Cross posted on Stephen’s Liberal Journal
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
1 John 4:18
Tonight a number of Northern Irish Liberal Democrats were in a backed room in Grosvenor House, Belfast for a meeting organised by Irish Peace Centres in association with Changing Attitude Ireland and the Methodist Church in Ireland. Of course I realised I had no paper to make notes, but did have my iPhone. The key speaker was David Walton, a lay Methodist preacher from Eccles, who was a past VP of the British Methodist Conference. The subject was sexuality and faith, here are some rough notes of the areas covered..
After starting with some personal anecdotes about his own sexuality David went on to say we have to acknowledge there are a number of issues that the Churches still face when it comes to homosexuality
- There is a sense of disgust about the act and the subject itself
- There is the argument about promiscuity (but looking around us this is not confined to the LGBT community)
- There is the matter of cohabitation, sex outwith marriage, divorce etc all leading to the break down of marriage as the church sees it.
Sexuality has become a test of orthodoxy in the eyes of many churches, both for themselves and for others faith. However, what is slowly breaking that down is when there is someone, a grandchild, child, sibling etc that you know who is openly gay.
In 1993 the Methodist Church started what they called their pilgrimage to understanding human sexuality. In the end they came to accept relationships and civil partnerships, but stop short of allowing blessings in church (and therefore by default also equal marriage).
There is discussion going on in most churches about diversity. Although some are coming to conclusions without meeting LGBT people, or acknowledging that there are some within their congregations.
One thing that all sides of those with faith can agree on is the need of strong and stable relationships, based on honesty, fidelity, self control etc. Especially in the light of the world we are living in.
When it comes down to the acts of sex, which we too often focus on, we are ignoring the core of what loving relationships actually are.
There was then a time for question and discussion within the people present. One highlight was from Gerry Lynch who said, when the church is seen as being less accepting that our secular society we [the church] have a real issue.
This is only part of the initiative that Irish Peace Centres is running. They are seeking to have conversations that difficult conversations across social divides but had in a way solid debate and not name calling from opposing camps.
There will be two series one for LGBT people who love their faith
October 15th & 29th, November 12th and 26th, December 10th
The other for parents and friends of LGBT people
November 8th, December 6th, January 10th, February 7th, March 7th
Both series attendance at all 5 meetings is requested and if you are interested email firstname.lastname@example.org who will provide details of the venue in Belfast where the discussions will take place.