16 December 2020, The Tablet

Faith leaders plead forgiveness from LGBT+ community

Faith leaders plead forgiveness from LGBT+ community

Bishop of Liverpool Paul Bayes, centre.
Peter Byrne/PA

In a landmark declaration today more than 370 religious leaders have asked for forgiveness from the LGBT+ community for the harm done to them. They have also called for an end to violence against LGBT+ people and a ban on conversion therapy.

The declaration, Declaring the Sanctity of Life and the Dignity of All, was being launched today at an online conference hosted by the new group, Global Interfaith Commission on LGBT+ Lives. It included speakers from the worlds’ major religions.

Commission co-chair, the Church of England bishop Paul Bayes, called it “a landmark day in global faith and LGBT+ relations”.

“For too long, religious teachings have been misused – and are still being misused – to cause deep pain and offence to those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex,” said Bishop Bayes. “This must change, which is why we have joined forces the launch the Global Interfaith Commission on LGBT+ lives, which aims to provide a strong and authoritative voice amongst those who wish to affirm the sanctity of live and the dignity of all.”

The declaration has been signed by faith leaders from more than 30 countries. Signatories include Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Bishop of London. A further eight archbishops and 47 bishops have also signed, alongside 64 rabbis and senior Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim figures.

Commission director Jayne Ozanne, who is also a member of the governments’ LGBT+ advisory panel, encouraged all people of faith to sign the declaration online, where it is available in 15 languages. “Our hope is that LGBT+ people and their allies will share it with their own faith leaders and ask them to sign it too,” she said. There is also a video featuring a message from Bishop Bayes.

Alongside decriminalisation and acceptance of LGBT+ people, the declaration also calls for a ban on conversion therapy. Despite the government committing to end it in 2018, the practice is still legal in the UK.

The conference was due to be held in the state rooms at the FCDO in London but was moved online when London was placed in Tier 3 yesterday. A celebration service at Westminster Abbey is still going ahead and will be attended by speakers after the conference. A recording of this service will be made available online at a later date.

Keynote speaker Revd Canon Mpho Tutu van Furth – daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu – was banned from officiating in 2016 by the South African Anglican church after she came out as gay. She said: “I know from personal experience the deep pain that can be caused by certain religious teachings. There are many LGBT+ people who suffer emotional hurt and physical violence to the point of death in countries across the world. For this reason, we are joining forces as faith leaders to say that we are all beloved children of God.”


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