Vicar in Unholy Row

by Marie Sanson (Inner Western Courier) 30th July 2009

A GAY ex-evangelical preacher was banned from speaking inside Dulwich Hill’s Holy Trinity Church last Sunday by the Anglican Diocese of Sydney.

Anthony Venn-Brown was to speak inside Holy Trinity about reconciling his sexuality and his faith, but the Sydney diocese stepped in two days beforehand, preventing him from speaking inside the church, although he was allowed to speak after the service in the church hall.

A diocese spokesman maintained Mr Venn-Brown was not banned from the church.

“As he is not a licensed Anglican minister the parish was informed he would not be allowed to preach in an Anglican service. This policy is not unusual,” he said.

But Holy Trinity’s the Rev Father Dave Smith said many people who spoke at church were not licensed and this was the first time the diocese had banned anyone from the pulpit. “We’ve had all sorts of people speak here – Anglican, Catholic, Pentecostal, Muslim no problem.

“When I asked the archdeacon why, it wasn’t entirely clear that it was simply because Anthony was homosexual.

“There was talk of him promoting ‘the homosexual lifestyle’ – whatever that is. The archbishop has gone out on a limb on this issue and I wasn’t to be seen to be undermining him.

“I just wanted to open a discussion.”

Sydney Anglican Archbishop Dr Peter Jensen has refused to recognise the gay American bishop Gene Robinson and backed a break with North American churches over the issue. Mr Venn-Brown said he understood the diocese’s view but added that it would drive some Christians to leave for less bigoted churches.

“There are many people now in churches who have gay and lesbian sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and work colleagues. They know they’re not evil: just same sex-orientated,” Mr Venn-Brown said. “These people move out of the Anglican Church and it attracts hardliners.”

Mr Venn-Brown underwent 22 years of exorcism and courses on turning straight before accepting he was a gay Christian. Gay Christians often battle with feelings of shame, he said.

“I wish when I was 16 I’d had someone to tell me: “That’s OK. I just want to help you live a good life as a good man”.”