Open Table community for LGBTQIA+ Christians in UK

by opentablelgbtqia in Liverpool, England, United Kingdom

We did it
On 31st December 2019 we successfully raised £1,394 with 41 supporters in 56 days

We are developing a network of safe, sacred, sacramental, sustainable spaces for LGBTQIA+ Christians and all who seek an inclusive church

by opentablelgbtqia in Liverpool, England, United Kingdom

Open Table is a network of ecumenical Christian worship communities which offers a warm welcome to people who are: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer / Questioning, Intersex, Asexual (LGBTQIA+) and all who seek an inclusive Church.

We are growing and seeking the resources to help each current and emerging Open Table community share our vision and values so they can be safe, sacred, sacramental, sustainable spaces for all.

Why Open Table?

Recent research shows that:

  • LGBTQ young people feel substantially less accepted in their local community than their heterosexual, non-trans counterparts particularly in religious organisations. 59% of LGBTQ young people that would be interested in joining a religious organisation have stopped or reduced their involvement owing to their sexuality or gender identity (Youth Chances, METRO 2016)
  • People of sexualities other than heterosexual are significantly more likely to experience poor mental health ranging from depression and anxiety to self-harm and suicide. These problems are linked to a societal discrimination and a perception of inferiority, which have been shown to relate explicitly to discriminatory pastoral practices of local churches and the Church’s substantial contribution to negative attitudes in society, and a reduction of mental health and quality of life in LGB people. (In the Name of Love, Oasis Foundation 2017)
  • LGBQ+ Christians surveyed rated their mental and emotional health and well being as significantly lower than their heterosexual peers, especially those who had undergone 'conversion therapy' in an attempt to alter their sexual orientation (National Faith & Sexuality Survey, Ozanne Foundation 2018).

Open Table aims to be part of the solution.

Our vision

Open Table is for Christians who are here, who will not go away, and who simply ask to be recognised and accepted. Our vision is of a world where LGBTQIA+ people are fully included within our church traditions and communities. Until then, we will continue to nurture safe, sacred space where LGBTQIA+ Christians can 'come as you are'. To find out when and where you can ‘come as you are', visit opentable.lgbtFor more on the development of Open Table across the country, read on...

Our crowd-funding dream is to develop the network of groups and support new groups. Our target of £15,000 represents 15 hours a week for development work in 2020, plus a budget for resources to enable this work (travel, hospitality and promotional expenses), a national gathering to bring the regional groups together in 2020, and much more!

If you are a UK taxpayer, you can also claim Gift Aid. Donating through Gift Aid means the Open Table network can claim an extra 25p for every £1 you give. It will not cost you any extra.

Here are just some of ways your contribution will make a difference: 

  • 50p of fuel takes us a mile closer to an Open Table community near you 
  • £5 will provide refreshments at an Open Table gathering
  • £10 will help us develop our website and keep it online for a month
  • £15 will pay our development worker for one hour
  • £20 pays for printed publicity materials for a new Open Table community
  • £50 would enhance a community celebration with the talents of a professional musician
  • £75 buys a pull up banner for an Open Table community to display at events
  • £100 would enable us to offer British Sign Language interpretation to make our services more accessible
  • £150 hires a stall at a two-day Pride festival for an Open Table info point and prayer station
  • £200 would provide two LGBT+ awareness sessions for a faith community.

Will it be 'Open Table'?

Open Table began at St Bride's Liverpool in June 2008,* meeting once a month for a communion service. At the first planning meeting, someone said: 'Will it be "Open Table"?' When she explained that it means all are welcome, all can come as they are, we felt this was so important because we hear too many stories of people who feared exclusion, or were excluded, from their church community, who felt unheard or unable to express themselves or give their talents. So Open Table was born. Now 17 Open Table communities gather across England and Wales, hosted by inclusive churches in four denominations (Anglican, Baptist, Methodist and URC), serving up to 300 people each month.

A brief history of Open Table was published in Journeys in Grace and Truth, edited by Jayne Ozanne, in June 2016. By then we had grown from one to four communities in less than a year. Since July 2016 another 13 communities have begun, and we are in touch with more than 80 other churches who are exploring this ministry in their communities.

Open Table also featured in the Church Army's research report Sustaining Young Churches, published in November 2016, which recognised our empowerment of lay people (those who are not ordained clergy) as a factor in our success.

We are also a case study in Appreciating Church (2017), a Christian ecumenical project which aims to encourage the church at a local and national level to engage people in an inclusive way.

We also work in partnership with OneBodyOneFaith (formerly the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement), Inclusive Church, and the Open Church Network, and encourage churches which host Open Table communities to affiliate to these organisations to make their hospitality and ministry for the LGBTQIA+ community more visible.

Open Table means...

For our tenth birthday in 2018, we gathered feedback from Open Table supporters and members from across the country.

Revd Bob Callaghan, former national coordinator, Inclusive Church, wrote:

  • ‘I have huge admiration for Open Table and all that it gives to the church. It is a sign of hope – in a church that often feels unwelcoming to LGBTI people.’

Meanwhile, participants in Open Table gatherings, wrote:

  • ‘Open Table has been my family, helped me come out, and meet diverse people.’
  • ‘Safe place to be honest: to myself, my community, God.’
  • ‘Open Table is simple but profound - there’s power in the Eucharist! I would love to see Open Table spread across the UK and beyond.’ 

This slideshow of messages of support from church leaders and affirmation from Open Table community members was shown at the Open Table tenth anniversary communion service at St Bride's Liverpool on Sunday 17th June 2018. The music comes from the hymn 'Come As You Are' by Deirdre Brown which we sang on the night - it has become Open Table's theme song:

* Governance: The Open Table Network (OTN) is a nationwide initiative growing out of the first Open Table community, Open Table Liverpool (OTL). OTL is a Fresh Expression of Church approved as a community outreach project of The Team Parish of St Luke in the City in the Church of England Diocese of Liverpool, of which St Bride's Liverpool is part. The Parochial Church Council (PCC) of the Ecclesiastical Parish of St Luke in the City Liverpool is Registered Charity number 1152031. At present the PCC is the only legal entity through which we can raise funds, so we are inviting donations payable to it; but all pledged donations will be restricted for the sole use of the nationwide OTN. OTN has a governance group drawn from Open Table communities across the country, whose wealth of experience in the voluntary sector will enable OTN to register as an independent Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) in England and Wales in 2020. The OTN Co-ordinator has been commissioned as a Missional Leader (an authorised lay ministry) by the Bishop of Liverpool, which requires enhanced compliance with church safeguarding procedures, plus supervision and professional development.

Thank you for your interest in Open Table!

#AllAreWelcome #ComeAsYouAre #FaithfullyLGBT

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