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Vote - OneBodyOneFaith (Community Organisation Award - Multi-Strand)
Firstly, tell us as much information as possible about why you are voting for this organisation (the more information you can give, the better!). After this, please give us some information about yourself so we can validate your vote.
OneBodyOneFaith seeks to enable people to integrate their faith and sexuality in positive and life-affirming ways, and works for institutional change so that LGBT people can play their full part in the life and work of the Christian churches, free from discrimination or injustice. We work to create networks and spaces where LGBT can explore their identity as people of (Christian) faith, and where they can have more generous, compassionate and informed conversations about sexuality and gender.
We do this by connecting our 800 members with one another, by organising events and making resources available, and by engaging in discussion and dialogue in the media and with leaders and members within and beyond the Christian denominations.
We want people to be confident in their identities, both as people of faith, and as LGBT people – we don’t think anyone should have to choose between those parts of who they are, or hid them. We want people to feel that they have the power to make change happen, that they have a voice and can speak out with confidence, and that if we join together in doing that, we can influence decision makers, and create institutional change. However, equally importantly, we believe that people will themselves feel affirmed and validated by participating in that process. We believe they will be transformed from being seen as (and identifying as) ‘victims’ and ‘problems’ and instead begin to see themselves as people with real gifts, abilities and insights to bring to bear on the church and the wider world.
But of course, institutional change also matters. We want LGBT people, our lives, stories and gifts to be affirmed and celebrated on equal terms with our brothers and sisters – so we want, eventually, to see same-sex couples able to marry in church if they wish to do so, and for same-sex married people to be able to offer their gifts in ministry and service. We see this not as an evangelistic endeavour, but as enabling people to flourish and be all that they are called to be. We feel it’s central to our identities as human beings – whether or not we would call ourselves Christians – to be able to become fully human, and to follow our calling in the world.
We also want to change the tone of public debate about faith and sexuality, helping people to understand why this remains an issue (people cannot marry in church, for example, and people are at risk of losing their employment) and building understanding and tolerance, so that people are able to hold different opinions but not speak and behave in ways which damage LGBT people.
Finally, we want to reduce the isolation faced by LGBT Christians, by connecting them with people to whom they can relate and providing them with opportunities to create and be part of communities of belonging. We already support 60 grasroots support groups, but by 2020 we would want to ensure that everyone is able to access an LGBT-affirming group within an hour of their home, wherever in England they live.
LGBT Christians are doubly discriminated against, within the LGBTQI communities, and within the majority of Christian churches. As a result, despite the widespread acceptance of same-sex relationships, and equal civil marriage in wider society, LGBT Christians often feel compelled to hide who they are and who they love in order to remain part of their faith community. This tends especially to be the case within some fundamentalist or traditional denominations – coming out can mean separation from your family, friends, social networks, system of beliefs and values - and from God. In such communities, it can be difficult to find alternative, affirming perspectives, and when people do, they are condemned for being ‘unsound’ and ‘backsliding’ – whatever the issue. Inevitably this leads to anxiety, emotional distress, a lack of mental wellbeing and on occasion self harm and suicide (because if death means being with God, and staying alive as a gay person means condemnation, that can feel like an easy choice to make.)
Likewise within the LGBTQ communities, it can be very difficult to come out as a person of (any) faith. Understandably LGBTQ people and the LGBTQ media can be hostile towards Christians and their leaders, but this makes it difficult for people to be fully themselves in their own communities, and that can increase their sense of isolation. This reflects and is compounded by the decline of organized religion in wider society – and yet the universal need for people to engage fully with their own innate spirituality.
The Church of England has just completed a two year consultation process in relation to sexuality, and in February 2017 a report by the bishops on the way ahead was debated in the General Synod. With our members and supporters we campaigned to highlight the inadequacy of the report and members of Synod refused to ‘take note’ following debate – an almost unprecedented refusal. We know that we now have an opportunity to shift the institutional culture, and that there are many, many people beyond our traditional constituency of support ready and willing to engage in the process of making change happen. We estimate that over 200 people participated in our campaign around General Synod in February 2017. We're telling bishops that 'we'll work with you, but we won't wait for you'. We're working hard to encourage those who are supportive of change to be more visible and vocal
We're looking forward, building networks, engaging activists, helping people to become more vocal and confident. We're proud of what we've achieved to date, and excited by the possibilities which lie ahead. One of our biggest challenges is engaging people on the edges of church, who often don't appreciate the remaining injustices and are, for example, shocked to realise they can't get married in church. We're working hard on that, but we face real challenges in reaching people who have often turned their backs on the church.