31 January 2023
LGBTQIA+ Anglicans in Melbourne are celebrating during the city’s annual Midsumma Festival amid news Church of England bishops have continued to prohibit same-sex marriages within the church.
The Midsumma Festival, which runs in January and February each year, is a month-long event showcasing LGBTQIA+ arts and culture. The festival was first held in 1988.
Churches and religious organisations have been involved with the festival for years.
A Midsumma Mass service has been held as part of the festival since 1996. Originally held at St Agnes’ Glenhuntly, the service has been held at St Mark’s Fitzroy since 2012. This year’s Mass will take place Friday 3 February.
Midsumma chief executive Karen Bryant said the numbers of faith-based organisations wanting to participate in Midsumma had increased in years.
“Across the board, I think faith-based organisations have realised the need to not just be open and welcoming to our communities, but to do so visibly,” she said.
Anglicare Victoria has participated in Midsumma Carnival, a community event run each year as part of the festival program, since 2019.
Ms Bryant said she encouraged churches to participate in LGBTQIA+ cultural events.
“There’s much to gain from engaging with a spectrum of diverse communities,” she said.
Holy Trinity Balaclava and Elwood parishioner Andie Moore said churches can and should be inclusive of diverse genders and sexualities.
Mx Moore, who uses they/them pronouns and the non-binary form of address ‘Mx’, said being Christian meant having grace and treating people with respect.
They said many LGBTQIA+ people often struggled to fit in, and that inclusive places of worship were vital in allowing people of different sexualities to access religion.
“Being queer means having to deal with constant adversity,” they said.
Mx Moore said attending church at an inclusive parish was incredibly affirming.
They said Pride events like Midsumma highlighted the need for LGBTQIA+ populations to be able to openly celebrate their identities in all areas of life.
“I feel open sharing my experiences [with fellow parishioners]. It’s lovely when people go out of their way to accept you,” they said.
Incumbent at St Mary’s North Melbourne the Reverend Jan Joustra said churches needed to accept LGBTQIA+ people living and loving openly.
Mr Joustra said decisions by church leaders to reject demands to allow same-sex marriages contributed to the Anglican Church’s reputation as reactionary and conservative.
“The more open the church is, the more welcoming the church is, the more likely it is to be transformational in society,” he said.
Mr Joustra said things had improved for LGBTQIA+ Christians over the past several years, but that many people were still dealing with pain and trauma resulting from the church’s actions and statements.
“Many gay Christians have been told by the church that they’re unworthy, they’re unacceptable,” he said.
Mr Joustra said LGBTQIA+ Anglicans should continue to work to change the minds of those opposed to same-sex marriage.
“It’s important for gay Anglicans to hang in there and be clear and consistent in saying we worship a God of love,” Mr Joustra said.
Mx Moore said LGBTQIA+ people of faith deserved to be included in spiritual life.
“People shouldn’t have to change a fundamental part of who they are to be welcomed into the church,” Mx Moore said.