Contrary to the popular media image, many evangelicals are not anti-gay, says a UK campaigning network which draws hundreds of evangelical Christians and their friends together. This week they are backing the launch of a church education initiative on Jesus and prejudice.
The Living Springs Metropolitan Community Church is hosting the launch of the "Would Jesus Discriminate?" campaign on Saturday 6 October 2007 at 7.15pm on the steps of the United Reformed Church, Argyle Street, Bath.
This gathering will be followed by a concert featuring evangelist and gospel singer the Rev Delores Berry at 8.00pm in the United Reformed Church, also in Argyle Street.
Then on Sunday 7 October worship will be at 6.00pm at the United Reformed Church Halls, Grove Street, Bath. The guest preacher will be Rev Delores Berry and the theme about Jesus and discrimination will be developed further.
The initiative is being backed by Accepting Evangelicals, one of a number of evangelical Christian groups working for the inclusion of non-heterosexual Christians in the fellowship of the Body of Christ, and speaking out against discrimination.
The others include Courage, which true to its name, stopped being an 'ex-gay' ministry when it recognised that the pastoral, clinical, biblical and theological evidence pointed towards acceptance rather than rejection as the appropriate Gospel response.
The group was removed from membership by the Evangelical Alliance, which at present does not offer space to evangelicals who differ from what is seen as 'the party line' on the highly contentious sexuality question.
The need for a recognition of the true diversity of outlook was raised last week on BBC1's 'The Big Questions' TV show, by Jonathan Bartley of the Christian think-tank Ekklesia, and others. Ekklesia draws together analysts and commentators from a number of backgrounds - and Bartley is a former member of the Church of England Evangelical Council. He believes it is important to see 'inclusive evangelicals' recognised in the debate alongside other voices.
For many years there has also been an evangelical fellowship within the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM), and evangelicals are also involved in networks like Inclusive Church and Changing Attitude, which are sometimes portrayed by the media as 'liberal' only.
Accepting Evangelicals has both an 'open' and a 'private' category of membership, because some Christians within the evangelical world who believe in the recognition of the gifts and ministry of lesbian and gay people, and who oppose societal and ecclesial discrimination against them, find themselves attacked or questioned about their 'evangelical integrity'.
Accepting Evangelicals says it recognises that it is "swimming against the tide, but with the courage of our first 200 [open] members, we now have a viable foundation on which to build."
AE has a website (http://www.acceptingevangelicals.org/Index.htm). It describes itself as an "open network of Evangelical Christians who believe the time has come to move towards the acceptance of faithful, loving same-sex partnerships at every level of church life, and the development of a positive Christian ethic for gay and lesbian people."
It is attracting into membership "people who are increasingly uncomfortable with the hard-line statements which are being issued by some Evangelical groups, and the damage which this is causing, both to the church and the mission of the Gospel."
See also: Why evangelicals should think again about homosexuality, by Roy Clements: http://www.acceptingevangelicals.org/think%20again.htm
Ekklesia's co-directors, Jonathan Bartley and Simon Barrow, are signatories both of Accepting Evangelicals' affirmation and of the Inclusive Church statement. See: 'What is Ekklesia’s approach to the sexuality row in the churches?' - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/about/faqs/25