ABC The World Today report
The Adelaide Advertiser reports…
“An Adelaide church has left its denomination so it can fully include gay people in its congregation.
The move by Activate Church, at Bowden, which was announced during a service on Sunday, will cost pastor Brad Chilcott his marriage celebrant licence and denominational credentials.
Mr Chilcott said Activate withdrew from the Australian Christian Churches, which has 1100 churches nationwide, in part because the denomination had joined the anti-marriage equality group Marriage Alliance.
He said Activate Church already had members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in leadership positions.
“This puts us outside of the Australian Christian Churches position on human sexuality,” he said.
“In discussions with the ACC it became clear that our membership in the movement couldn’t continue if we were going to have LGBTQI people in positions of leadership — which we did know from the beginning.
“As a community we’re also uncomfortable with membership in the Marriage Alliance and felt unable to be associated, via denominational ties, with that coalition.”
Mr Chilcott said Activate Church hoped to “reflect the character of Jesus and the heart of God” as a welcoming and inclusive community for all people.
While he did not want to align with a group that voiced opposition to gay marriage, he stopped short of saying he supported it.
“This isn’t a decision we’ve made in spite of our faith, but rather because of it,” he said.
“We simply believe that all people are equal and should have equal opportunity to belong and contribute to our church.”
Ben Herdon, 35, was formerly a pastor at another Adelaide church but was told to leave his role after coming out as gay in February.
“I was allowed to stay in the church if I didn’t disclose my sexuality to anyone, but couldn’t be involved in leadership regardless,” he said.
“My relationship with God was important to me and before coming out, I felt I wasn’t able to be 100 per cent with Him.
“There used to be some guilt in how I approached God.”
He said his Christian values did not change regardless of the fact he would pursue a gay relationship.
Olivia Watson, 31, of Rosewater, who is a worship leader at Activate, said it was important to realise the LGBT community was represented in churches and the anti-same-sex marriage rhetoric did not reflect all Christians’ views.
“I understand this can be a divisive issue in churches but, unfortunately, some of the loudest Christian voices we hear in this discussion don’t tend to sound like the voice of Jesus,” she said.
“Churches should be safe and inclusive spaces for all people, regardless of their sexuality or relationship status.”