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The Baptist Union and Same Sex Marriage

For a few years now I have been concerned with equal rights and inclusivity for LGBT people in the church. I was very happy to see the legalisation of same sex marriage in the UK in 2014 and since that time I have been actively interested in pursuing the acceptance of the LGBT community in churches, and the willingness of churches to register for same sex marriage and put right the prejudices that have been practiced for centuries.

I’ve spent most of my life as part of the Baptist church in the UK. For the most part a traditional denomination that holds quite conservative views on the matter. There are a small number of Baptist churches in the UK that have chosen to register their premises for same sex marriage, and a slightly larger number that would call themselves ‘inclusive’ in the sense that they welcome LGBT people as equal and active members of the church and embrace their sexuality as a natural and God-given part of their individuality.

It’s been hard work for me to be a part of the Baptist church with the views that I hold. In our own church there are some others who share my views, some who certainly don’t and a lot of people floating about in the middle somewhere. I’ve had a few disagreements with the leadership at the church over this issue and for the last few years have felt very uncomfortable there. I’ve wanted to leave on several occassions but have stuck around most of the time for the sake of friendships and because my wife didn’t want to move to a new church and start again.

On the subject of same sex marriage, the position of the Baptist Union of Great Britain in recent years could be summed up like this:

1. They hold to what they call a “Biblical Understanding” of marriage as a union between one man and one woman and call Baptists to live in the light of it.

2. As Baptist churches are governed by their individual church meeting and not by the Union itself, any Baptist church whose members vote in favour of registering the premises for same sex marriage is free to do so, with the understanding that the union itself holds to the principle as shown above.

3. Similarly any minister who wishes to do so, may carry out same sex marriage in accordance with the wishes of their church ‘where their conscience permits, without breach of disciplinary guidelines.’ (that is genuinely what they have published)

4. However, any Baptist minister who enters into a same sex marriage as a partner themselves will be deemed to subject to discipline as this is considered ‘conduct unbecoming for a minister’. If you want to see how seriously they take this, take a look at the list of other offences considered ‘unbecoming conduct’. You can find it on page 13 of the Ministerial Recognition Rules published in June 2015. 

I have been hoping that in light of recent conversations at Baptist Assembly and taking into account the 2013 legislation that the Baptist church would begin to take a more progressive line. However a statement issued in March 2016 appears to negate any immediate hope of that.

The Council statement reaffirms the commitment to the “Biblical Position” as outlined previously. Whilst the tension of diversity of opinions is recognised the statement goes on to ‘humbly urge churches who are considering conducting same sex marriages to refrain from doing so out of mutual respect’.

I failed to see the humility in this statement, in fact I was furious when I read it. It seems to be a giant leap backwards rather than even a small step forwards.  It is wrapped up in nicety but reading betwen the lines I can’t find any hope in it at all. The statement calls for affirming churches to act out of mutual respect, but no such respect is being shown to them in return.

It has left me wondering whether I can continue to be a part of the Baptist movement at all. In all good conscience, can I support an organisation that I believe is acting unjustly towards people who have historically been marginalised and have only recently started to achieve respect and equality. Surely we should be holding out a welcoming and inclusive hand to all.

I hope that I can stay at my local church and continue to be an advocate for equality, it’s difficult and I’m not someone who makes dramatic gestures or shouts his mouth off in the church meeting. I just hope to be a quiet and consistent voice for progress.

Andy

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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.

 

 

 

Website rebuild

So…

My website used to be all blue and stuff.

now it looks like this…

That’s all

Andy

Band gig at Creation Fest

Creation-Fest-2015-alteredThings have been a bit quiet for the Tim Crahart Blues Band recently, but we’ve got a great festival slot coming up soon.

On Sunday 2nd August we will be appearing at Creation Fest in Wadebridge, on stage in the Big Shed Cafe at 6:00 pm.

Tim is a regular attendee at the festival and it was there that he wrote the title track for our second album ‘Isaiah 61 Revisited’.

The festival is free to attend, although camping charges apply, for more details click here.

Hope to see you there, look out for more gigs in the Autumn.

 

The Red Bucket – A story of how a small church became inspired by Christian Aid

christian_aid_page

St Julians Baptist Church in Newport has a long-standing relationship with Christian Aid. For many years members of the church have been supporting campaigns, following the charity’s work across the globe and, of course, getting involved in Christian Aid week.church

When I rejoined my childhood church around 2005 they were still running the traditional door-to-door collections and holding a special offering on Christian Aid Sunday. It was a regular annual event, but I could see that it had become something of a chore and really needed a radical shake-up.

