Changing Attitude Sussex
Results from a recent survey undertaken by Changing Attitude Sussex and the Brighton and Hove Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement show that the Anglican churches of Brighton and Hove are very welcoming to homosexual people.
The churches were asked to choose one of four categories to describe their attitude to the LGBT community. These ranged from being fully affirming – ‘gay and lesbian people can be fully and openly involved in every aspect of the church’s life, including lay leadership roles’ through accepting, then tolerating, to condemning – ‘LGBT people would not be permitted to be in lay leadership roles….the congregation believes that the Bible teaches that homosexual acts are sinful and it is wrong to be in a gay relationship’.
A notable finding is that not a single church ticked the condemning box which represents the traditional teaching on homosexuality and which continues to be the official doctrine of the Church of England.
32 out of the 39 Church of England churches have responded so far, (responses are promised from the rest). Of these 9 (approx 28%) have declared themselves fully affirming, and a further 18 (approx 57%) say they are accepting and ‘recognise the equality and worth of openly LGBT people who are valued members of the congregation’.
A number of clergy made remarkably positive comments…. ‘under my watch I have tried to ensure that everyone is welcome here’…. ‘I personally look forward to the day when we can celebrate same sex marriages in church.’
Even the churches which do not approve of homosexual relationships seemed reluctant to endorse the official position of the Church of England, ‘box number 4 seemed far too harsh and forbidding, so we chose number 3’.
Dr Keith Sharpe, Chair of Changing Attitude Sussex, commented: ‘these are very encouraging results indeed. 85% of Anglican churches in the city say they offer an unreserved welcome to LGBT people and celebrate gay lives, identities and relationships. I am delighted that in this way so many are responding to Christ’s call to love all God’s children unconditionally. There is clearly a vast gulf between the official views of Church leaders and the reality of the lived experience of gay Christians in actual congregations. This must surely mean that in time the Church will have to recognise the full humanity of LGBT people. These findings are of national significance. The outcome is so overwhelmingly positive it cannot be dismissed as just a Brighton phenomenon.
I would like to pay tribute to Dr John Hind, the Bishop of Chichester, who in a visionary pastoral act, and mindful of the process of listening to the experience of LGBT people inaugurated by the 1998 Lambeth Conference, gave his blessing to this survey. This helped the survey team to achieve a 100% response rate and ensured the authenticity of the results. We will now move into phase 2 of the survey which will cover the non-Anglican churches in Brighton and Hove, and from there we will move to the rest of the diocese. We are currently in negotiations with national organisations to take this research countrywide. We hope that it will play a part in moving the Church away from its current negative stance.’
The full results of the survey are available at www.changingattitudesussex.com
For further details contact:
Dr Keith Sharpe,
Chair, Changing Attitude Sussex
Mobile: 07801 020 152