Press release

Gathering Voices call for welcome and affirmation of LGBT people in Christian churches

A DAY conference aimed at resourcing churches to become more openly inclusive of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) is taking place at Staffordshire University’s Stoke on Trent campus next week.

The event, called ‘From Welcome to Affirmation, will reflect on the Open Church Charter developed by the Open Church Network, an initiative of Baptist minister Steve Chalke’s Oasis Foundation

The Open Church Charter invites churches to guarantee that ‘any person regardless of sexuality or gender identity will find our local church to be a place of welcome, embrace, inclusion, affirmation and sanctuary.’

Gareth Streeter, Director of Campaigns and Communication at Oasis UK, said: ‘An increasing number of Churches are openly committing to LGBT inclusion. The Open Church Charter is a way for your church to make their position known and throw open their doors to people who are seeking an inclusive and welcoming community.’

The conference is hosted by Gathering Voices, a collaboration of Christian and LGBT organisations offering an ongoing series of events, conferences, and resources aimed at enabling churches to move from welcome to full inclusion of everybody. Partners in this conference include:

•        Accepting Evangelicals: a network of Evangelical Christians 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 LGBT people:

•        The Evangelical Fellowship for Lesbian and Gay Christians (EFLGC): A group of women and men, most of whom are LGBT and from an Evangelical Christian background, who meet to share experiences, support and encouragement in faith and to think through issues relating to faith, gender and and sexuality:

        Open Table: A network of ecumenical Christian worship communities which offer a warm welcome to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer / questioning, intersex, asexual (LGBTQIA) and all who seek an inclusive Church:

•        Open Expression: An inclusive community which hosts a monthly ecumenical worship gathering and social activities based in Stoke-on-Trent, established under the umbrella of national mission agency Urban Expression and affiliated to the Open Table network:

•        The Sibyls: A confidential Christian spirituality group for transgender people, their partners and supporters:

Keynote speakers at the event include:

·         Gareth Streeter from Oasis UK, who will introduce the Open Church Network and Charter for inclusive churches

·         The Rt Revd Geoff Annas, Anglican Bishop of Stafford, co-author of the Diocese of Lichfield statement: Welcoming and honouring LGBT people

·         Revd Dr Tina Beardsley, member of co-ordinating group for the Church of England’s forthcoming Episcopal Teaching Document on Sexuality and Marriage, co-author of Transfaith: A Transgender Pastoral Resource and contributor to Trans Britain: Our Long Journey from the Shadows. Dr Beardsley will deliver the keynote speech, ‘From affirmation to celebration: our stories as inclusive theology’, as part of the Brenda Harrison Memorial Lecture series. Brenda Harrison died in 2010 having worked for the full inclusion of LGBT people in the Christian Church. She was a former Convenor of EFLGC and one of the first to join Accepting Evangelicals in 2004, as well as working with other LGBT Christian groups.

On the day participants will be invited to sign up for two breakout groups from a choice to include the following:

•        Gender identity, sexual orientation and mental health

•        Creating safe sacred spaces for LGBT Christians

•        Advocating for change in your church community

•        Transgender people and the church

•        Testimonies of people’s experiences

The £30 ticket price also includes lunch, and morning and afternoon refreshments.

Jane Newsham, a member of the Accepting Evangelicals steering group, said: ‘This conference is an excellent opportunity to talk about the current state of LGBT inclusion in our church denominations and to be encouraged that some churches are getting it right and others just need to keep having the conversation. We know that there are church members who are committed to seeing inclusion made real in their own churches but there are even more who are questioning their church’s response to LGBT people in their communities – we need to be giving a consistent welcoming and affirming message.’

Dr Christine Whitney-Cooper, chair of the Evangelical Fellowship of Lesbian and Gay Christians said: ‘It is exciting to work with other organisations to present what will be a stimulating and inspiring day. We have found that LGBT Christians who ‘come out’ in evangelical churches can find themselves either forced out or, if they are allowed to stay, can find themselves removed from all positions of responsibility. This conference helps churches to find another way where LGBT folk can find a place within a church community of welcome and affirmation.’

Kieran Bohan, coordinator of the Open Table network, said: ‘It is a privilege to come together with fellow Christians from different traditions to affirm that church can be a place where LGBT people come to know that they are beloved children of God whose lives, identities and our relationships are precious gifts from God which we are called to live with integrity.’

Desiree Elliott, coordinator of Open Expression, said: ‘This event is a great opportunity for churches to learn together what it means to be inclusive for people from the LGBT community. We are particularly excited that this is happening in Stoke-on-Trent where we are experiencing some positive developments within churches. We hope it will prove to be a time of encouragement and lead to further change.’

Elaine Sommers, a member of Sybils, said: ‘For LGBT people who struggle to be accepted in their home churches this event will be a great encouragement, where you will meet others from a variety of church backgrounds. Come and be inspired!’

Gathering Voices: From Welcome To Affirmation is on Saturday 27th October from 9.30am-4pm at Staffordshire University, Ashley Building, Leek Road, Stoke-on-Trent, ST4 2DF. The £30 ticket price also includes lunch, and morning and afternoon refreshments. For more details and to book, visit

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