CHURCHES must become more welcoming to LGBT people to avoid perpetuating a “mental-health crisis”, the founder of the Oasis Trust, the Revd Steve Chalke, has said.
Mr Chalke and his Oasis organisation have launched the “Open Church Charter” to encourage congregations to make a public statement declaring that LGBT people will be accepted and included in their church.
A statement announcing the move quoted research by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine which suggested that gay and bisexual men were 50-per-cent less likely to experience depression if they co-habited with a partner rather than lived alone.
Mr Chalke, who is a Baptist minister, said: “The depressing results of research into the mental health of LGBT people should come as no surprise to the Church. By excluding LGBT people from their communities, the Church in the UK and around the world is on the wrong side of what is a significant human-rights issue. It is time to rethink our whole approach.”
The Charter has been backed by the chief executive of Stonewall, Ruth Hunt. She said: “All too often, LGBT Christians continue to hear the message within the Church that who they are is not acceptable, which can have a significant impact on their well-being.”
It will be launched at a conference at Oasis Church in Waterloo next month. Speakers include Canon Mark Oakley, Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, and the Revd Sally Hitchiner, Chaplain at Brunel University, and founder of Diverse Church.
Mr Chalke’s church in Waterloo has also begun the process of registering to conduct same-sex marriages.
In March, the Baptist Union Council announced that, after a process of consultation and discussion, it had decided to affirm its traditional understanding of marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
It acknowledged that some Baptist congregations disagreed, but “humbly urged” them to refrain from registering their buildings so that they could conduct gay marriages out of “mutual respect” for those Baptists who could not support such a move.
As all Baptist churches are self-governing, however, there is no legal impediment to registration by churches, such as Oasis Church Waterloo, registering for a licence to solemnise same-sex marriages.
The Charter Mr Chalke hopes churches will sign up to states: “Within the scope of current British law we will offer marriage to couples regardless of gender identity and sexuality and where this is not allowed under law, we will offer celebration, preparation, and support for same-sex marriage partners in loving, healthy, monogamous relationships.”