I speak today as both a proud member of our LGBTIQA+ community, and also as a dedicated person of faith, indeed as an Anglican priest. I do so, because people like me are typically erased, our lives and voices ignored. Yet we queer people of faith do exist! - and we are increasingly seeking to be visible. For our very existence gives lie to the monstrous misuse of religion for political ends. We suffer particularly profoundly from religious discrimination. We do not want religious exemptions which hurt us and others, and betray the heart of who we are. We also know that the majority of our fellow Australians of faith agree with us, as we saw in that dreadful postal survey. So we’ve tried to lobby, spoken to Government inquiries, sought to be part of desperately needed change. Yet, as queer people of faith, our rights to religious expression are seldom recognised...
no exemptions to the Great Commandment of Jesus
For let’s be quite clear. Love your neighbour as yourself – that’s what Jesus said, with no exemptions. Read the Bible! To make the point, Jesus told stories, such as that we call the Good Samaritan - which today might be called the Good Queer Person. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. We could go on, and on. For what the Religious Right are doing is profoundly abusive, not only to ‘rainbow’ people, but also to the words and praxis of Jesus the Christ, and to faith itself. Their use of the term ‘religious freedom’ is Orwellian ‘double-speak’. It’s not true to human dignity. It’s not true to responsible use of the Bible. It’s not true to a loving God. True religious freedom is about love and service - love of all people - not an excuse to subjugate and persecute others.
As a leader in the Equal Voices movement of LGBTIQA+ Christians and allies, I want therefore to say three things: regarding sorrow, hope, and change.
time for repentance by Churches
Firstly, sorrow. I’m so sorry we have to be here today, and I’m deeply sorry for the hurt which religion has done, and continues to do, to LGBTIQA+ people. With Equal Voices, I call for full apologies from Churches: genuine apologies, including real changes in attitude and practice. Profound repentance is urgently needed for all that has been, and still is, inflicted on LGBTIQA+ people. For how, as the Bible says, can you love God whom you do not see, when you do not love your neighbour whom you can see?. Again, read the book! Historically it was never right for religion to be used as a tool of oppression, and it most certainly is not now - for God’s sake, that was Jesus tried to tell people.
signs of hope in Christian communities
Secondly, hope. We, especially we transgender people, are facing a backlash, but must not despair. Indeed, every day I see fresh hope as queer people of faith increasingly come out, and speak out. Equal Voices is a sign of this, and so is progress in a number of Churches, not least the Uniting Church over marriage equality. We have a long way to go. Yet there is movement. For the great religions have always changed, and will continue to do so. That is vital: because unless some of us are supported to change religion, we’ll all continue to suffer. So I’m pleased today to affirm the clear official position of the Anglican Church in Southern Queensland: that there is no sexuality or gender bar to anyone in our schools, for students or staff members; that we condemn conversion therapy practice and ideology; and that we support the very best standards of care for transgender children. Our Anglican schools here thus show clearly that religious exemptions are not only unnecessary for religious institutions. They show that, together, we can actually move forward.
together for change
Finally, enabling change. Again, let’s be clear that this fight is about power and privilege, not freedom and love, religious or otherwise. It’s not about faith. It is about repression. It’s religiously deceitful, deeply hypocritical, and riddled with fear. It therefore cannot stand, unless we let it. To change things, we must therefore stand together. The battle is not about ‘God against the gays (or the trans)’. It is not about defining how we relate to life’s deepest mysteries, the true religious quest. It is not about denying our diversity of opinions. It is simply about loving our neighbours as ourselves. Let’s do it!.
address by (the Revd Dr) Josephine Inkpin
to the Rally Against Religious Exemptions – No Right to Discriminate
17 August 2019, Queen's Gardens Brisbane
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Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.