As someone who has recently come out as a transgender person (part of which story can be found here), I have been greatly blessed recently by expressions of love and support by many people. Not least among them has been the reception I have had from the Milton Anglican church community. Indeed I was overwhelmed by the positive greetings of both lay and clergy leaders and deeply touched by the words and actions of others. Some told me moving tales of their own lives and families and which have drawn us more closely together. This has been a reflection both of something special in the life of this Christian community and of something also stirring deep within other church communities...
The Anglican Parish of Auchenflower-Milton has certainly had a history of welcoming LGBTI+ people in a number of different positive ways, including as leaders of the community, worshippers, and participants in the struggle for a divine shaped humanity, love, peace, respect and justice. Indeed, I am, for example, not the first openly transgender person to have exercised a leading role in the community. For some years, the crossdresser and trans* organisation the Seahorse Society also held their meetings in buildings in the parish, offering hugely needed safe space, light and fellowship. I am therefore thankful to live and move forward with others in my community in this spirit.
In today's context, how many other church communities are there which might develop further in a more truly inclusive, healing, and affirming spirit? Indeed, as some of those who have been most supportive in my church community have been quite elderly lay people, it makes me wonder whether church leaders sometimes misjudge the capacity of many church members for compassion and understanding in these matters. Undoubtedly there are so-called Christian spaces where it is genuinely unwise or, even literally, unsafe to belong to the LGBTI+ community, or simply to express an affirming view. Yet the loudness, aggressiveness and power of some should not blind us to the ability of Christians to find a more welcome path for us all. As the frenzy already created by the announcement of a postal survey on marriage equality has shown, it may be a bumpy road ahead. As Jesus warned us, we will all need to be 'as wily as serpents' as well 'as innocent as doves' ( Matthew 10.16). We know that some of us will bear more pain even as we enter into the possibilities of greater joy. Yet we should not underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit. God is at work in our days. Sometimes it can seem as if the fruits of the Spirit are more present for LGBTI+ people in other, even quite secular, settings. Let us however celebrate the Christ-like love which continues to grow within so many, sometimes surprising, Christian settings. We are a people together of the Beatitudes: whether we are queer or straight, we live in 'interesting times', but ones which are ripe with blessing.
Jo Inkpin, Penny Jones, Jeni Nix, Peter Jeffery, Ann Edwards, Elizabeth McConnell