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article imageEx-homophobe walks 160 miles as ‘repentance’ for his intolerance

By Andrew John     Jun 30, 2011 in Lifestyle
A Christian activist is about to complete a 160-mile walk as repentance for his former homophobia. Symon Hill says he also wants to encourage the church to support equality.
Hill is an activist, writer and trainer, and is associate director of the Christian think tank Ekklesia and the author of The No-Nonsense Guide to Religion.
Hill calls his walk – from Birmingham, UK, to London – a “pilgrimage for repentance.” He left the Midlands city on June 16 and is due to arrive in the capital on July 1.
In an article in the Guardian this week, Hill says: “I am not claiming my walk will undo the hurt I have caused. Nor is it an attempt to earn God’s favour. It is part of an attempt to live out my repentance by encouraging the church as a whole to support equality.”
Fourteen years ago Hill described opposition to gay relationships as a matter of God’s opinion, not his own. He made the remark to colleagues while he was working at a Christian youth centre
One of them was gay.
During that year he almost told a teenage girl to reject her gay feelings. “And I voted against the ordination of ‘practising homosexuals’,” he says. “I also harmed my integrity by denying my own orientation. The majority of people I find attractive are women, but some are men.”
Ekklesia as an organization has always been pro-equality when it comes to matters of sexuality.
Earlier this month it even criticised the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, being “seen to compromise too readily and fully with angry voices seeking to exclude gay people and those who sympathise with them from the counsels of the Church.”
Several organizations have backed Hill’s repentance walk, including the Greenbelt festival and the Student Christian Movement.
Jenny Baker, acting festival director of Greenbelt, said earlier this month that Greenbelt was “happy to support and encourage Symon in his walk of repentance.”
Greenbelt has come in for criticism for giving a platform to pro-gay speakers, including the London-based human-rights
Pilgrimage – Symon Hill along the way
Pilgrimage – Symon Hill along the way
Sharon Langdridge (used with permission)
campaigner Peter Tatchell and Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire in the US. Also among the organizations endorsing his walk are two evangelical groups – Accepting Evangelicals and Courage – along with two Anglican groups, Changing Attitude and Inclusive Church.
And Marcus Morgan, spokesperson for an organisation called Bisexual Index, said: “It’s great to see someone working on the underlying attitudes, as well as coming clean about their own previous homophobia. We really can’t find a solution if everyone pretends they’re not part of the problem. Symon Hill’s pilgrimage is certainly a step towards a more tolerant society, and an inspiration.”
In his Guardian article, Hill says, perhaps controversially, that his opposition to homophobia “is not motivated by a desire to conform to society’s norms but by a belief in the radical nature of Jesus’s message.”
He continues: “Jesus’s teachings have little, if anything, in common with the ‘family values’ lobby. Jesus redefined family, insisting that ‘whoever does the will of God is my brother, my sister, my mother.’ He challenged the sexual values of his time, allowing women to make physical contact with him in a society that found it shocking.”
Hill has been chronicling his journey on a blog, on which he says in one entry: “Pro-equality Christians have often failed to speak up as loudly or clearly as their opponents. We have failed to engage with the media and been too keen to avoid controversy. We have also been extremely under-ambitious. A sign of this is the fact that some supporters of equality have welcomed the Church of England’s decision to allow gay people to become bishops as long as they don’t have sex.”
More about Homophobia, Christianity, Ekklesia, symon hill, repent
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