Big Chat Series: Christianity and LGBT+ Lives

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For a long time, many thought that being LGBT+ has been in direct opposition to having a faith, that you could be one or the other but never both.  

In 1977 Merseyside was the birthplace of the True Freedom Trust, a Christian organisation which became a founding member of Exodus International, an arm of the world’s largest ‘ex-gay’ organisation. As late as 2018 a church in Liverpool was offering a ‘gay conversion programme’ that consisted of three days of starvation and prayer. A representative of that church described being gay as a ‘deceit of Satan’ and in 2022 conversion therapies are still not illegal in the UK. Christian groups have protested every Pride march that has been held in Liverpool. 

Despite this, Liverpool also has a pioneering history of welcoming gay people within faith groups. Stories tell of Unitarian ministers blessing same-sex unions in the city in the 1960s and in 2012 Kieran Bohan and Warren Hartley became the first same-sex couple in the UK to tie the knot legally in a place of worship when they celebrated their civil partnership at Ullet Road Unitarian Church. In 2017 the Bishop of Liverpool, an outspoken advocate against conversion therapy and for LGBT+ rights, became a patron of Liverpool Pride. Liverpool is also the headquarters of the Open Table Network, a growing network of Christian worship communities which are welcoming and affirmative to LGBTQIA+ people. 

In this panel conversation we will hear from-

Chris Butler

Chris was born in Merseyside and grew up in a secular household but religious school. As he got older he became increasingly attracted to radical Christianity which was in complete odds with his growing realisation that he was gay. Chris attended True Freedom Trust meetings, attempted to ‘cure’ himself of being gay, and was ultimately exorcised. Eventually Chris lost his Christian faith but now sees himself as a spiritual person with an interest in exploring his spirituality.

Sister Maria Renate

As a teenager Sister Maria Renate was identified as having an intersex condition. After travelling the world she settled down to a religious life in 1987, performing pastoral care with LGBT+ communities, including many in the HIV/AIDS crisis. Today she continues her pastoral work as well as speaking regularly about her experiences as an intersex person and works with the Merseyside Police LGBT+ Network Executive.

Kieran Bohan

In his 20s Kieran trained to be a Roman Catholic priest but decided not to be ordained. Since then, he has been involved in many local groups supporting LGBT+ people of faith. He is now the Co-ordinator of the Open Table Network, a growing partnership of Christian worship communities which welcome and affirm LGBTQIA+ people, our families, friends and allies, which began in Liverpool in 2008.

In this conversation event we will hear the stories of our three panellists, talk through some of their shared experiences, and discuss whether having a Christian faith is compatible with being LGBT+.