Open Arms holds services every Sunday at the North Perth Lesser Hall
By Shannon Verhagen
A Vatican discussion paper recommending the acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex couples in the Catholic Church earlier this month has the world talking about the relevance of anti-gay teachings in today’s modern culture.
The document sparked outrage amongst traditional Christian groups and hope for gay-rights supporters.
The affirming movement has been slowly gathering momentum worldwide, encouraging congregations that welcome the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community into the church, opposing traditional teachings that these people are ‘living in sin’.
“The affirming movement globally is actually seriously about getting the church back to where it’s supposed to be,” says Pastor Graham Douglas-Meyer.
“People are very much hypocritical, they think they are higher and bigger, ‘I know the Bible back to front, I can memorise it.’ But do you really know the meaning of it?” says Valerie Li, a gay Christian.
In April last year, Pastor Graham felt called to set up Perth’s first affirming church, Open Arms Fellowship Australia, welcoming one and all without fear of judgement.
Growing up in the Catholic Church, he began struggling with his faith once he realised he was homosexual at the age of 13, feeling as if he didn’t belong.
“I would go to confession… and the priest would say to me, “you just need to accept yourself,” at the same time the priest was preaching anti-homosexuality… I was being told to accept something that was actually going to send me to hell… why would I want to do that?” he says.
Valerie Li says some churches refuse to let members of the LGBT community inside.
“They’ll come up to you and go, “sorry, you can’t be in this church…” I don’t see myself as any different from any straight or heterosexual people, being in the same church as them doesn’t make a difference to me,” Valerie says.
Pastor Graham welcomes those who have been subject to this rejection, who have felt similar displacement with the church to his own.
“Jesus hung around the people that needed him and needed the message, more importantly that he was bringing,” he says.
But while the Vatican discussion paper may have given a glimmer of hope for Catholicism, they aren’t holding their breath.
“You’ll notice all of the news since then has been back-tracking,” Pastor Graham says.
“Because this is such an uptight topic, I don’t think they would actually be able to pass it… so I guess little steps… but it’s not without a big fight and a big struggle,” says Valerie.
To learn more about their experiences as gay Christians, follow this link: