I grew up in Sydney Australia in what I would these days label fundamentalist Christianity. There was no room for error, and despite it being spoken about frequently, there was no room for grace. As I matured, I soon learnt that there was certainly no room for gay people like me and I spent years in conversion therapy attempting to contort my life into the shape I was told honoured God. Eventually I left both the church and my faith. Eight years later, I decided to come out as gay, and a spiritual seeking emerged. I ended up in one of the tiny number of inclusive Anglican churches in Sydney before making real a life long dream to travel and spend time here in the UK where I have a lot of family. Little did I know I would meet my future husband and end up staying permanently, but that’s another story.
With this newly rediscovered, more open, and inclusive faith, I was looking for inclusive spaces and found that at St Bride’s here in Liverpool. I discovered Inclusive Church through being at St Bride’s which, in 2007, was the only registered inclusive church for many miles around. Having experienced what I had in the past, I was elated to see a charity committed to making our churches more inclusive spaces through education, advocacy and support. I just had to support this work and made a simple start with a small regular financial donation. As I learnt more, I helped organise hustings for General Synod, supported IC to hold a day conference in Liverpool and eventually becoming IC Ambassador for the Liverpool diocese/region. It has been a joy to walk beside churches as they journey to registration and, while certainly not down to me alone, we now have many more registered inclusive churches in the area.
Never be surprised by the cumulative effects of small actions and team work. A small regular donation helps IC plan and know their income. Hosting even just one small event a year gets others excited by the work and the word gets out. Other things like getting flyers out at events like local Pride festivals, church conferences or helping at the IC stall if you’re at Greenbelt etc are also helpful. There are so many small, large and varied ways you can support and grow the work of IC and of inclusion in our churches, a work that is so desperately needed. I always thought I had nothing to offer, but we each have varied gifts to offer and that variety is the key, no-one can or indeed should do it alone!
I often hear people speak of inclusion as some fuzzy, post-modern fashion, and yet after 15 years of being part of IC and as a lay minister to Open Table Liverpool (an LGBTQIA+ congregation and part of the Open Table Network), I am convinced that inclusion is actually the beating heart of the gospel. If the gospel we preach isn’t about tearing down barriers and time spent with those society push to the margins, then we aren’t preaching Jesus’ message. Inclusion really is the beating heart of the Gospel and that’s something worth shouting about!
Warren Hartley is the LGBTQIA+ ministry facilitator for Open Table Liverpool and the IC regional ambassador for the Liverpool area. You can see the list of all the Regional Ambassadors on the IC website.
If you would like to give to Inclusive Church to support our work, please click here.