OBITUARY: BRENDA HARRISON

by
30 March 2010

The Revd Colin Coward writes:

BRENDA HARRISON, who died on 24 February, aged 60, had worked indefatigably for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans­gender (LGBT) people in the An­glican Communion through her in­volvement with the organisation Changing Attitude.

Born in the East End of London, Brenda Harrison followed a career in the Home Office. She was appointed as an immigration officer in 1971, in the first intake of women to the service, and undertook diplomatic post­ings to Pakistan and Sierra Leone. After taking early retirement in 2003, she became administrator, and later a trustee, for Changing Attitude. She was instrumental with others in creating a strong, inde­pend­ent LGBT Anglican witness.

She had been an active member of the Evangelical Fellowship for Les­bian and Gay Christians since 1987, serving as co-convener for several years from 1997. With Tony Green and Jeremy Innes, she researched the so-called “ex-gay” movement in the UK for three years from 1992, publishing their report, Not For Turning, in 1996.

In 1998, she was elected Co-President of the European Forum of Lesbian and Gay Christian Groups, serving in this capacity until 2004, and again from 2006. She attended the World Council of Churches’ Gen­eral Assemblies, in 1998 in Zim­babwe, and in 2006 in Brazil, where she delivered workshops on LGBT sexuality.

She was deeply committed to the work of the Forum and the member groups, some of them in­volved in challenging environments to support LGBT Christians. In 2007, she was appointed to the Advisory Committee of the Lesbian and Gay Religious Archive Network.

She came to faith in a Baptist church, and was a member of several independent Evangelical churches, until she became an Anglican in 1979 as a member of the congregation of Karachi Cathedral.

She continued to identify as an Evangelical Christian, and was a campaigner with a passion for justice, always totally committed to the groups that she was involved with. She had many irons in the fire, crossed boundaries of culture and church tradition, and formed inter­national networks and friendships. But, more than her practical skills, Brenda brought her cheeky smile and a bouncy attitude to meetings and events.

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She continued to work with the same commitment until a few weeks before she died. Brenda was as cour­ageous in her illness and her last days as always.

Last August, Brenda and Pam, her life partner of 14 years, celebrated their civil partnership, but were sad­dened not to be able do so in their church. On the day before she died, The Times carried an article about Lord Alli’s proposed amendment to the Equality Bill. Pam read it to Brenda, and, although she was un­able to speak, saw her respond in Brenda’s inimitable way — with a cheeky smile.

Brenda was an inspiration to many: a determined forerunner who campaigned as a lesbian Christian for many of the things that some now enjoy and take for granted. Brenda wanted the campaigning to continue until all are able to enjoy freedom in the Kingdom of God. Her inspiration and love touched many people over the years.

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