In 1997, I described opposition to same-sex relationships as being a matter of "God's opinion", rather than my own. This week, I will begin a walk of 160 miles from Birmingham to London as a pilgrimage of repentance for my former homophobia. As I prepare to begin walking tomorrow, this article explains what led me to do this.
Concerns about young people have made the news this week. There are fears of "sexualisation" and "radicalisation". Both words imply that young people cannot make choices themselves, but only passively accept what is imposed on them. And they distract attention from the policies of a government which is set to wreck the opportunities of countless young people.
To tackle homophobia, we need to understand it. Recent years have seen a backlash against LGBT rights in the UK. This is partly because changing views on sexuality have become a focus for people alarmed by the declining status of what they regard as Christian morality. But it's not a morality that has much in common with the teachings and lifestyle of Jesus.
Quakers take pride in the history of nineteenth-century Quaker employers, many known for their progressive thinking. Some have suggested that they can now be a model for us in developing a form of "ethical capitalism". But the most forward-thinking nineteenth century Quakers called not for philanthropy but for fundamental change to the economic system. Their example can inspire us to reject capitalism altogether and to seek alternatives.
British Quakers have announced that they are calling for a boycott of goods from Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This is a brave decision, given the volume of abuse, hate mail and downright lies that faced the Methodist Church when they made a similar decision. With this in mind, there are important points that must be remembered about the Quakers' position.
Millions of people across north Africa and the Middle East have are demonstrating the power of active nonviolence. But British politicians and pundits seem to have learnt no lessons, falling in line behind the bombing of Libya as soon as Cameron announced it. In the face of all the evidence, they are accepting the old assumption that violence works.
Defence Secretary Liam Fox is pushing through an Armed Forces Bill that will make no meaningful changes to the armed forces. Fox and his allies use gung-ho rhetoric about "supporting our boys" while neglecting the human rights of forces personnel.
Armed forces chaplains play a crucial role in providing pastoral support to people who face danger and death on a daily basis. But chaplains' independence is compromised by the fact that they are members of the forces themselves. Churches that take a stand on wider issues of peace and war are rarely willing to question the ethics of the armed forces. Why has this situation arisen? And how can we change it?
For some activists, resisting the government's cuts means abandoning other campaigns, such as the struggle for queer rights and same-sex marriage. But they are making a false distinction. Issues of marriage and sexuality are closely linked to questions of power and money.
When I became a Christian, I mistakenly accepted homophobic views and campaigned against same-sex relationships. I'm appalled that I did this. Now I'm planning to walk from Birmingham to London as a pilgrimage of repentance.