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Greenbelt Christian Festival Hosts Gay Activist Peter
CHELTENHAM, August 26, 2010 – Calls by Anglican Mainstream for a boycott of the year’s Greenbelt Festival over the inclusion of gay human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell have failed. The Christian arts festival, known for its ‘inclusion’, get underway tomorrow at Cheltenham racecourse and continues over the holiday weekend.
Last year, one of the featured speakers at Greenbelt was the openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson, bishop of New Hampshire in USA.
The boycott campaign was orchestrated by leading consultant with Anglican Mainstream, the Church of England’s conservative and traditionalist wing.
Dr Lisa Nolland, in an appeal posted on the Anglican Mainstream website earlier this year, called on Christians to stay away from this weekend’s festival in protest at the decision by the organisers to host three talks by gay rights and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
Undeterred by their failure to rouse significant Christian support for a boycott, Anglican Mainstream last week promoted another series of misleading attacks on Mr Tatchell.
Earlier this year, Dr. Nolland said that inviting Mr Tatchell to Greenbelt will put children at risk of sexual abuse.
“The suggestion that my guest lectures at Greenbelt will leave children vulnerable to sexual abuse is a sordid slur, unworthy of a Christian,” Mr Tatchell said this afternoon.
He has spoken at Greenbelt in the past, receiving an overwhelmingly warm and positive reception from packed out religious audiences.
“My Greenbelt talks are not about teen sexuality, sex education or the age of consent,” Mr. Tatchel said. “They are about vegetarianism, animal liberation, environmental protection and the persecution of gay people in Africa.
“Homophobic oppression in many parts of Africa is being orchestrated by Christian evangelicals, especially in countries like Uganda, Malawi and Nigeria. They share Anglican Mainstream's harsh, fundamentalist interpretation of scripture.
“I will be praising the courageous, inspiring defence of gay human rights by some African Christian leaders, such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Bishop Christopher Senyonjo of Uganda, who has been hounded and cast out by the Anglican Church of Uganda,” he revealed to UK Gay News.
Mr. Tatchell said that Dr. Nolland’s latest attack on the Anglican Mainstream website, posted on August 18, gave a “distorted, biased and unbalanced” account of his beliefs.
“She delights in partial, selective quotes that misrepresent my stated opinions,” he said. “Some of what she says infers guilt by association. Attacking me, she quotes the statements of others on sex with children, despite the fact that I disagree with what they say. These are McCarthyite-style smears and insinuations.
“Lisa and her Anglican Mainstream friends should reread the Ten Commandments, where it warns against bearing false witness,” he suggested.
“I am happy to debate with anyone from Anglican Mainstream. I await their invitation.
“Until she was criticised, Dr Nolland ignored my human rights work on global poverty, disarmament and anti-racism, and my support for the democratic struggles in Zimbabwe, Burma, Iran, Russia, Baluchistan and Uganda.
“She initially failed to mention a word about my condemnation of the persecution of Christians in countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and my opposition to the prosecution of homophobic street preachers like Harry Hammond, Shawn Holes and Dale McApline.
“Lisa Nolland presented a selective and distorted account of my essay on sex education. She neglected to mention my advocacy of a sexual moral framework of mutual consent, respect and fulfilment, and my proposals to help protect young people against sex abuse.
“Why does Anglican Mainstream ignore the ethical dimensions of my writings and campaigns,” he asked?
The call for a boycott by Anglican Mainstream has, perhaps, had the opposite effect. There is certainly extra interest in this year’s Greenbelt, which it reflected at the box-office.
“I would like to thank Anglican Mainstream for helping encourage extra interest in Greenbelt; resulting in more people now planning to attend this year's festival because of the controversy and publicity over my invitation,” Mr. Tatchell said.
“I’m looking forward to meeting the many Christians who are actively involved in campaigns for human rights, equality, democracy and social justice.
“We have more in common than divides us.
“I hope to offer some challenging ideas, and in turn be challenged by the audience. During the question and answer sessions, I'll be very happy to accept criticisms and counter-arguments.
“I welcome debate,” said Mr Tatchell.
The veteran gay and human rights campaigner’s first session at Greenbelt will be a panel discussion on Vegetarian issues, titled Meat Is Murdering the Planet, tomorrow (Friday) at 7.30pm.
Then, at 11pm, Peter Tatchell will take part in a ‘solo’ Last Orders questions and answers session for two hours.
On Saturday, he will take part in The Struggle for Queer Freedom in Africa, a panel discussion of gay rights in Africa.
Peter Tatchell's Website