Greenbelt festival endorses pilgrimage of repentance

Greenbelt, one of Britain’s biggest Christian festivals, have contacted me to express their support as an organisation for my pilgrimage of repentance for homophobia. I’ve been a big fan of Greenbelt since I first attended it ten years ago. I now go every year, have spoken there twice and I really enjoy it. I’m really chuffed to receive Greenbelt’s endorsement.

I’ve been taken aback (in a good way) by the number of organisations that have contacted me in the last few days to endorse my pilgrimage and ask me to list them as supporters (seven in the last week alone). With some of them, I had known that they were thinking about it. But with Greenbelt, I had no idea. It was a wonderful surprise.

Greenbelt draws over 20,000 people to Cheltenham every year. I find it a genuinely safe, but challenging, space in which to explore a whole range of issues with people of varied perspectives. While most of the people who go there have no problem with homosexuality, it’s still a place in which those who disagree can be welcome and be heard. This is overlooked by groups such as Anglican Mainstream, who campaign against the acceptance of same-sex relationships, and who called for a boycott of Greenbelt last year because Peter Tatchell was speaking there.

Greenbelt told me:

“Greenbelt is happy to support and encourage Symon in his walk of repentance. Our belief is that our Christian community is enriched by the inclusion of all people, regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexuality, background or belief. As a previous speaker and a loyal festivalgoer, Symon has always been supportive of this inclusive approach. We are pleased that we now have the opportunity to reciprocate that support, as Symon explores and promotes a vision of a faith where all are welcome.”

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16 comments so far

  1. Andrew Rowland on

    What do you mean by your homophobia?
    What precisely do you consider needs repenting of? Dislike of those who consider themselves to be homosexual or the practice of homosexuality?

  2. Sophie, Surrey on

    N.B. Andrew – the post is titled “Why I’m Walking” – sorry, would have added this, but you can edit replies on this blog. Once the buttons been clicked it’s too late.

  3. Andrew Rowland on

    Sophie
    Just for your information I do not use blogs and do not find them particularly user friendly especially WordPress ones. This blog being a prime example as there is no indication there are earlier posts.

    Ever since I became a Disciple of the Lord Jesus Christs I have not understood how people can dislike, hate or worse those who consider themselves to be homosexual, at the same time I have never understood how people can say that the practice of homosexuality is okay, it is meant to be and worse.

    The bible teaches from Genesis through to and including the new testament that the practice of homosexuality is wrong and is contrary to what the Lord God Almighty designed woman for.

    I hear many so called homosexuals saying how can you believe that stuff we are in a more enlightened age, sorry but no we are not, consider Sodom and Gomorrah they too must have considered themselves enlightened – that was several thousand years ago.

    Those today who consider themselves enlightened are millenia out of date.

    Further the argument goes is it is between two consenting adults so it is okay. Before I became a Disciple of Christs I committed adultery with two married women (I was single) therefore to use the homosexual line adultery is not wrong because it is between two consenting adults. Oh and before you quote John 8 :10 & 11to me do remember to read the second half of John 8:11.

    Oh and don’t you think sending me the same post 3 times is a bit over the top?

    • Welsh Chap on

      Andrew, all this biblical rhetoric will get us nowhere – if you have to rely on religion ot get you through life, then that’s your choice, but try and respect that others have different ways of living that, while they might not conform to your religious code, are not necessarily wrong.
      How can you suggest that love between two human adults is wrong, no matter what their sex, especially after your declaration of adulterous relationships (whatever your marital status at the time).

  4. Sophie, Surrey on

    Dear Andrew, I apologise for the three messages – an annoying feature in this blog’s design is that you can’t edit a post – you can only re-post.

    As the blog is moderated I hoped the moderator would perceive that two of my posts were superfluous and therefore delete the spares. Alas, no. More important things to do, I guess. May not be a person but a program.

    The meat of your reply shows that your initial question was, as I guessed, not a sincere enquiry but purely rhetorical. Symon’s views on these matters inform both his decision to make the pilgrimage and his first posts on this blog, as a little thought would have told you. I wonder if you have anything new to contribute to the dialogue?

  5. Andrew Rowland on

    Sophie

    My question was and is sincere, I do wonder now though whether Symon does actually read these comments as there has been no further post from him and I have had nothing privately from him.

    The Lord Jesus is changing my attitude towards people (he’s got quite a lot of work to do in this are with me) because as can be seen in the gospels he clearly loved sinners regardless of their sin – so much so that the religious leaders of the day called him (accussingly) a friend of sinners.

    However as the gospel s and the epistles teach us he was without sin and would not entertain sin even when it would have mean’t he could satisfy his hunger and death on the cross. What he is teaching me and the attitude he is changing is to love people regardless of who are or what they have done, but he is not teachingme or changing my attitude toward the sins that people (including me) commit.