In that first year, acting as the church’s justice, aid & mission representative, I decided that we would not be doing a door-to-door collection, at the time this was a controversial decision, but I could see that it was a lot of work for quite a small return. It had become difficult to coordinate, we are based on quite a large housing estate and manpower was short. Instead I opted to promote a series of events organized by groups within the church. Each group could choose their own event and invite the community along.

red bucketThat year we ran our first Quiz-Aid, something that we have repeated every year since and which has become the highlight of Christian Aid Week. Additionally we had a sponsored walk, a car wash, a concert and the usual coffee mornings and cake sales. The end of the week saw us running a special Sunday Service dedicated to Christian Aid Week. We prayed at the prayer stations, we watched the films, we heard the message and a small red plastic bucket filled up with donation envelopes and the proceeds from our events.

In previous years the Christian Aid week donations sent off had averaged around £200. In that first event-led year the red bucket was filled with £1200. This radical change was working, Christian Aid Week was inspiring people to get involved, share in the stories and find new and exciting fundraising activities.

We have continued this event led programme ever since. Every year the events are different, but we always have a quiz. We’ve had musical events ranging from choral concerts to open mic nights, One of our members grows and sells plants from seeds so all of our gardens are looking gorgeous. We’ve had line dancing, a tea dance, some crazy youth events and there is always cake, oh, so much cake!

Christian Aid Week has retained its momentum, it continues to inspire people in so many ways, and it’s wonderful to see the positive change that Christian Aid brings around the globe. I kept that red bucket and I use it every year, it reminds me how simple ideas can challenge us to reach new heights.

As we approached this year’s run of events I began, as I do every year, to panic a bit, would there be enough things happening this year to raise a good sum of money? Would people still be inspired and enthused? Then, on April 25 2015, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 struck Nepal and we were horrified at the resulting devastation.

Like most churches we operate a distress fund in order to be able to send funds quickly in times of disaster, but people in the church were already gearing up for Christian Aid Week. Would they want to give to Nepal when they were already supporting Ethiopia?

My wife, Jackie, had already decided to organise one of the events this year, it was to be a short sponsored walk along the banks of the local canal at Goytre Wharf. We decided that it was appropriate to dedicate the funds raised from this walk to Christian Aid’s Nepal appeal, rather than to the Christian Aid Week appeal. This approach would mean that people could choose how to direct their giving, a sensible and straightforward idea to address both needs.

P1020058A small group of people put their names down to take part in the walk and sponsor forms went home with them. Something special started to happen. It seemed that this small group of people walking a short distance had moved people somehow and the sponsorship started to roll in. The school where Jackie works soon filled up one of the forms and each of the participants found sponsors in their own homes or workplaces. We had expected to raise maybe £200; in fact we cleared £700, a fantastic result.

Coincidentally, in the week following the walk, the children in Jackie’s school were having a ‘Sporting Heroes’ day. They were allowed to come to school dressed as their sporting hero and could tell the story of their hero’s achievements. Two little girls said they wanted to come dressed as Mrs. Long; she was their sporting hero because she walked for Nepal.

It’s a privilege to be a part of the relief effort in Nepal, but surely this approach would have an effect on the giving for Christian Aid Week’s efforts in Ethiopia? We were asking people to decide where there money should go, would they direct it all to Nepal or Ethiopia or would they split it? I expected that the funds raised for Christian Aid Week itself would be less than in previous years.

Wrong! On Sunday May 17th we held our Christian Aid Service. We prayed at the prayer stations, we watched the films, we heard the message, I preached! (It takes some grace to listen to that!). And once again a small red plastic bucket filled up with donation envelopes and monies raised by the different events.

This year our Christian Aid Week fundraising currently stands at just over £1150, with a little more still to come in. That stands aside from the £700 raised for Nepal. A record-breaking year for St Julians Baptist Church. Well done people. What shall we do next year?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Latest Band Newsletter

If you’d like to read the latest newsletter from the Tim Crahart Blues Band. Click Here.

You will find details of a forthcoming radio special, how to get the band albums, including the new one ‘Blues Like A Prayer’, from Amazon, iTunes or Bandcamp, and news of a local gig.

If you’d like to join the band’s mailing list click here:

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Christian Aid Week 2014

calogoEvery year at the little church I go to here in Newport we take part in Christian Aid Week. About eight years ago I took on the role of co-ordinating and managing the week and every year I am stunned by the passion and enthusiasm which people show for the work that Christian Aid does around the world.

Christian Aid is our favourite charity.  If you are not familiar with their work here’s an excellent page that breaks down their core values and aims. 

We are happy to be one of the 20,000 churches around the UK and Ireland that helped to raise around £12-13 million each year, a vital chunk of Christian Aid’s budget which goes directly towards development, relief, sanitation, water supply and many other vital worldwide projects.

We’re just a small church and I’m not writing this to be in any way boastful about what we did, but I want to say a personal thanks to those who organised the events or raised funds this year, so:

THANKS! 

