Category Archives: LGBTI+

Your July/August magazine is here!

The July/August magazine is out now with news and events from around the area.

As well as information about the churches – the St John’s Youth Hub funding and the Kitty Milroy murals for instance – you will find articles from other organisations in the community. We want this to be a real community magazine and welcome contributions from others.

This time, for instance, we have articles from Crown Daisy Nursery, Badshot Lea Bloomers, Farnham Assist and Hale Community Centre and we are looking forward to more from others next time. You will also find the first of a regular column from the Surrey County Councillor for North Farnham, Catherine Powell, and of course words from our MP Jeremy Hunt.

Other items not to miss in this month’s mag include a special offer from Wine&Something, news on Artz @ St Mark’s – a weekend of art, craft and music which we’d like you to be involved in – and the new monthly art and craft market at St Mark’s on the third Saturday of each month. There’s a book by Bishop Chris Herbert- you can meet him at the book signing – news of upcoming events including our Autumn Fayre and Pride Service, and a call for help. The amazing Anne Young has left Farnham and we need someone to take over administering the magazine distribution. If you can help, please get in touch.

There’s also a trade index on page 2. If you need a plumber or builder or florist or vet or chiropractor etc etc check this first and use our local people.

Happy reading!

Christmas services

Join us in person and online this Christmas. We have services for all ages where you will be welcome.

We have done everything we can to ensure that you will feel safe from Covid in our churches. Please wear a mask if you are able – we appreciate that not everyone can – follow the directions in the church and stay within your own ‘bubble’.

If you are not able or comfortable about coming to church, please join us online here. We will also be streaming Midnight Mass for you.

Everyone is welcome in our churches. As members of Inclusive Church we want to reiterate that, whatever your background, gender identity, sexuality, ethnicity or economic status, you are welcome. If you are neurodiverse, you are welcome; if you have mental health challenges, or a learning or physical disability, you are welcome. Whoever and however you are, you are welcome. Please ask if you need any assistance.

Variety in the Church of England

I recently saw this article in The Guardian. It highlighted for me one of the good, and at the same time bad, things about the Church of England.

The CofE is what is described as a broad church. Many Churches have a Statement of Belief, and if you want to belong to their Church you have to sign to say that you agree with everything in it. The Church of England does not. Instead if you can say the liturgy with integrity you are in. Queen Elizabeth I arranged this on purpose at a time when Christians were killing each other over differences of interpretation. She said:

I would not open windows into men’s souls.

This leaves the Church of England with a wide spread of beliefs/interpretations which are legitimately held by members. I like this, it means that we know that we are not expected to know the mind of God – that as Oliver Cromwell said:

I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.

However, some strands of the Church of England are more comfortable with this than others. It is in some ways as though the Church is a collection of several different churches.

This is a long-winded way of saying that within the Church of England you will be able to find churches as described in the article, and at the same time you will be able to find those, like ours, which are members of Inclusive Church, and which try to welcome everybody.

There are of course other churches which welcome LGBTQI+ people more than the CofE is able to do while we struggle to work out how to do this in a way that satisfies everybody within the church.

The linked article by a vicar gives a flavour of the difficulties faced finding one which welcomes everyone.

Don’t give up on God yet!

Image by Belinda Fewings, Unsplash

Living in Love and Faith – an initial response

Last month, the Church of England published Living in Love and Faith. This is a collection of resources – a book, study guide, podcasts, videos, links to online material – designed to help people to discuss and listen to God about matters of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage.

There are a lot of resources and we have yet to work out what we will do with them in the parish. Alan and I will be talking about them shortly, when we have digested them properly, but, as members of Inclusive Church, we welcome any discussion of these important issues insofar as they enable us to understand more about each other and accept each other.

Moreover, here in the parish, we remain absolutely committed to the inclusion of all. Whether you are lesbian, gay, straight, bisexual, questioning, asexual, you are welcome. Whether you are transgender, cisgender or nonbinary, you are welcome. Whether you were born with intersex traits or not, you are welcome. God welcomes us and that isn’t going to change.

I’d also like to thank those who have taken part in this process as they have made themselves vulnerable in sharing their stories. Such vulnerability is costly and the cost has already been too high for some of the participants.

