The Gayification of Greenbelt?

The very kind Dave Walker pointed me in the direction of the Anglican Mainsteam blog, and in particular a post by Lisa Nolland called Greenbelt, ‘gay evangelicalism’ and CMS: Summer 2009. One of the standout quotes is as follows…

Finally, perhaps most galling is the deeply discriminatory nature of the programme, which presents itself as the antithesis of discrimination. Given the resources and people which such recent events as Sex and the City, The Big Question, and the Moral Maze, showcased, there is no reason why Greenbelt should only push one ideological agenda and only grind one axe, unless it is wanting to slant the argument and deprive its audience of expert opinion on the other side. What about equal air time for it? What about poster boys or girls for the ex/post-gay movement being handed the microphone, instead of just Gene Robinson (again), with his sadly amaturish biblical hermeneutic? Given that Greenbelt has invited so many people who strongly promote a different sexual ethic to that of a traditional Christan sexual ethic, the least they could do is allow equal air time for traditional sexual views.

I found this especially interesting in, as she calls, the ‘discriminatory nature of the programme. It seems to be that Greenbelt over the last couple of years has actually decreased the amount of high-profile gay, lesbian, bi and trans people involved in speaking and performing at the festival. Certainly those who are focussing on sexuality as a primary issue anyway. It also irritated me that she describes Athlete and Royksopp as “gay bands”. For a start I didn’t even know they were gay. Surely a band is just a band, if they happen to be gay, lesbian, bisexuals or trans does it really matter? Most people will be going to see them play music, not because they are gay or whatever.

Interestingly conversations I have had with gay men and women have seemed to suggest that they feel that Greenbelt has actually built themselves a a gay ghetto with the creation of Outerspace. Instead of having LGBT people involved with every part of the festival they are kind of shunted into a corner and left to get on with it. The label sticks and rather than challenge it directly there is a rather more subversive feel to it. I am not sure how I feel about that perspective myself. I would like to see all parts of the festival being inclusive and I am slightly uncomfortable with the creation of specialist groups such as this. However, I also recognise that there is a need for individuals to be offered a safe space to discuss potentially difficult and emotional subjects.

I expect this is a subject that is going to run and run, especially with more mainstream conservative people getting offended with what they perceive as the ‘Gayification of Greenbelt’. Personally I say, BRING IT ON! Big parties, fabulous clothes and a deep sense of joy about a festival that is truly wonderful. The gayer the better 😀

6 thoughts on “The Gayification of Greenbelt?

  1. Yes, I was also under the impression that GB is providing less space for LGBT punters than they were a few years back – I can’t believe for example that they’ve not invited Peterson back when he was such a hit a couple of years ago across the whole GB demographic. The Athlete thing also surprised me – I used to go to church (briefly) with 3/4 of them, and it’s certainly news to me (I was also briefly health visitor to one of them, I’m sure his wife and kids would be really interested to hear he’s been in a gay band for the last 5+ years!).

    And what does she mean about “Gene Robinson (again)” – I wasn’t aware he’d spoken at GB ever before. And having heard him preach elsewhere before, the last thing I’d call his “Biblical hermeneutic” is “amateurish”.

  2. Self-righteous plonkers. As an Anglican who considers herself pretty mainstream, their name winds me up!

    Likewise colour me surprised about Athlete (I’m off to look on Wiki), Dave Tomlinson is apparently simply ‘a gay advocate’, and the fact that Simon Hughes admitted he had had both male and female partners indicates he’d had them at the same time? Too many grrrs to list!

  3. Hi Anna,

    I’m not an impartial observer on this, as I’ve been involved in organising OuterSpace, but I think I’m right in being a bit bit concerned about your labeling of OuterSpace as a ghetto, and I wonder whether it’s rather unfair to Greenbelt too.

    The majority of the stuff Greenbelt has been doing with an LGBT theme has been nothing to do with OuterSpace. Sessions from the likes of James Alison, Bishop Gene, and Journey MCC, have been commissioned by Greenbelt directly, so I’m not sure it’s fair to say that LGBT issues have been shunted into OuterSpace to be forgotten about.

    Regarding OuterSpace, Greenbelt have always had an LGBT group who form to provide a strand of LGBT content for the festival, but OuterSpace has actually been much more integrated into the festival than Safety Net ever were – all of our sessions last year apart from our Eucharist were submitted to and accepted by the main Greenbelt talks and worship teams, and were advertised in the main programme. Our venues are bigger and more prominent than Greenbelt ever used to allow Safety Net, and the numbers of non-LGBT people coming to our sessions has increased dramatically.

    We do also organise some social spaces at Greenbelt for LGBT people and their friends, but actually it’s not that often that most of us get to meet up with other LGBT Christians, so I’d argue that that’s not a bad thing – it’s a positive thing some of us choose to do rather than a consequence of feeling rejected by the rest of Greenbelt..

    I hope that makes sense – everyone is obviously entitled to their own opinion, but as your blog carries quite a lot of weight, I hope you don’t mind me canvassing you with another view!


  4. Thank you for your opinion Alex. I certainly welcome the different viewpoints and I am well aware that there will be a spectrum of views on this subject. However, I also feel that it is valid to point out that this is not only my perspective, but those of other Christians I have spoken to.

    As for the planning and organisation of OuterSpace, I am well aware of the work that goes into it, and I appreciate very much the fact that people take it on and run with it. Also, as I am on the OuterSpace mailing list I tend to get at least a sense of the quantity of work this might involve for people, even though I am not involved myself.

    Having said all that, I still stand by my comments that I believe the progamming has become less inclusive, rather than more inclusive and I hope that they will remedy this over the next few years. I guess the issue for me is that I love Greenbelt, but having been involved with Courage for a long time I am also passionate about inclusivity, gender, sexuality and openness.

    Thanks for your comments… and I am still tickled that you think my blog carries quite a lot of weight!

  5. Thanks Anna – I understand that you’re saying it because you care about this sort of stuff, so no worries.
    Hopefully catch you at some point in the ghetto this year! 😉

  6. I absolutely care about this stuff. I am sure you will see me at some point 😉 I am sure I will pop down to the ghetto and might even join you all in the camp campsite for a drink if the offer is there 😉

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