countering discrimination. It  was a privilege to hear theirs and we are very grateful to them both for spending the evening with us and sharing such personal and passionate accounts of their lives.

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© Virginia Moffatt. Virginia Moffatt is Chief Operating Officer of Ekklesia

The podcast of this conversation will be available on the website shortly.

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