    Welsh Chap

    Thank you for your post as it truly has taught me something that I have read many times but have only just through your comment taken on board. That is, that at one time we were all dead in our sins and that many today who believe themselves to be alive are actually spiritually dead.

    Clearly a physically dead person is unable to see physically so too someone who is spiritually dead is unable to see what state they are actually in and therefore consider they are alive. A reason Jesus died on the cross was so that those who are dead in their sins may be brought to life or as Jesus said to a man be “born again”.

    Clearly you do not understand about repentance and forgiveness – which actually makes me wonder why you actually came to Symon’s blog. If you want to know how I can believe what I do about same sex couples in light of my adultery I would suggest you either:
    * Ask Symon about
    repentance
    forgiveness
    why Jesus died on the cross
    and
    what is the significance of what he accomplished three days later

    * Ask a vicar, minister, pastor or priest who lives locally to you, about the same four items
    or

    * read carefully the four Gospels (Matthew Mark Luke and John) and Paul’s letter to the Romans.
    If you do not have a bible their is a very good web site at http://www.biblegateway.com/ and they have just about every translation of the Bible (including in many different languages.

    Andrew

  6. hannahbrockagain on

    Andrew,

    I wanted to reply to your comment about Symon’s responses. Whilst he is walking he will be blogging in the evenings where possible, but may not have time to respond to each post. I know that he intends to respond more fully to comments when he has finished his walk.

    Hannah

  7. Charlotte Norton on

    @Andrew I think it is quite obvious that in commiting adultery with two married women you were deeply hurting someone (their husbands, for a start). I think if someone is being hurt then the action is sinful. If two people of the same gender have a loving commited relationship then they are quite clearly not hurting anyone. Hope this helps.

  8. Andrew Rowland on

    Charlotte

    I haven’t a clue as to what you really mean by “Hope this helps”.

    As to your other comments how is it obvious that anyone was hurt? (Do you know the ladies concerned? Do you know the husbands concerned? – I doubt it)

    Actually SomeOne was hurt that was the Lord God Almighty, because although I did sin against the husbands my greatest sin was against Him. Thankfully and Praise His glorious name His Son Jesus Christ paid the price for my sin at Calvary.

    When I was convicted of my sin, by the Holy Spirit, I repented and received God’s forgiveness.

    As pointed out previously those who call themselves homosexuals and are actively involved in unnatural practices have a need, as I did, to repent and ask for forgiveness.

  9. Charlotte Norton on

    What I meant was ‘hope this helps you answer your question’.

    Of course the husbands will have felt emotionally and spiritually hurt . It does not take a genius to work out that adultery causes great damage to a marriage, and to the other spouse.

    It is not so obvious to me that homosexuality hurts anyone – I have been with my girlfriend for 6 years and we got a civil partnership. At no point have we sinned against anyone by being together. As for God, that is a matter between me, my conscience, and Him. Not anything you get to judge me on.

  10. Andrew Rowland on

    Charlotte, first off I have not judged you:
    a) because until your last post I had no idea what if any relationship you were in
    b) I am commanded by Christ not to judge

    Again I ask the same question as on my previous post. How is it obvious that anyone was hurt? (Do you know the ladies concerned? Do you know the husbands concerned? Do you know what the state of their marriages were before I went out with them? Do you know if the husbands were adulters, abusers? – again I doubt it).

    You state “Not anything you get to judge me on”, as I have said I haven’t and I do not judge. God is the judge the apostle Paul tells us that: “God gave them up to dishonorable passions”, and “God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.”

    Again as you state “Not anything you get to judge me on”. I find that quite amusing because that is precisely what you have done towards me, even though the Lord Jesus Christ has forgiven me when I repented of my sin. Judging others is also something I hear of so many homosexuals doing.

    If the Lord God Almighty has changed His mind as to what is and is not sinful then He is no longer God Almighty and just another fraudster. But the Bible teaches that He is unchanging and that He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

    • Charlotte Norton on

      Andrew, I apologise for judging you and hope you can forgive me.

      Let’s not make this personal any more because that way we will be acting out of reaction instead of respect.

      Here are my thoughts of adultery/homosexuality:

      Adultery. In the Ten Commandments God specifically commands ‘Do not commit adultery’ (Ex 20:14). As Christians, I expect we pretty much agree that this commandment strongly suggests to us to avoid adultery as it is a sin. We could back this up from elsewhere in the Bible, for example Proverbs 6:42, Deuteronomy 5:18 and countless other places. We would probably also agree that someone who has committed adultery should repent of their sin so they can know the forgiveness that Christ gives. You correctly state that that person should not then be judged for that sin.

      We might also agree that Jesus showed great compassion, love and salvation to a woman caught in adultery even though her society, culture, and religion condemned her for it and sought to kill her in a horrendous way as a punishment (John 8:1-11). She was outcast, afraid and alone but Jesus liberated her.

