Being a member of the LGBT community can be quite difficult for a practising Christian.
Whilst some churches can be accepting, others have been quite discriminatory, telling people they can’t be a Christian if they are gay.
Some members of the LGBT community have even had to hide their sexuality and enter into a same sex marriage to fit in.
But one church which welcomes everyone, especially the LGBT community, is Liberty Church, based st St Paul’s Church, Egerton Road, Blackpool.
The organisation was set up in 2006 by Nina and Jim Parker as a safe space for people of all sexualities, as well as people with mental health issues and learning difficulties.
There is a traditional service on a Sunday, as well as a meal, songs and Bible readings on Wednesday evenings.
Jim says: “Early on as a Christian, I was taught to discriminate against people who were lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered, but always deep inside I knew this was wrong.
“I would often meet people who were gay and transgendered and I found that over time, going out of my way to engage these people in conversation, my prejudices began to recede. The fact that LGBT people would not be welcome in many of the local churches disturbed me and I felt that it was important that they too had the opportunity to know the love of God and be accepted by other Christians.
“Over the years I have sensed that Jesus may be calling me to a ministry with LGBT people.”
With this calling in mind, Jim and Nina attended Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), in Manchester, which accepted people of all sexualities.
They gained a great insight into the faith and set up Liberty Church a year later, in 2006.
Nina, who entered her faith in 1968, admits regretting seeing a Christian friend feel conflicted over her sexuality and not knowing how to encourage her.
But it was meeting her now husband Jim in 2002, who showed her how the Bible could be used to re examine and get rid of her previous prejudices, that she became aligned to the thinking there was a need for a LGBT church.
She says: “I can now clearly see that God’s acceptance of us does not depend on our sexuality but our reliance on what Jesus has done for us.
“When I attended MCC, I felt the atmosphere of acceptance and welcome that is extended to all who go there and met some wonderful people.
“I was invited to the trans group in Manchester that is run by church members and that was when I felt my calling.
“For many years I have been an active ally of the LGBT community in Blackpool and have been involved in a number of LGBT charities.
“We are astounded with the positive response from the LGBT community.
“I love being part of a truly inclusive church where all people can feel safe and relaxed to worship and relate to Jesus as they truly are.
“There are several LGBT churches in the country and some independent churches are now becoming more accepting of the LGBT community.
“It is long overdue. I think churches who don’t accept equality don’t realise the damage it has on people.”
For more information, visit www.libertychurchblackpool.org.uk