Page published on 30th January 2023
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On 23 November 2022, IP Out held a hybrid panel event entitled Queer Identities and Faith Experiences. This was their second event looking at the experiences of LGBTQ+ people in the context of religion. It was moderated by IP Out committee member Darren Smyth (EIP) and the speakers were the Reverend Kate Harford and Steve Davis. Their discussions were both interesting and thought-provoking.
We’ve provided a brief report below, which we hope will inspire you to listen to the full recording…
Kate talked about how, when she was growing up and first came out as queer, friends starting pushing her towards the church. However, this was very conflicted for her as the church community was unaccepting of her queerness. By exploring different churches she was able to find a community that welcomed her and she is now a licensed minister in the Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC). The MCC community has an extremely diverse community based on “outsiderness”, and it centres on and celebrates queer life and queer theology. She also reflected on her neurodivergence which, although diagnosed as an adult, has helped her make sense of her experiences growing up.
Both speakers talked about faith traditions and how scriptures have always been read and interpreted in the context of the prevailing culture and society, yet it is also possible to reinterpret them with other belief systems in mind. For example, homosexual relations in ancient history have in more recent history been erased by certain dominant parts of our society, so the more recent translations of the Bible have been read with that understanding. Yet, if read without this preconception, Kate explained that there are numerous examples of queerness in the Bible, for example the love between David and Jonathan, and the relationship between Ruth and Naomi. Likewise, Pagan stories, as well as stories from Greek, Norse and Roman mythologies, can be reframed so we see gods who are fluid in both gender and sexual identity. In this way, people from all backgrounds can look for where they see themselves in the scriptures, rather than seeing “otherness”.
Similarly, theologists at MCC are developing theories of polyamory, by letting go of the received wisdom around monogamy, which can be viewed in one sense as disingenuous in that it limits love to romantic love, as if we don’t have close friends or people that we love in different ways.
There were several questions from both the in-person and online audiences, including a question around advice for LGBTQ+ people who don’t have faith/religion but perhaps feel that something is missing in their lives. How might those people go about exploring faith and what might click for them? Both Steve and Kate encouraged reading or listening or watching any material that you are drawn to, and seeing what resonates. They suggested that if something doesn’t feel right you’ll know, and if it does feel right for you at this time then explore it more.
If this brief summary has intrigued you, you can access a recording of the discussions here.