ENGLAND: Traditionalists call for Greenbelt boycott
By Matt Cresswell
Church of England Newspaper
July 23, 2009
YOUTH CLUBS and families should consider skipping this year's Greenbelt festival because of its pro-gay agenda, conservative Christians have urged.
Anglican Mainstream believes that young people could be led astray by Bishop Gene Robinson and other gay rights campaigners at the Cheltenham-based festival. It has also questioned the involvement of the Church Mission Society in the event, which attracts 20,000 people each year.
Gay and lesbian Christian groups have since criticised the traditionalist organisation for its remarks, which they believe are inaccurate and exaggerated. The dispute follows a published article attacking this year's festival by Dr Lisa Nolland, one of Anglican Mainstream's leading members.
Commenting on the article, the Rev Canon Dr Chris Sugden said: "If nothing is done to bring into the marketplace of Greenbelt a biblically faithful point of view, publicly, that is available for people, then I think leaders of youth clubs and families should think very seriously about whether they want their young people to be in this environment; an environment where it is accepted that this [practising homosexuality] is a valid, completely acceptable expression of the Christian point of view."
He said that the gay agenda was already pushed enough at schools and in the media and that there was no need for a Christian festival to be promoting it. He added that Gene Robinson was "clearly seeking to influence a lot of people."
Anglican Mainstream, which has strong links with the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, has also questioned the Church Mission Society's (CMS) involvement in the festival. In Nolland's article she writes: "Highly respected Christian organisations like Church Mission Society are sponsors of Greenbelt. Unless it means very little to be a sponsor, surely CMS must be deeply embarrassed at this situation."
The Rev Sharon Fergusson, spokesperson for the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) who will attend the festival, said that Anglican Mainstream's remarks were not accurate and that Greenbelt would feature organisations with traditional views on Christian sexuality.
She said: "Once again they are making a big deal out of nothing. They are going down the victimisation road. They are trying to make out that Christians who follow a traditional view on Christianity are being victimised and discriminated against and it's just not the case."
Responding to the accusation against it CMS said: "The proper place for mission is being in the marketplace. CMS has had a venue at the Greenbelt Festival for many years and it is a brilliant platform from which to offer hospitality and share the gospel." CMS added that it was not a 'sponsor' but an 'associate' and was not involved in the particular decisions under debate. CMS added: "While we understand the reasons why Greenbelt has invited Gene Robinson, we are unhappy about it, particularly at this time in the life of the Anglican Communion.
CMS supports the Lambeth Conference resolution 1.10." Greenbelt, which has the Archbishop of Canterbury as its patron, has been provocative on numerous occasions since it began in1974.
In previous years it featured the bikini-clad dancers of the Sheffield Nine O'Clock Service (before it ended scandalously in 1995).
Another year a white witch was invited to speak at the festival. Greenbelt is refusing to comment on the criticisms.
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