Despite growing awareness and acceptance, the act of ‘coming out’ remains momentous for religious members of Merseyside’s LGBT+ community.
This Monday past marked National Coming Out Day. The primary purpose: to give LGBT+ people of all ages and backgrounds a chance to live openly. Secondly, to create a platform for communities to intersect, learn from each other, and develop good practice.
An age-old point of the discussion has revolved around the intersections between sexuality, gender identity and faith. Consequently, St Bride’s Church in Liverpool is putting its best foot forward, with a celebration of Merseyside’s LGBT+ communities, past and present.
Celebrations will kick off with a unique communion service on Sunday, 17th October at 6.30 pm.
Reverend John Bell, a Church of Scotland minister and resource worker with The Iona Community, will be leading the service. A hymn writer, broadcaster and author, John has previous experience as a lecturer and preaches and conducts seminars internationally.
John is staying to deliver a lecture entitled ‘Conceived in sin: the fun of it!’ as part of St Bride’s long-running Public Theology. The lecture series starts at 6 pm on Monday 18th October.
In this talk, John will explore how the doctrine of original sin, more than any other theological construct, has led to untold awkwardness. This, in particular, concerns issues of gender and sexuality in the Christian churches. John believes that the foundations of this precept need a bit of shaking to benefit “the biased and beleaguered alike.”
Why is National Coming Out Day important?
In times like these, one may be forgiven for questioning why National Coming Out Day is relevant.
National Coming Out Day is an annual celebration which takes place on 11th October every year. It was first celebrated on the first anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. It honours LGBT+ individuals who decided to come out and live openly in a society where prejudice was commonplace.
Where does National Coming Out Day come from?
Although it started as an American awareness day, the meaning of National Coming Out Day is still relevant to communities across the world.
This includes Merseyside. Thankfully, this event may feel redundant to some Merseysiders in an era of fledging acceptance and tolerance. After all, the Liverpool City Region remains a relatively safe community. Truth be told, homophobic and transphobic hate crime reports increased in the region throughout 2020.
This means that although things have improved, there are still hurdles for those yearning to live honestly.
What does the group believe?
Reverend Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holmes told Mersey Community News: “At the heart of Jesus’ teaching and life was the simple message that God loves everybody.
“The kingdom of God is a place of welcome and inclusion, open to all. God, and God’s love, are beyond all our human distinctions, including gender and sexuality.”
Revd John Bell agrees.
He says: “I have known enough people, myself included, who have felt the censure of the church because of something we can’t change – our sexuality. And I believe that there have to be places where people can have it affirmed that diversity is part of God’s plan.
“If it can happen in personality, mentality, physicality without controversy, we should also allow for diversity in sexual orientation. Having moved in my life from fearing I was gay to not wanting to be anything other than gay, I’m keen to encourage other people to feel the same way about themselves.”
St Bride’s is home to Open Table Liverpool, a twice-monthly service open to all people, but mainly for the LGBT+ community of Merseyside and those seeking a more inclusive church.
The Liverpool community is part of the Open Table network of communities across England and Wales. They want Merseyside’s LGBT+ people to feel empowered, and fully included within church traditions and communities.
Everyone’s invited to join the church’s celebrations, which will mark the rich contributions our communities LGBT+ people make to our region.
If you are interested in learning more, you can visit stbridesliverpool.org.uk for more details.