THE BLOG

Why Its Time to Challenge Our Religious Leaders...

17/03/2015 14:32 GMT | Updated 16/05/2015 10:59 BST

It's almost seven months to the day since I officially came out. Seven life changing months, in both an amazing and challenging way.

I look back on that crazy few days in August and it makes me think how life can be transformed in literally the click of a button. I've dived head first into a personal battle, but its one that I feel God is 100% behind.

But before I get all philosophically poignant I'd like to chat in 'real' terms.

February was the month of the Valentine, the post New Year get-on-with-things time and now home to the annual celebration of the rich, diverse heritage and history of LGBT people.

I'll admit that I've only looked in detail at LGBT History Month these past two years. But I love it. Not just because I'm gay, but because there are so many heroes and heroines we can celebrate.

Rights are continuing to improve across the world, pride festivals are a regular sight across the biggest cities and to most of us, being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or plus is OKAY. Yet walk into the church and we still face major problems.

The fact is that there are still many thousands of religious believers and leaders who do not accept faith with a differing sexuality. For too long religious believers have faced an inward and outward oppression to their relational preferences.

Since November I've been speaking to campaigners, ministers, priests, vicars and church members across the UK on life as an LGBT believer.

This journey has grappled my thoughts and emotions, opening my eyes to new understandings and ways of thinking. It's still ongoing, however with seven months gone the ongoing issues I feel can be drawn into seven challenges.

Now I'm no expert, but these past few months have helped me draw together just a few ways that our leaders could use to look into the debate.

So religious leaders, try these...

THINK HOW'D YOU FEEL

Switching perspectives is an eye-opening experience. There'll be challenges you've faced throughout your life, times where you've felt on the outside or on the edge. This is how I felt when I sat through numerous talks on sexuality, or when passing comment was made on the so-called 'shame of homosexuality'.

Words, thoughts, so called tradition DO have an impact. People have lost their lives over this.

So... think, before you speak.

CHAT TO THE LGBT COMMUNITY

It could be the leader of your local pride group, the barman at the pub or simply a member of your congregation. Confrontation most often leads to a worse-off situation, so why not talk instead? After all they're people, they have hearts, they have feelings and quite often, they share the same beliefs as you.

READ YOUR HOLY BOOK AGAIN

*DISCLAIMER* To avoid hypocrisy, I've never read the Bible in full and probably never will, but a fresh read of the scriptures might just joggle your minds.

Your job is to teach and lead your congregations under the guidance of God, but to me it hardly seems coincidental that the ever-growing number of senior religious figures openly accepting LGBT believers has been linked to a fresh delve into holy books.

I believe that God uses his teachings to help us live our lives in our modern contexts, changing day-by-day. So why not give it a go?

CHAT TO THOSE YOU SERVE

As a religious leader its your job to serve your God and your believers. So chat to them. You serve them, their opinions matter and more than one view leads to a healthy discussion. This involves them in the life of the religious institution, and in Christianity, defines what we call 'church': a group of people living their lives for the glory of God.

STICK TO YOUR BELIEFS

Through these blogs I may have been mistaken for diluting the importance of belief.

Well I can categorically tell you now its never been of greater priority. There is nothing wrong with living by the teachings and beliefs you know. Just show respect, dignity for those around you.

Thousands of people live lives where they may not be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, but they love them all the same. Sexuality is just one small part of life and how God teaches us to live.

Remember the bigger picture.

CHAT WITH YOUR NON-BELIEVING FRIENDS

Quite often they know what they're talking about. Many of my friends are not religious but to be honest they've often given the best advice. To most non-religious people sexuality is a non-issue and I believe that in order to practice our faith properly we must listen, learn and love them, no strings attached.

We're not in a converting race (if you are, please stop).

God directs those who he has intended to know him to his face through us, but that doesn't mean we can ignore the opinions of those without a religious belief. Do so at your peril!

PRAY

The best option in pretty much all situations. Simple, emotive, effective and powerful. Taking time out from the busyness of everyday life to think and pray changes lives, outlooks and brings peace.

It's said time and time again in sermon after sermon, but sometimes, our leaders don't do enough of it.

WHAT NEXT?

I really hope to see a day where anyone and everyone who abides by the law, loves their neighbour and has a passion for faith, peace and the people in their lives to be welcome in any religious institution.

And you know what? I won't stop campaigning till we get there.

LGBT - LET GOD BE THERE

So why, you ask, am I writing these blogs? Well its all part of 'Let God Be There' - a documentary piece I'm making on the fight for equality and the ever diversifying, multi-faith debate.

Here's a taster of the stories I've heard so far.

I'm looking to hear from those who believe in sticking to traditional teachings regarding the LGBT debate - whether you are completely against LGBT relationships, defensive of the literal meanings of scriptures or looking to change the 'trends'. Drop me an email at jonathan.freeman@live.com or tweet me @jfreeman_93.