Radical Christian bigotry could be losing its stronghold in Guyana, as for the first time, a church has opened its doors to include members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.
The Hope of Christ Anglican Church, located on Duncan Street in the capital Georgetown, holds its services every first and third Sunday of each month since launching on January 5, 2020.
The church, though lacking a physical space of its own, uses the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) as its safe haven.
A safe space for LGBT Christians
The church is not affiliated with the Anglican Diocese of Guyana, but rather registered as a legal, independent body – governed by the United Anglo-Catholic religious movement in the US.
In an interview with BUZZ on Thursday, founder and pastor Marvin Livan said that he started the church as he felt LGBT Guyanese men and women were being shamed and ostracised from Christianity.
“For me, as a faith-based person, I always was in the church; I started to advocate for the LGBTQ+ inclusion,” he began.
Livan, who is an ordained minister in Georgetown, noted that initially, his goal to include the LGBT community didn’t get him anywhere as he felt he was alone in the push for equality in spaces of praise and worship – but decided to change that.
“They would come [to other churches] once or twice and never came back. When I asked why, they said they still have a fear in them that someone might come with a homophobic remark. So, I asked the question, ‘If I start a [new] church, would you come?’ and they said ‘100 percent’,” he told BUZZ.
‘Fellowship with full acceptance’
“I started the church, people started to come, they responded quite well, and we had a blast at our first church service. We started by faith, without any money in our pockets and God sent people and they supported us,” Livan explained.
The Hope of Christ is important, Livan argued, as the church is the first place in years where many LGBT Guyanese can “come, feel comfortable and worship God without any homophobic remarks or sermons from pastors.”
“This is a place of love, to make you feel good about yourself and how God made you to be,” the pastor emphasised.
The reception hasn’t been without controversy, Livan told BUZZ, as various Christian denominations have slammed the establishment as ‘ungodly’, but he assured the church will remain a sanctuary from the homophobic rhetoric.
Live (and preach) with love…
The pioneering pastor, with God’s blessings, seeks to break barriers across the Caribbean by launching similar churches in the coming years.
“We are hoping in the future, to have other inclusive-affirming churches like ours be widespread across the Caribbean as well. We’re looking to pioneer other churches,” Livan told BUZZ.
At the end of the day, Livan, said his message is the same message from God. LOVE.
“Let us preach the gospel of love. That was the greatest commandment Jesus Christ told us to follow: ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself’. I would like to say to the churches and everyone out there, God is not homophobic, he’s a God of love, a God of inclusion and if this wasn’t of God, this church wouldn’t be here,” he said.