Interfaith Week: Gays in the Frontline

Publish Date: 25/11/2011

In recent weeks Liverpool’s Frontline Church, based in the Wavertree area of the city has faced a lot of criticism for providing a ‘factsheet’ on homosexuality which suggests that people are not born homosexual but that homosexuality is the result of dealing with pain from childhood. look at the response and repercussions...

The church runs a pastoral support group for church members who share their evangelical Christian faith and who have requested support specifically relating to their sexuality. 

Although they say this does not seek to “convert gay people” and that the church's views would ‘never knowingly be forced on anyone’ they recognise a ‘personal conflict’ between an individual’s ‘Christian faith and their sexual desires or personal identity’.

What is confusing is that the church's official response maintains that "Many ... would say that their sexual orientation has genuinely changed following their involvement with Liverpool LIFE Ministry" as demonstrated here in one church member’s story:

“I know what it is like to have homosexual feelings while also struggling with what the Bible says about homosexuality.  Having lived in the gay lifestyle whilst also trying to live out my Christian beliefs for 5 years, I know it is difficult.

I went along to Liverpool LIFE Ministry and found it to be far from homophobic. I found the ministry to be a place of acceptance and support. They have helped me immensely and I no longer live a homosexual lifestyle.”

In response to the many media stories about Frontline church and its views on homosexuality, comments have been posted online and letters written to newspapers, including one reader of the Liverpool Echo who wrote:

“I am an evangelical Christian and I am gay. I don’t want anyone to feel attacked or concerned that a gay “agenda” is deliberately trying to undermine Christian values. LGBT people just want equality and acceptance. We are still greatly discriminated against and often made to feel inferior or in some way defective.

Although I am saddened and disturbed, I cling to a hope for a brighter and peaceful future. There are many Christians in and around Liverpool, both gay and straight, who want to talk to each other and try to avoid this apparently growing conflict. Reconciliation and mutual understanding will not be an easy path, but I have to believe it is possible."

Warren Hartley from Liverpool’s LGB&T Interfaith group Spectrum of Spirituality adds: “The articles on Liverpool’s Frontline Church make me so sad. I fear there will be much hate directed at Frontline, but hate simply begets hate. The cycle needs to be broken as this will only entrench negative beliefs and attitudes regarding the LGB&T community.

I hope some form of dialogue can be initiated to engage constructively in the ongoing debate the wider Christian community is having around issues of human sexuality.”

Liverpool Spectrum of Spirituality was founded in 2010 to create the UK's first official Pride interfaith event which was attended by almost 100 people and received overwhelmingly positive feedback from those who attended.

The Pride interfaith event took place again on the eve of Liverpool Pride this year and looks set to become an annual event.  Faiths represented include Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Pagans, Quakers, Unitarians and even a Mexican Shaman.  

Liverpool is also home to four LGB&T Christian groups: Storm, an ecumenical worship group, Quest for LGB&T Catholics, Open Table a monthly communion service and a newly revived branch of the national Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) all of which meet regularly in the city.  All of them believe strongly that it is possible to be both Christian and LGB&T. 

They aim to affirm and support those who are struggling to integrate their faith with their sexuality or gender identity. Liverpool Hope University LGBT society is holding its first Faith and Sexuality Week to promote dialogue and understanding between members of LGB&T and faith communities.  
The Lesbian & Gay Foundation’s purpose in supporting Interfaith Week (20 November to 26 November) is to celebrate the many diverse faith organisations, groups and individuals that have an enlightened view on how to communicate with, and support those of us with a minority sexual orientation or gender identity.

However it is important to keep a dialogue going with those in faith communities that do not understand how their actions can seem intolerant and misguided. It is important that we do not undervalue an individual’s personal belief but remind each other that individual interpretation of faith can lead to views which are hurtful and ill-informed, such as one e-mail The Lesbian & Gay Foundation received this week:

“There is no proof at all that anyone is born gay - that is used as a reason to excuse and explain the choice made by so-called gay people.  You choose for whatever reason to live that way - so why not be honest and say so.

Your web-site makes great play about homophobia - its great to play the victim isn't it. The sad fact is that the homosexual and lesbian community are the worst offenders when it comes to bullying… The fact is that you hate and vilify anyone who dares to oppose your chosen life-styles. 

Well done to the Frontline Church in Liverpool - may they continue in their quest to set people free from this unhealthy and un-natural life-style.”
This edited response is one of the more publishable quotes we have received in recent weeks.
Clearly the issue of accepting diverse sexual orientation among some religious groups is going to provoke strong reaction from all sides for a long time to come.
Support for LGB&T people of Faith

If you would like to know about LGBT faith groups near you or relating to your personal beliefs please checkout our first ever guide to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people called ‘Faithbook’:

A selection of stories relating to this article

Liverpool Echo

Huffington post

Frontline Church

Guardian Comment