Religious homophobia divides families

Last night 180 people attended the Wellington premiere of "For the Bible Tells Me So" at St Andrew's on the Terrace Presbyterian Church. Attendees were a mix of church-goers and members of Wellington's gay community, including some who will be attending the Presbyterian General Assembly which begins tomorrow. In 2006, the church excluded from leadership gay and lesbian people and people in de facto relationships.

The documentary was well received with many in the audience visibly moved by the stories of five Christian families and their gay and lesbian children. It also addressed the issues of biblical misinterpretation that are at the base of much discrimination against gay and lesbian people.

The screening was followed by a panel discussion on the impact of religious homophobia in Aotearoa New Zealand. Dr Mark Henrickson, senior lecturer in Social Work at Massey University shared the results of research on the place of religion and spirituality in the lives of gay and lesbian New Zealanders.

Commenting on the declining numbers of Christians in New Zealand, Dr Henrickson said, "Proportionately, almost 2.4 times as many lesbian, gay and bisexual Christians have left Christianity as have the general population.

"If Christian religious traditions want to keep lesbians, gays and bisexuals out of their communities, then what they are doing is working. If through negative messages they want lesbian, gays, and bisexuals to change their identities or Œlifestyles', that is not happening, because most appear more likely to abandon their religious traditions than their identities," he said.

He also noted the negative correlation between religious involvement and family acceptance of GLB children. Respondents who identified as ŒNo Religion' reported significantly more support from their families than current Christians. Families with ŒNo Religion' were also significantly more likely to include a partner in family gatherings than current Christians.

The other panellists were Elizabeth Kerekere, takataapui activist of Out There! Queer Youth Development Project; and Fraser Paterson, Presbyterian Minister and his daughter Robyn Paterson, New Zealand Film Maker. Each told powerful and moving stories of encountering and triumphing over religious discrimination.

St Andrew's minister Margaret Mayman restated the commitment of her congregation to be a place where gay and lesbian people do not have to choose between spirituality and sexuality, where they can be part of a faith community as they seek to live the tension between identity and religious tradition creatively.

"We will continue to be a place of welcome and healing for those who have been hurt, and we will continue to work for change and for justice in the churches," Dr Mayman said.

BACKGROUND NOTE In 2002, the Presbyterian Church commissioned research company AC Nielsen to interview couples with young children who were open to western spirituality but who did not attend church. They were questioned about their attitudes to the church. The research indicated that one of the most off-putting aspects of church for these young families was judgemental attitudes held by the churches, particularly lack of acceptance of divorce, de-facto relationships, and homosexuality.

ENDS

From Scoop.co.nz

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