First Australian Anglican Church says 'sorry' to LGBTI community
The first Australian Anglican parish to issue an apology to LGBT people for the Church’s past homophobia has heard an address from a former ex-gay program member. Andrew Shaw reports.
Gay Christian rights advocate Anthony Venn-Brown addressed St Mark’s Church in Fitzroy, Melbourne, which has lit its steeple purple for the duration of the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne in support of those battling conservative Christian values.
Venn-Brown said LGBT people had misguidedly become “the issue” for an Anglican Church already divided by theology, worship and practices.
Above: Gay Christian advocate Anthony Venn-Brown. Top image: Venn-Brown and Father Stuart Soley of St Mark's, Fitzroy. Photos: Courtest Hadden Media
“So as you willingly and sincerely say sorry tonight to the LGBT community there are those of us who say thank you and we forgive,” Venn-Brown told the congregation on Saturday.
“This makes the apology complete. As I mentioned at the beginning, sorry will never automatically right the wrongs of the past but, said with deep sincerity and authenticity, creates the potential for healing and reconciliation.”
Venn-Brown said the 2003 ordination of Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop, had brought divides in the Church into the public arena and further polarised the denomination.
VIDEO: Father Stuart Soley of St Mark's Anglican Church on the LGBT apology
“When I say openly gay bishop we have to emphasise the word ‘openly’ because obviously there have been may gay bishops and priests who served God and their churches,” he said.
“These men were either forced to remain in the closet or choose to because the price of honesty was too high. I think this is a sad indictment on the Church.
“A great deal of harm has been done to LGBT people because of the Christian church. A lot of people have been hurt and damaged. Lives have been lost when the internal perceived conflict of faith and sexual orientation, or rejection by Christian family and friends or years of internalised homophobia – self-hatred – became too much and they ended their lives.”
Above: St Mark's in Fitzroy
Venn-Brown spoke of founding his organisation Freedom2B, a support network for victims of Christian ex-gay movements, in particular the help it gave one teenage gay Christian
“How tragic that this young man's years of unnecessary suffering was caused by nothing more than Christian ignorance and misinformation,” Venn-Brown said.
“And I wonder how many more are there out there like this young 19 year old who have never heard that God loves them. And that God is no more concerned about a person's sexual orientation than his is about how tall or short you are, left-handed, right-handed, the colour of your skin, eyes or hair. These things are inconsequential to God.”