So please, whatever we do, let’s go forward with grace and love.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me. news@badshotleaandhale.org


Stella Wiseman,
Inclusive Church Ambassador, Surrey

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day when we remember those transgender or gender diverse people who have died because of who they are, whether through violence, suicide or medical inequality

It is estimated that at least 409 people across the world are known to have died because they were transgender or gender diverse. The youngest was just 15, the oldest 79. That is just those who are known. Countless others have been on the receiving end of violence and abuse, have been made to feel worthless and afraid.

The church is not blameless; the church has added to the transphobia which causes this violence and abuse, these murders, these suicides, these medical inequalities. I am not saying that this parish has done so, I am not accusing any one individual church, and there are hugely welcoming and affirming churches across the world. But the church as a whole has not been like this, the church continues to discriminate and preach against those who do not fit gender ‘norms’.

There are two videos here. The first is a video here is a quiet and sad reflection about these terrible facts and a call for us to see where we can bring about a change.

The second is a deeply moving and sombre service, produced by Open Table Network

For a list of those lost this year, together with some of their stories, visit https://tdor.translivesmatter.info/re… To respond to the latest consultation about the rights of trans and non-binary people in the UK, visit https://committees.parliament.uk/work…  

Here in the Parish of Badshot Lea and Hale we stand with our transgender and gender non-conforming siblings, all of us beloved by God. And we are sorry for when we have failed you.

Picture by Ted Eytan.

Celebrate Pride and God’s Love

Join us to celebrate Pride on Saturday, August 8, here online from 10am.

August 8 should have been marked by a Surrey Pride march and celebrations on the street but these had to be cancelled because of Covid-19. However, we are celebrating the LGBTI+ community and God’s wonderful, inclusive love with an online service.

There will be music, art, photography, prayers, poetry, Bible readings and reflections from individuals including a former curate of St George’s whom some of you may remember – Rev’d Paul Holt – along with Sara Gillingham, a leading intersex campaigner and great friend of the parish; Jayne Ozanne who runs the Ozanne Foundation which works with religious organisations to eliminate discrimination based on sexuality or gender; and Dr Ash Brockwell, a transgender man and educator who has contributed both a poem and hymn to the service.

There is a moving reflection on growing up as a gay man from James Muller, a Farnham photographer whose work features regularly in Vogue Italia, and who has kindly contributed many of his beautiful photographs; there is art from local people, including paintings by members of Farnham Heath End School’s LGBT+ group, and stones painted with rainbow messages to indicate God’s love for everyone.

Stella Wiseman, who leads inclusion work in the parish, explains the thinking behind the service: “The church as a whole doesn’t have a great track record in welcoming people who do not fit into a heterosexual, cis-gender box, and indeed has caused great harm to many LGBTI+ people. This is something we need to repent of and make amends for. We have no right to limit God’s love and welcome like this and to damage and destroy people in the name of God is appalling.

“Thankfully, things are changing and many churches, such as those in this parish, are more welcoming and inclusive now. Some of us would have been walking under the Christians at Pride banner in Woking on August 8th but Covid-19 has put paid to that. So instead we are organizing this lovely, colourful service online and we are delighted that members of the local church are taking part along with friends from other churches. We are really grateful to them for giving up their time to share with us their experience of God’s love and welcome and grateful too for the art, photography and music.

“Pride in Surrey is taking a Pride-themed vehicle around the county that weekend too and will be live-streaming and the parish has just been asked to send a contribution to the online Pride. The Pride vehicle will be making its way to Farnham on Sunday 9th at 10am so watch out for that too. You can find out more on prideinsurrey.org/ontheroad.”

Everyone is invited to join the service online here on Saturday, August 8 , from 10am and on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/badshotleaandhale

Painting a rainbow

We are holding a Pride Service online on Saturday, August 8, in celebration of the LGBTI+ community and God’s love for us all.

We’d like people to paint rocks in rainbow colours, with pictures, designs or messages of love and inclusion on them. We plan to have the painted rocks at St Mark’s like the one in the picture below, painted by Aly Buckle. Or how about some other art to celebrate inclusion, like the ones above which were painted by members of the LGBT+ group at Farnham Heath End School?

We will tell you when to bring your rocks and other art and take a video of people bringing them to the church and include the video in our Pride service. If you can’t come yourself send Stella a photo of the rocks/pictures you have painted.

More on the Pride Service shortly.

MP, Mayor and Intersex advocate choose favourite hymns

Jeremy Hunt, MP; the Mayor of Farnham; a prominent advocate for those born with intersex traits; and other key members of the local community, are all taking part in an online service of their favourite hymns, which will be online here on Wednesday, June 10, from 6pm.

