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.
Lynn Cawley has described experiencing severe discrimination about her sexuality at several churches and not being able to preach, with people telling her ‘you can’t be a Christian if you a gay.’
The 58-year-old, of Cleveleys, who has adopted three children with her wife says: “I have been a Christian for quite a while but because I am in a same-sex marriage, it is difficult to find a church which is inclusive.
“Lots of churches have a board saying everyone is welcome, but the reality is different.
“I tried a number of churches and was not allowed to take Communion and experiment with my talents. I was told I couldn’t be a Christian if I was gay and of course we couldn’t get married in church.
“I was part of the Methodist church in Blackpool for a while and I was able to preach there but most other churches said I was not allowed.
“Liberty Church tries really hard to be inclusive and a safe place for everybody. It is really good at helping people develop spiritually and with their gifts and talents.
“I joined Liberty Church nearly two years ago and I help out with preaches and pastoral stuff. As a Christian, it is amazing to know God loves us all. I have a passion to let other people know that God loves them as they are and they don’t have to change to suit everyone’s ideal.
“It is refreshing to be met with such positivity and for people to be encouraging and affirming about our family life, rather than not welcoming it.”
Lynn added that whilst most people accept her sexuality, she has been subject to hostility, especially when Franklin Graham, an anti-gay and anti-Muslim preacher from the Billy Graham Evangelical Association spoke at the Festival of Hope at the Winter Gardens last September.
She adds: “I have always known I was a lesbian but the hardest thing was coming out to my Christian friends. The rest of the world couldn’t give two hoots. Nobody says anything to us where we live.
“But when Franklin Graham visited, that stirred up a lot of hostility in churches. I was shouted at in the streets by other Christians. It was quite wounding and took quite a while to get over.”
Melissa Horrocks, of Blackpool, reveals how she felt she had to marry a man, despite being gay.
The 43-year-old mother-of-two says: “I came out for a while in my 20s but I started going to church and that was when I started to deny it because the church would never accept me.
“I am separated from my husband now, but when we first met, the church told us we needed to get married because we were living together and it was frowned upon.
“The church would never accept me being with a woman, as it was a sin and against God.
“I broke up with my husband and we are still good friends. Because I am quite religious and a Christian, I joined Liberty Church three years ago. I needed to express myself.
“I feel free and I am comfortable in my own skin. I have come to know God in a greater way as his love is unconditional and he accepts us as who we are.”
John*, from Blackpool, also reveals how he felt pressured into marrying a woman because of religious beliefs and even turned to substance abuse to bury the way he was feeling.
He says: “I have been with the church for 25 years but I have learnt more in the past few years at Liberty Church than I have at any other place.
“Previous churches have said it is okay to be gay, but not okay to be in a relationship with another man, which meant they only loved part of me.
“They use words that would make me feel bad.
“Outside of church I didn’t experience that much prejudice. I first came out in my 20s but then I ‘went back in.’ I worked in a factory and people stopped talking to me. My dad would shout at gay people on the TV, saying it was bad, so it wasn’t an option for me.
“I guess you would say I was bisexual, but I would rather be with a man.
“I got married to a woman and had children. She was gay also and we agreed it was easier to hide together. We both wanted to be in a relationship with someone so we decided to be together. We had a few people asking how it worked, but it just did. She is my best friend.
“I misused substances because I could not admit to myself who I was and I was trying to block it out.
“But following support from Liberty, I have been three years free.
“I would say to anyone who is suffering in a similar way, we know how you feel. There is love and support at Liberty.
“The thing that freed me was when I first said to myself my sexuality is not a bad thing.
“I am now with a transwoman who is also a member of the church.
“She also feels very accepted by Liberty and that should be what faith and the church is about.”
*John is not his real name.
Sandra Taylor, 55, of Blackpool, who is also a lesbian, added she feels very welcomed by everyone at Liberty Church.
She says; “The last time I attended church, was when I was at school and felt I wanted to rejoin.
“I chose Liberty as I knew I would be comfortable there and would not be judged.
“It is like any other church, with a service and singing, but the songs are more modern, They are still religious but more in tune with the spiritual side of church.”