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Four/Five/Six Strings & The Truth

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Equality and inclusivity

My book list to start off 2017

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I’ve got a bookshelf near my bed and I generally buy more books than I’ve got time to read. At the start of the year I sorted out this pile that led reading, once I’ve finished the three or four that I’m already reading at the same time.

Looking at the titles I guess this is a clear indication of the way my spiritual life has been going for several years now.  My Christian faith has always been important to me, but in recent years has become much more liberal and progressive and I find myself reading authors like those above.

Peter Enns books ‘The Sin Of Certainty’, ‘The Evolution Of Adam’ and ‘The Bible Tells Me So’ have been a welcome refuge for me so I’m looking forward to ‘Inspiration And Incarnation’.

I recently finished ‘Falling Upward’ by Richard Rohr and have just bought ‘The Divine Dance’ an examination of the nature of God from his uniquely mystical stance.

There are a couple of C.S. Lewis books in there which  my nephew bought for me in Hay On Wye. I’ve read much of Lewis’ work before and will enjoy revisiting these.

The books on sexuality and gender are of interest because of the passion that I have to see all people welcomed into the body of Christ. Inclusion and equality are Christlike traits that we need to pursue.  Equal marriage is only one of the issues that the church needs to address in this area, but it’s a big one.

No doubt more titles will be added soon and some of these books will still be on the pile next year, but I’m getting there.

Thoughts on Abigail Austen’s documentary

This week my wife and I watched Abigail Austen’s Channel 4 documentary ‘My Trans American Road Trip’, an hour-long journey into some disturbing territory.

The primary focus of the documentary was the controversial ‘bathroom bill’ that has been passed into legislation in certain parts of the USA. The law states that transgender people, when out and about in public buildings, are only allowed to use a public toilet for the gender that they were born with. It is a tragic abuse of the human rights of a group of people who have suffered prejudice and harassment from all avenues during their whole of their lives.

The bill has caused huge amounts of controversy across America and has become a key factor in the current electoral atmosphere, with both leading parties having much to say on the subject.

If you don’t already know, Abigail Austen is a transgender journalist, the first British army officer to undergo full gender reassignment. During the show she interviewed many outspoken proponents of the bill, graciously trying to understand their point of view, whilst challenging their preconceptions. She visited churches, businesses and was even interviewed on a radio chat show.

At this stage let me reiterate the fact that I’m a Christian, I’ve been involved with the church for the whole of my life, ‘became’ a Christian (in the sense that many Christians would understand) aged eighteen (1982) and was baptized in 1985. My wife has been a Christian for even longer than me and we wrote this post together.

Unlike much of the Christian church, we passionately believe in the human rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people to equality, inclusion, equal marriage, equal employment and the freedom to live without fear. We also sincerely believe that this is a Christ-like approach; Jesus is all about inclusion, love and compassion.

As such it appalled us to see the hatred and fear that was being expressed during this broadcast by so much of evangelical, conservative, right wing America. Pulpit thumping preachers shouting about the evils of transgender people and exhorting their congregation to punish their children physically if they expressed homosexual tendencies, Christian businessmen pontificating about how ‘God cannot compromise himself’ and using such vague statements to reinforce their standpoint of prejudice. Christian parents feeling the need to ‘guard’ the doors of public lavatories whilst their children are using them, just in case a transgender person tries to use them at the same time with the motive of accessing and sexually abusing the child. Thus assuming that transgender people are sexual predators. Surely if a transgender lady were to use a male toilet they would be in serious danger of being sexually abused themselves.

All of this behaviour is extremely frustrating to us. We are part of a group that is campaigning for equal marriage in churches in the UK, and there is still much opposition to that move.

We grew up in the Baptist tradition, which encourages its members to study the scriptures personally and prayerfully in context, where disagreement takes place we should seek to respect the others point of view, however the extremist point of view expressed by these supposedly Christian people is well beyond the pale.

It is exactly for reasons like this that I cannot apply the label ‘evangelical’ or ‘conservative’ to my Christianity. These words carry so much negative baggage with them. This is not true Christianity; the hand of Jesus reaches out and offers unconditional love. A fundamentalist approach is dangerous; it breeds contempt, segregation and a superiority complex. It lacks love, peace and understanding and in no way reflects the real ethos of Jesus.

Thank God for the progressive Christian movement, with all its flaws, uncertainties, doubts and scrabbling for direction, we are at least seeking positive ways forward based on a more inclusive understanding of the world.

If you want to watch Abigail’s documentary it’s at

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/my-trans-american-road-trip

Be warned you may find the ideals and attitudes of the church leaders represented upsetting. We do not want you, or anyone to believe these people represent the real Jesus or us as Christians. They claim that LGBT people will be judged and condemned, we truly believe anyone who preaches this prejudice and poison is not representative of the Bible or Jesus.

Your comments welcome below, I welcome all input, but please don’t tell me I’m going to Hell, because I’m getting sick of being told that all the time!

 

Affirming Baptists day in Pontypridd

Jackie and I spent a very useful and informative day with some of the members of Affirming Baptists today. The day was hosted by St. David’s Uniting Church in Pontypridd and, although it was a small gathering, we enjoyed the day and made some new friends.

Affirming Baptists is an organisation that seeks to promote the acceptance of same-sex marriages and relationships within the Baptist denomination. They seek open and respectful discussion with those members of the denomination who may disagree with their views and are seeking ways in which the denomination can move forwards on the issue.

It may seem strange in our world today, but much of the church is still not ready to accept the LGBT community into full communion. This is a subject that has been at the top of my agenda for several years now and I have campaigned for full inclusion and equality for our LGBT family. I simply cannot accept a faith which excludes people based on their gender identity.

Today’s gathering was a time to share stories and experiences. We heard about some missional works that were taking place at Bloomsbury Baptist Church in London. Two gay couples shared their experiences within the church and a local pastor talked about their church’s decision to register for same sex marriage.

A small bookstall was held at the event, and the authors of several of the books were present. I picked up some interesting books; ‘Let The Bible Be Itself’ by Ray Vincent and ‘Good As New’ and ‘The Gay Disciple’ by John Henson.

The day was closed with a short devotion from Jeremy Marks of Post Courage. We came away encouraged and refreshed.

 

 

 

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