A church group has defended its presence at a Christian arts festival which welcomes lesbian and gay people, on the grounds that it can 'share the Gospel' with attenders.
The Church Mission Society (CMS) was criticised last week in an article on the conservative Anglican Mainstream website, for being a partner of the Greenbelt festival.
The article attacked the arts and music event for allowing gay groups and their supporters to appear and speak alongside others, calling its speaker programme "deeply discriminatory".
It said that Greenbelt appeared "strongly pro-gay" and criticised it for allowing the US Bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson and the new Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, Giles Fraser to speak.
The article also criticised the evangelistic charity CMS for being a Greenbelt partner.
But in a public statement today, the Society defended its relationship with Greenbelt, because it said it could evangelise at the festival.
“For CMS, the proper place for mission is being in the marketplace” the statement said. “CMS has had a venue at the Greenbelt Festival for many years and it is a brilliant platform from which to offer hospitality and share the gospel.”
It said that Greenbelt was not a confessional event but primarily a ’space’ for Christians to engage with the arts and cultural trends.
It also expressed unhappiness at the decision to invite the Bishop of New Hampshire, who the original article had described as a "gay poster boy."
“While we understand the reasons why Greenbelt has invited Gene Robinson, we are unhappy about it, particularly at this time in the life of the Anglican Communion” it said.
20,000 people attend the festival each year, which provides a place for many young people who feel rejected by institutional churches but want to explore their Christian faith in a safe space.
It is also well attended by evangelical youth groups and other Christians, including many who are gay, who value the open forums it provides for dialogue and debate across a wide range of subjects.
Also on Ekklesia:
* 'Evangelicals are betraying their heritage', by Jonathan Bartley - http://tinyurl.com/lu6rxd Conservative Anglicans' message on gay people is starkly at odds with the progressive evangelical spirit of the past, says Ekklesia's co-director.
* Leading Baptist appeals for evangelical unity and acceptance of diversity - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/9811
* 'Fear or Freedom? Why a warring church must change', by Simon Barrow (Ekklesia / Shoving Leopard, 2008) - available here: http://books.ekklesia.co.uk/product_info.php?products_id=2255