Each person has chosen a hymn and will introduce it online explaining why they like it and what their Christian faith means to them. The hymns are a mix of old and new, and range from the 17th century My Song is Love Unknown, chosen by Janet Martin, one of the key organisers of the Farnham Flash Festival, to the 1980s’ one The Servant King, chosen by Sara Gillingham. Sara, an accountant by profession, also works with the church, universities and the media to raise awareness of people born with intersex traits, which is her own story.

Each speaks about what the hymn and their faith means to them – for Sara Gillingham it is a faith in a God full of grace, in whose image we are made, and Christ there beside us; while Jeremy Hunt speaks of the stillness which his faith gives him and how it is reflected in his choice of hymn Dear Lord and Father of Mankind. Among the other hymns you can hear are Father I Place into Your Hands, chosen by Bob Skinner, whom many will know from Farnham Foodbank, and Faithful One so Unchanging, the choice of Cathy Burroughs, manager of Hale Community Centre. You will also hear the rousing God is our Strength and Refuge, chosen by Pat Evans, the Mayor of Farnham, and sung to The Dam Busters March.

Lesley Crawley explains the thinking behind the service: “Favourite hymns can speak to us on a deep level, through the music and the words, and help us understand more about God and our faith. It has been a privilege and a pleasure to hear the choices of those who have so kindly contributed and understand more about what their faith means to them.”

Join us here on Wednesday, June 10, from 6pm, or on Facebook or on the parish YouTube channel. You may even want to sing along!

Guest post: Thank God for my trans Friends

Recently Mark Russ, a Quaker theologian who is also a tutor at Woodbrooke, Europe’s only Quaker study centre, posted his thoughts on transgenderism on his blog Jolly Quaker. Transgender people continue to be among the most vulnerable and marginalised in society and many of us in the church, even in an inclusive parish such as Badshot Lea and Hale, have not had the opportunity to consider how being transgender might fit with theology. Obviously, Mark writes from the perspective of being a ‘Quaker-shaped Christian’ as he describes himself, but his thoughts are relevant far beyond the Quakers. Here then, with Mark’s permission, is his post.

Within the British Quaker community, a painful conversation/debate/conflict (depending on your viewpoint) centred on the inclusion of trans and non-binary people is increasingly rising to the surface. As I see it, a big part of the disagreement is where we start from. I have recently heard some Quakers speak from a starting point of the safety of cis women, the safety of children, and the safety of lesbians. I want everyone to be safe – this is something all Quakers can agree on – but I think this is an extremely problematic starting point, as it treats trans and non-binary people (particularly trans women) as an inherent threat to the safety of others.

The Quaker tradition as practised in Britain is built on the valuing of individual religious experience. It has always valued the inner life at least as much as the outward life. It involves trusting that when Friends share their inward lives, they are speaking the truth. The starting point for any discussion referring to trans Friends should be an affirmation and celebration of their identity, saying ‘we believe you, you are who you say you are, and we love you’. I am open to then discussing ‘so what implications does this have for x y z’, but a starting point that involves implicitly saying to trans Friends ‘you are lying/deluded/wrong about who you are’ and ‘you are a threat’ undermines the theological bedrock of liberal Quakerism.

Sadly, this conversation/conflict is not going to go away any time soon. For me, this means it’s important to start thinking theologically about trans inclusion. As I see it, the future of Quakerism involves the full, affirming and loving inclusion of trans and non-binary people, or it doesn’t have much of a future at all.

(I should add two things: 1) it’s not as if trans and non-binary Friends have yet to experience being included and loved by others in the Quaker community. Trans and non-binary Friends have been around for a long time (such as the Public Universal Friend). This conflict appears to be a recent phenomenon. As such, I don’t think it compares to previous conflicts within the Quaker community, or that such comparisons are helpful; 2) that the inclusion of trans Friends needs to be defended in the first place must be very painful for trans Friends. No one’s identity should be up for debate.)

Towards a Quaker theology of trans inclusion

So I’ve already noted two things that go towards a Quaker theology of trans inclusion: 1) the valuing of that which is inwards at least as much as that which is outward; 2) and the trusting of Friends to speak of their inward experiences truthfully.

I’d like to add a third: in faithfully expressing who they know themselves to be, trans Friends enflesh the truth that a Spirit-led life leads to a reorientation, renewal or discovery of identity.

