Part 1: United Kingdom

As many of you know, this past September I was invited to go on a two week tour throughout some of the United Kingdom to talk about my book and The Marin Foundation’s bridge building work. I started in Eastbourne, went to Brighton (from what I was told is considered the gay capitol of England), then on to Edinburgh (Scotland), on to London via Eastbourne, off to Derby and then finished in London again. Throughout this trip I spoke to two churches, a few home groups, a conference, at a university, to a group of Christian leaders throughout England, a small group of youth workers and to two of the most high profile gay Christian leaders as well.

I will be extrapolating on the broader overviews I took away from this trip regarding the GLBT-conservative religious relationship in the UK throughout this series, but for now here is a short video of me in Brighton outside of, what I am told, is the most popular gay club in the gay capitol of the UK. I think it’s a fitting start because that is where I started my immersion within the States. Yes, I can be a little sentimental.   🙂

Coming up in this series over the next few days are a couple video interviews with some young lesbians in Brighton and a gay Christian leader I met with in London, as well as some thoughts I was asked to write about the differences between the culture war in the States vs. UK, for a UK publication.

I will be back in the UK throughout the month of April speaking at Spring Harvest, one of the largest Christian conferences anywhere: over 45,000 people will attend throughout their five different sites, of which I will be ushered from site to site over the course of three weeks. I’m really looking forward to learning and interacting more with everyone in the UK to help this bridge building movement continue! 

Have any of you ever had any experiences in the UK? And for the 9% of the readers of this blog who are from the UK, I would love to hear your input on everything as we go through this series!

Much love.

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  • Hihopes

    Do you know Nicky Gumbel’s work with the Alpha series? It is excellent work to bring non-believers to an understanding of God and what it means to walk the life of a Christian. Many of the local churches here use the materials and program to bring folks into the church while forming a community-experience.

    His work includes the interpretation of homosexuality that we are all familiar with. While I find what the material and program does to bring people together and in pursuit of God is fabulous; I find this part, specifically, separates and divides….

  • Matt

    Here’s my hunch of how things are, especially in the large and broad denominations.

    The evangelical leadership is fighting tooth and nail to retain conservative doctrine and discipline. Sometimes they seem to be winning (Church of England), sometimes they seem to be losing (Church of Scotland). However, what this means is that it’s really hard for them to hear anything which might suggest they aren’t seeing things quite right – that would call into question all their work, that might hand over their church to ‘liberals and immorality’.

    As a consequence, I see evangelicals convinced that they are utterly justified in their stance at the same time as being apparently unconcerned that a significant minority of the population (and those who empathize with them) are barred from the church by default.

    This is an internal church conversation, I suppose, rather than one between the church and the GLBT community, but I think it lies behind the lack of constructive engagement with the GLBT community by the evangelical Church.

  • Matt – I honestly believe you hit that right in the bullseye. It begs the broader question of: Who has the dominate power/influence to disseminate their positions/beliefs over a wide scope audience. The problem with this framework is that ‘the other’ (whichever group ‘the other’ fits into) becomes an enemy rather than a child of God. At least in America, that is what has clearly happened and thus formed a very deliniated culture war between the gay and conservative communities!

    I will be getting more into this in upcoming posts, but from what I experienced in the United Kingdom, the small size in numbers within the conservative church (speaking w/a broad brush) is trying very hard to figure out a way to just retain their beliefs as justified within culture. That seems to be one of the main focuses in the gay-conservative disconnect.

    I think one of the main threats is that the gay community is indeed a minority; yet in many situations that minority is strongly influencing majority mindset. Especially from what I saw in the UK, this is a huge deal due to the small size of the conservative Christian community – I feel many of them believe their voice, cultural/religous hold, etc will become completely obsolete. I know this is all much more nuanced and involved than that, but I’ll start there.

  • Oh, one other thing… In that same sense, America and the UK are in similar positions surrounding mainstream power struggles as the church continues to lose influence and the gay community continues to influence national policy without (on a secular national level) the church.

  • Hi Andrew

    Really excited to come across your website – it was recommended by a random US guy who messaged me on facebook! I guess I’ll hear you speak live soon too, as me and my family are longstanding Spring Harvest attenders, and already booked into Minehead later this year.

    My partner and I have written a book which was published last month. ‘Living it Out: a survival guide for lesbian, gay and bisexual Christians and their friends, families and churches’. Sorry for the blatant plug, but I thought it might interest you. As a lesbian couple, we were motivated wanting LGB people, their parents, kids and friends to find ways to hang on in their with God and church.

    We wanted to get away from sterortypes of bigotted Christian homophobes and of promiscous ungodly gay people, and to share ways that people hold LGB issues and God together. We try to get away from dry and judgmental theological arguments, and to focus on lived experiences of faith. So, like you, on building bridges.

    Anyway, looking forward to coming to your session at Spring Harvest and let us know if you’d like us to get you a review copy of the book.