Monday, July 28, 2008

Trans Panel Surrounded By Prayer

by the Revd Dr Christina Beardsley

Thank you for your prayers for Friday’s Lambeth Conference Fringe event ‘Listening to Trans People’ which Cam has already reported here. These are some of my impressions:

Once we’d set up the seminar room in Darwin College (at the University of Kent at Canterbury, where the Lambeth Conference is happening) the panellists – Cameron of TransEpiscopal; Mia, a Nigerian now based in England; and Stephen, Stephanie and myself from Sibyls (UK) – spent time together in prayer as we awaited the bishops.

Grateful that people were praying for us, we wanted the event to be surrounded by prayer so that we could find the courage to ‘speak the truth in love’ - to banish, not just the usual nervousness prior to public speaking, but the fear that we might be condemned for opening our hearts in this way. Some of us still recall the unhappy image from the last Lambeth Conference of a bishop attempting to exorcise ‘the demon of homosexuality’ from Richard Kirker of the UK Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement, which fed our anxiety that this conference too might be unsafe for LGBT people; especially for us as Trans people, since our journeys are not always understood by LGB people, let alone the Church community.

These apprehensions were completely unfounded, and both the seminar and the conference (during the two days that I was there) felt relatively safe. Presumably we had been included in the Fringe programme because we represented experience that had not been heard much during the Listening Process. Only four bishops attended, but this was the highest number to participate in an Inclusive Network seminar thus far. One of them told me afterwards that he and his wife were both committed to the listening process, and how deeply moved he had been by what he heard.

With room to spare, we took advice and opened the seminar to journalists, including conservative blogger Hans Zeiger, who posts for David Virtue. Although most of the comments on his post condemn us, his posting is mainly factual (there are just one or two errors), and my own conversations with conservative bishops whom I met around the campus, and the representatives of conservative organisations I spoke to in the marketplace, left me feeling hopeful that the faith which unites us is bigger and stronger than the issues that currently divide us.

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