Landisa: I'm a qualified pastor. Here's why I went to Johannesburg Pride

2019-11-08 09:26
Graeme Codrington

Graeme Codrington

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My name is Graeme Codrington, and I am married to Jane. On Saturday, October 29, we supported the Johannesburg Pride Parade by wearing t-shirts with the words "free dad hugs" and "free mom hugs" printed on them. 

Both Jane and I grew up as Christians believing that homosexuality was sinful. Today, however, we don’t believe that anymore. 

Today we believe that God created LGBTQI people in His image, that God loves them as they are, and that it is our responsibility to show love to them too.  

Jane and I grew up in a church environment that was very conservative – not allowing women to lead, and openly against homosexuals. As we grew older, however, we met people from other traditions and especially got to know some wonderful women leaders. Jane herself studied theology and became a pastor. 

Alongside our changing views about women, we also became aware of other justice issues related to all forms of diversity, from race to sexual orientation. We didn’t actually have any particular "aha" moment changing our view on LGBTQI people and the church. We just slowly became friends with more and more gay people, and saw wonderful examples of relationships and marriages in the gay community. 

We saw many gay people committed to the Christian faith and living it out in meaningful ways. We simply couldn’t continue to reconcile the views we once held with our lived experiences. 

We realise that many people in the LGBTQI community are not interested in Christian expressions of love towards them. They’ve been so hurt and rejected by the church, that they understandably want nothing to do with it. But we thought that it might be something worthwhile to show our support at the Johannesburg Pride parade a few weeks ago. 

(supplied, Graeme Codrington)

We obviously didn't want to offend or trigger anybody by attending the parade, but we wanted to find some way to begin undoing the history of hatred by the church. So, we thought that we would attend the parade carrying banners of support. We approached the Pride organisers and they welcomed this.

So many people in the LGBTQI community have felt rejected by their own parents and family after coming out, and this is something very painful to them. My wife and I decided to get dad and mom hugs t-shirts made, and stood along the Pride Parade route to offer free hugs to anyone who wanted them. 

We were joined by members of churches across Johannesburg who held up banners to apologise for the way the church has treated LGBTQI people in the past, and to express our love and acceptance of them now. 

The response from the people in the parade was wonderful. I think people thought that we were "typical" Christians at first, but when they saw our signs and the message of love, they cheered, waved and showed love back to us. 

(supplied, Graeme Codrington)

Many people came to hug us, some with tears as they told us that they had never heard this message of acceptance from the church before. We have been shocked to discover just how many LGBTQI people are rejected by family, and how this leads many of them to depression and suicide.

I know I can’t solve the deep pain, but I hope that our messages of support and our hugs let people in the LGBTQI community know that they are valued members of society, that they are seen for who they are, and that they are accepted.  

We live on a continent that still has a very bad record in how it treats LGBTQI people, and we can all be part of showing a different way: a way of love, acceptance, affirmation and inclusion.

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Read more on:    pride  |  religion  |  homosexuality

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