Thanks Peter, for organising a concert with your music students.resized_jesus-says-meme-generator-jesus-says-you-rock-1d9c29

Thanks Nick for growing and selling plants from seed.

Thanks James for helping me to organise the quiz.

Thanks Debbie for the gorgeous cakes.

Thanks Anne, for organising the little ones to do a sponsored toddle (genius!) and a sponsored silence (miraculous!)

Thanks Carol for holding a raffle at your pub

Thanks knitters, for knitting and selling blankets

Thanks everyone for your generous gifts.

This year, 2014, we have managed to raise almost £1200.

Well done St Julians Baptist Church, you make me proud, even if you drive me bonkers for most of the rest of the year!

 

Accepting Evangelicals and Two:23

Accepting Evangelicals and Two:23

 On Saturday 30th November, My wife and I were thrilled to be able to attend two important events in London. These were the AGM of Accepting Evangelicals, followed by a meeting of the Two:23 Network.

 These two Christian organisations are working really hard to promote inclusion and equality for LGBT people within all denominations of the church. These are hot topics for the church as a whole and the cause of a lot of debate and division in recent years, so it is encouraging to find Christian organisations that are forward-thinking and, as AE say on their website “who believe the time has come to move towards the acceptance of faithful, loving same-sex partnerships at every level of church life, and the development of a positive Christian ethic for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”

Accepting Evangelicals

 Accepting Evangelicals who held their AGM at the Oasis Centre Waterloo hosted the morning session. This group will shortly be celebrating its tenth anniversary and now has a membership of over 600 people. Around fifty delegates gathered for the meeting, which opened with a worship session. We reviewed some of the important steps that have happened recently, both in legislation and in church practice.  More and more established Christian leaders are openly voicing their support for gay marriage and LGBT issues, most recently these have included Steve Chalke, Rob Bell, Jim Wallis and Desmond Tutu.

Christian organisations such as Exodus and Courage, that formerly offered counseling programmes that would reputedly ‘help’ people to embrace heterosexuality, have, in recent times, realized the profound error of the methods employed and the tremendous damage that has been caused to people’s lives and these groups have either closed their doors apologetically or else admitted their errors and changed their direction radically.

 At the close of the morning session the organisation’s founder, Rev. Benny Hazelhurst, interviewed Elaine Sommers. Elaine is a transgender Christian and she shared with us many of the difficulties she has faced in the church and how she found a place where she was truly welcome.

two23The group shared lunch and we then travelled over to St. Mary Aldermary in Central London for the Two:23 meeting where Steve Chalke would be speaking.  This was a much larger gathering, which attracted several hundred people.

 

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Steve initially took part in an interview in which he discussed his recent paper “A Matter Of Integrity” and the reaction to that paper from all sides of the church, he discussed the ways in which the paper had affected the work of the Oasis Trust and explained the reasons why he believed it was a vital step to voice his support for the LGBT community. He followed this with a short talk, discussing how to read the Bible as a whole rather than taking individual verses out of context and using them indiscriminately as ammunition to shoot down those whose viewpoint differs from their own, pointing out that we can all be guilty of doing this wherever we stand. Steve encouraged us, instead of arguing over differing ideas, to work together to reach out to the whole world, regardless of race or religion and bring to them the example of Jesus in our words and actions.

 Both these sessions can be listened to on the talks page at two23.net, along with several other talks by guest speakers from the past couple of years.

 For us, as active supporters of this community of people within the church, this was an inspiring and thought-provoking day. Many Christians still struggle with these issues and we have had several heated debates with friends who are sticking to their traditional, conservative ideals. However, as Steve Chalke said, the sandcastle of resistance is being washed away, so I look forward to a future within the church where all people are included in equality and encouraged to be true to themselves in their own identity without fear of condemnation and where all committed relationships are treated with equal respect and sanctity.

 

 

Christmas single relaunched!

Last Christmas, we gave you a song, and the very next day, you could give it away!

This year, to save you from tears, we’re giving the same one away again!

In other words…

The Tim Crahart Blues Band‘s 2012 Christmas single is being relaunched this year.  We loved it so much we wanted to give you all a chance to go back and grab it in time for this year’s festive season.

Last year we gave it away as a free download and this year, guess what, it’s FREE! (it’s always been free, but downloads tended to drop off during the summer!

The song, ‘Christmas Day’, is an original track, written by Tim on 2o12. We recorded it at Red Rock Studios in the South Wales Valleys and had great fun. Tim and Harvey’s kids got involved too and we threw some bells at it too.

Please do grab yourself a download and if you can share this post with your friends, maybe they’ll download it too.  We’re not trying to compete with X-Factor or AC/DC, we just want to share what we think is a great song, hope you love it!

Download the song here

Andy Long - Christmas Day - cover

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