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LGBT+ Christian Conference Awaken 2019

Rainbow Christians will gather in Ponsonby 15 - 17 February for Awaken 2019. Workshops, discussion and an inclusive and safe environment.

Awaken 2019 - Conference for LGBT Christians

Love it or hate it the Christian church while in theory offering love and respect for all appears for many, to do pretty much the opposite. If there is one major reason for discrimination against LGBT+ (and almost everything else we discriminate against) it is Christianity, or the Christian church in particular. Generations of Christians have caused and promoted the oppression of women, children, people ‘of colour’ and the LGBT+ community - all in the name of religion. Mind you it’s not just Christianity; that’s simply the religion that dominates the country we live in. Of course the majority of LGBT+ who are Muslim live in fear as many Christian LGBT did for centuries.

So how come there are still LGBT+ people who are proud to call themselves Christian or to follow a faith? Surely they should just leave and get on with their lives?

In Australia the Anglican church is debating whether LGBT children should be allowed to go to Christian schools, or whether LGBT teachers should teach there. All the while being partially funded by a Government which at least on paper says this should not be happening. In New Zealand, churches are leaving the Anglican Union because a recent Synod decision has meant that churches are able to allow church blessings of marriage for same sex couples. In other denominations churches have been officially sanctioned for advocating or accepting same sex marriage. Parliament has recently received a petition signed by more than ten thousand New Zealanders to ban gay conversion therapy. Conversion therapy run invariably by ‘Christians’ who believe, as they should, that Jesus can change people. But totally unaware, or wilfully ignorant of the fact, that genuine sexual predestination can’t be changed, and never has been.

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So if you are not cis-gender (standard male/female straightness) the majority of churches won’t accept or affirm you. And therefore for Christians who also identify as LGBT+, it may well have been easier just to leave. So why don’t they?

David Dennis of Auckland Rainbow Community Church left his Christian family early but always felt a need for God. “I grew up in the church and I was told I couldn’t be Gay and be Christian. I moved away for a long time, but I still had a need of some sort for church or for God. I guess I also felt alone or isolated and surprisingly, despite everything, the love of Jesus seemed to have some glow, I just didn’t really understand it.”

For Dennis a period of time at the then Bible College of New Zealand led to some serious questioning of what it means to be a Christian and whether he still wanted to follow Jesus. “I found a Jesus who loved everyone, who, every time He was asked about the Law told people to go to the heart of the law. To ask ‘is it life affirming or life denying’? Why would I not want to follow Him?”

He says he had to concede that either “I was understanding it wrong, or the majority of the Christian church has got caught up in the very thing Jesus, who they say they follow, told people not to; they are making rules more important than people”. Jesus greatest commandment says Dennis was to ‘love God, and the second most important to love others as God loves you’.

“I don’t actually think most Christians get the way God loves us. It is never ending and undying, no matter what. The one thing I knew after Bible college was that I was loved by God, worthy, important. Once I had that I at least felt like I was on solid ground.” But for so many LGBT+ Christians they don’t yet have that place, there is no where for them to make a stand. There is no where for them to be themselves, be Christian and move on.

God, in many cases has been pulled out from under their feet.

Rainbow Christians all have a unique experience of what it is to be a Christian. You can guarantee that they have thought long and hard about their faith. Have suffered for it, and because of it. Have questioned pretty much everything and still for some reason, or reasons, they believe. For most, the church is not the place of refuge and love it should be. So any opportunity to worship with other Rainbow Christians, to talk, discuss, share, grow in understanding, get stronger and more secure in who you are. Is a truly life shattering experience for some.

So churches like Auckland Rainbow Community Church, St Matthew in the city, Ponsonby Baptist and conferences like Awaken are essential. The Awaken conference in Auckland next February has a primary focus on empowering and equipping rainbow Christians in their faith. Awaken will have speakers talking about the standard LGBT issues like the so called clobber passages but also sessions about where to after that. How does a LGBT person live a Christian life? What does that look like?

The Awaken Conference’ keynote speaker is Irish author, poet and monastic leader Pádraig Ó Tuama (www.padraigotuama.com). He will bring his unique flavour of contemplative spirituality and will focus on his ministry of reconciliation. Other speakers include: Prof. Peter Lineham, Rev. Dr. Helen Jacobi and other New Zealand speakers.

If you are LGBT+ and Christian go to the Awaken Conference, you won’t regret it.

When: 15th to 17th February 2019 (coincides with Auckland Pride)
Where: Ponsonby Baptist Church, 43 Jervois Rd, Ponsonby, Auckland
. Website: http://diversechurch.co.nz/awaken2019/


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