“THOSE involved in organising local Groups will often stop to wonder what the Group is achieving, and whether the world would be poorer if it ceased to exist.” So reads the introduction to the Nottingham Gay Christian Movement Group newsletter, published in 1982.
Decades letter, the document, with its promise of a warm welcome “for those who bring a heavy set of problems”, forms part of a retrospective to celebrate 40 years of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) and highlighting its achievements, and contributions to the world.
Scanned documents from the early years, including copies of the monthly bulletin — hand-typed, duplicated, and posted by volunteers — are on display alongside banners telling the stories of key figures in the movement.
These stories can be heard at length on a new website, www.christianvoicescomingout.org.uk, that will serve as an aural history, preserving accounts for future generations.
“We have a very short collective memory,” the chief executive of LGCM, Tracey Byrne, said on Monday. “It’s human nature. There are people who made banners and went to parades where they were shouted and spat at and they are still around. . . It [the project] was about wanting to help people know that these people have a fantastic story to tell.”
The Gay Christian Movement was founded in 1976. Its first general secretary was the Revd Jim Cotter (Obituary, 25 April, 2014). In his account, he explains: “I think human beings, including myself, hurt and were hurt more than they would like to admit, but at the same time stumbling towards something, we weren’t quite sure what we were stumbling towards. I don’t think anybody would have even dreamt of thinking of a phrase like Gay Marriage at that time.”
By 1979, the group’s bulletin included five pages of the names, addresses, and occupations of people who were gay and Christian or supportive of its statement of conviction, and 39 local groups, “tremendously important in reducing isolation”. LGCM was also able to put couples in touch with ministers willing to conduct services of blessing, and provided certificates to mark the occasion.
The exhibition includes contributions from the Revd Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch, who explains being “enraged” by the decision not to ordain him priest; and Linda Hurcombe, who describes the “fantastic days” of founding the Movement for the Ordination of Women. It also includes a section on the impact of HIV/AIDS, including the “impressive” response of the Salvation Army, and that of Jean White, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church in London, who stepped in when undertakers refused to carry the bodies of those who had died.
Ms Byrne said that she had been deeply moved by listening to people’s stories: “It stirs you up to say ‘For the sake of these and those who have gone before, we have to continue to work for transformation and change.’” While some stories had been “immensely joyful”, it had been a “tough journey. It has motivated me to want to continue.”
“Christian Voices Coming Out: 40 years of prophecy, protest and pride” is on display in the Atrium Gallery, Old Building, LSE, Houghton Street, London WC2, until 4 March.