      Homosexuality. Nowhere in the Bible is there a clear statement (as was the case with adultery) to the effect of ‘Do not be homosexual’. The closest we can get is Leviticus 20:13, which appears to condemn certain homosexual acts between men (women are not mentioned in this context). The word ‘homosexual’ and concept of sexual orientation did not exist in Biblical times, although it is certain that there were men who slept with men and women who slept with women. There has been a lot of work done looking at scriptures that appear to make reference to homosexuality and I don’t think I have time to write it all up here, but there is an excellent website which summarises the key notions of this scholarship: http://www.soulforce.org/pdf/whatthebiblesays.pdf

      Whatever side of the argument you fall on, I think we must be clear about one thing, Symon is repenting of homophobia, which is, I think, a sin because it really hurts people, disrespects people and excludes people. Whether you think homosex is wrong or right, prejudice and hurtful behaviour, and the double standards that can be seen in many churches, are wrong.

      We should follow the example of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. He told the people stoning the woman, in no uncertain terms, that they had no right to treat her like that, whatever she had done. Christian churches all over the world are metaphorically ‘stoning’ homosexuals. Even if homosexuality, like adultery, is a sin, we should look firstly to ourselves and then consider whether we can afford to cast the ‘stone’ to punish someone. Only if we are wihout sin. And even then, the one who was truly without sin (Jesus) didn’t cast the stone. He said ‘neither do I condemn you’.

      • Andrew Rowland on

        Charlotte
        I wholeheartedly agree that their are many Christians who judge the homosexual (when I use homosexual I mean men and women) person and they do need to repent of their attitude … and judgement of the person (whether they be murderer, adulterer, homosexual or paedophile)….. but hold fast to that the sin is just that SIIN – whether it be murder, adultery, homosexuality or paedophilia.
        You are right about John 8, I pointed this out on an earlier post, however it would be wrong to end at “neither do I condemn you” as the final part of verse 11 says “Go now and leave your life of sin.”(NIV) or as Young’s Literal translation says “be going on, and no more sin.”
        As an aside to this:
        A very good friend of mine used to be a homosexual, at some point she had a series of bible studies with her then pastor, they looked at the issue of homosexuality; he was and is not a homosexual. At the end of the series my friend came to the conclusion homosexuality was a sin – the pastor (a man) came to the conclusion it was not a sin (sorry about this but – duh!!!).
        Later my friend repented of her sin and in receiving forgiveness she found she no longer had her previous desires.
        We had been very good friends long before these studies and repentance but it was not until several years later that she told me, I had never even suspected any of this, her decision was just that – her decision.
        Charlotte, I do not intend to make any more posts here, if however you want to respond or correspond further my email address is aco012000@hotmail.co.uk

  11. Symon on

    Sorry I’ve not had chance to join in this discussion sooner. Apologies, Andrew, for not replying before now. As I’m sure you’ll appreciate, it is not difficult to keep on top of emails, Twitter and comments on this website at the same time as walking all day. In the days running up to the walk, I was extremely busy getting ready for it.

    By homophobia, I mean particularly prejudice towards gay and bisexual people and actions based on this prejudice, as well as a promotion of fear of homosexuality and bisexuality. More broadly, I mean the practice of treating gay and bisexual people differently to others and applying different moral standards to them.

    As you say, Andrew, your adultery, for which God has forgiven you, was sinful. If the only criteria for ethical sexual practice was “consenting adults”, then it would not have been sinful. I do not argue, and have never argued that this is the only criteria for ethical sexual practice. Like you, I challenge those who argue this.

    However, I do believe that judging people by their gender is wrong. The gender of those in a relationship does not stop it being loving, honest, ethical and Godly. Christ has superseded and fulfilled the law, leaving us with the more fulfilling, but in some ways, much harder, alternative of living by the Holy Spirit in lifestyles rooted in love.

  12. Andrew Rowland on

    Symon
    Thanks for your response and clarifying what you needed to repent of, you are absolutely right many Christians do need to repent of their attitude (and yes Charlotte) and judgement of the person (whether they be murderer, adulterer, homosexual or paedophile).

    I suspect there are many believers who need to repent of the latter, but hold fast to that the sin is just that SIIN – whether it be murder, adultery, homosexuality or paedophilia. One thing I do not understand is why I have never had a problem accepting people regardless of what they have done, is this a work of God’s grace because I accepted and confessed my own sin?

    The only aspect I may disagree with you on is what you mean by loving relationship between homosexuals, if, by that you mean entering into a physical relationship. I say this because as Jesus agreed with the lawyer in the parable of the Samaritan Love for God and hence His laws is first and foremost.
    As Paul wrote in Romans 3:27-31
    “Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law”.

    I also say physical because as disciples of Christ we are called to LOVE one another as we love ourselves. Which if taken the wrong way (which has been the case throughout history since Christ’s death) all of those who belong to Christ could be said to be in a homosexual / adulteress relationship.


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