A conservative pressure group within the Church of England has attacked a Christian arts and music festival for allowing gay groups and their supporters to appear and speak alongside others, calling its speaker programme "deeply discriminatory".
In a news item on its website, Anglican Mainstream says the Greenbelt festival appears ‘strongly pro-gay’ and criticises 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 at the festival.
Gay groups OuterSpace and Journey will also be leading worship at this years Greenbelt festival which takes place on 28—31 Aug 2009 at Cheltenham Racecourse.
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 who value the open forums it provides for dialogue and debate across a wide range of subjects.
Calling Gene Robinson a ‘gay poster boy’, the author of the news item, who is identified only as ‘Jill’ says: “This is rather worrying.”
“It is called the gayification of the church. Almost more insidious is that it exists, cheek by jowl, with other worthwhile, really important and solidly orthodox aspects, lulling those who might otherwise get upset into a false complacency.”
Greenbelt has a number of partners including Christian Aid, CMS, SPCK, USPG, YMCA, ICC and The Church Times.
“At some point, we as a church will have to face the music: we have tacitly forfeited an agreed-upon Christian sexual ethic which had held for the past millenia" the article says.
"Now, in effect we allow for and promote the ethic that as long as ‘relationships’ are ‘loving’ and ‘committed’ they are blessed by God. This ethic is completely subjective, highly unstable and morally accepting of non-binary, plural relationships of either a bisexual, gay or heterosexual nature."
The article also expresses "concern" that other Christian organisations like the Church Mission Society (CMS) are sponsoring the festival and suggests that the group “must be deeply embarrassed.”
The article also urges people to contact the chair of CMS, Bishop Paul Butler.
“Finally, perhaps most galling is the deeply discriminatory nature of the programme, which presents itself as the antithesis of discrimination” the article continues.
“There is no reason why Greenbelt should only push one ideological agenda and only grind one axe, unless it is wanting to slant the argument and deprive its audience of expert opinion on the other side."
The attack on Greenbelt comes at the same time as the launch of a new book by the evangelical Baptist leader David Coffey, called All One in Christ Jesus (http://tinyurl.com/mcr6tu ), which calls for a greater openness and mutual commitment among evangelicals, for the sake of the credibility of the Christian message.
Hardline conservatives, in Anglicanism and elsewhere, are concerned that many other evangelicals are now adopting an affirming position towards lesbian and gay people (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/search/node/evangelicals+pro-gay ), arguing that the Bible and tradition cannot be legitimately used to support discrimination and bigotry.
***Update 11th July 2009. Since the article below was written, the news story that appeared on the Anglican Mainstream site has been moved to: http://www.anglican-mainstream.net/?p=12825  Its authorship has also been changed to Dr Lisa Severine Nolland. It is understodd that the original article was posted by Jill Mans, without crediting Dr Lisa Severine Nolland as the author. There is also a discussion about Greenbelt on the Anglican Mainstream website here: http://www.anglican-mainstream.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=4&p=77753  ***
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