I was struck by the words of poet Jamie Hale in The Friend (27 September 2019):

The trans body is explicitly queer. It’s visually different. It becomes a statement. It challenges the simplicity of sex categorisation. You look at my body and there isn’t really anywhere to put it.

I recently wrote about how our whole lives testify to something. Jamie’s comment made me think about the powerful testimony of simply being who you are, and how this testimony may be particularly visible in the lives of trans people. Trans Friends let their lives preach simply by being themselves. In the changing of names and the changing of bodies, they incarnate an important perspective on identity that can be found in both the Bible and the Quaker tradition, that who we are born as is not necessarily who we are or who we will be.

(Of course it is not incumbent upon trans people to be ‘explicitly queer’. I wouldn’t want to suggest that trans people who choose to keep their gender history private should do otherwise, or have a less valuable testimony for doing so.)

We are not who we were, or who we will be

Changing names is not so unusual. Many people change their surname after marriage, and I’ve known several couples who’ve chosen an entirely new surname to mark their partnership. I known both cis and trans people who have changed their forename/s. In each case, a change of name says ‘this new name better reflects who I am’. This is something we see in the Bible too. In the Bible, a name is rarely arbitrarily given. A name describes who a person is. If a person’s life changes significantly, their name might change too. After the death of her husband and sons, Naomi (whose name means ‘pleasant’) chooses a new name – Mara (meaning ‘bitter’) (Ruth 1:20). After Jacob wrestles with an angel, he is given the name Israel, meaning ‘the one who strives with God’ (Gen 32:28). Sarai and Abram, upon receiving God’s promise to be the God of their offspring, are renamed Sarah and Abraham, Abraham meaning ‘ancestor of a multitude’ (Gen 17:5).

The name we are given at first, may not be the right name for us in the long run. New experiences and new discoveries may prompt a change of name. There’s a significant passage about names in the book of Revelation:

Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it. (Rev 2:17)

This white stone is an invitation to the marriage supper of the Lamb, the great feast of all those who faithfully persevere through persecution for the sake of Jesus. This is saying that only when we are in intimate communion with God can we know ourselves fully. As we journey deeper with and into God, we continue to learn more about ourselves:

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Cor 13:12)

As well as a change of name, the Jesus-story also points towards a change in our bodies, specifically at the resurrection of the dead. This is a mysterious and weird (and perhaps embarrassing or absurd to Liberal Quakers) aspect of the Jesus story, and should be handled with care. I see it as an affirmation of the body. The body isn’t something to be escaped. But it also points to some kind of future change – we are not what we will be:

Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (1 Cor. 15:51-53)

This isn’t about replacing one body with a different one. There is some kind of continuity. The resurrected Jesus is still recognised by his friends (although not initially). He still bears the wounds of the crucifixion. And yet he is also changed. The mystery of the resurrection says that the future involves our bodies, and perhaps in a way we may not expect.

A taste of what’s to come

You may find this talk of a future resurrection hard to swallow. Thankfully, the first Quakers emphasised that such ideas about the future weren’t to remain abstract. They believed that this hoped-for future was to be anticipated in the present. The way they were living, the intimacy with God they were experiencing, would one day be experienced by all. The marriage supper of the lamb, the rebirth to new life in Christ, were things that could be tasted now. For example, Early Quaker leader James Nayler referred to himself in his writings as ‘whose Name in the Flesh is “James Nayler”‘ or ‘Written by one whom the world knows by the name of JAMES NAYLER’. He had inwardly received the white stone, and new that the name ‘James Nayler’ did not capture who he now was.

In their journey of discovering who they really are, in faithfully living who they are on the inside and out, in being ‘explicitly queer’, in their changing of names and bodies, trans Friends could be seen as enfleshing the journey we are all on. In incarnating the hoped-for future, they are inhabiting the important Quaker tradition of living the future now. So I want to go beyond saying to my trans Friends ‘I believe you, you are who you say you are, and I love you’, and add ‘I thank God for your testimony. By simply being who you are, God’s glory is revealed and the Religious Society of Friends is blessed.’

Few of us are who our parents expected us to be. All of us have much to learn about who we are. One day we will all see one another face to face, and I expect many of us will be surprised.

In keeping with this being a positive, celebratory post, the comments sections will be a trans-positive space. No comments expressing anti-trans or trans-exclusionary sentiments will be permitted. There are plenty of spaces elsewhere to do that.

Read more from Mark Russ here: https://jollyquaker.com/

 

Picture: Trans flag. Picture by Kat Love from Pixabay.