CHURCHES in the town have mixed policies on inclusion for the LGBT+ community, a topic which has been plunged into the national spotlight following a teenager’s suicide.

A 14-year-old girl named Lizzie Lowe took her own life four years ago as she did not believe she would be accepted as a gay Christian in her community.

Last month, her church in Didsbury, Manchester, called St James and Emmanuel shared the changes they made in a bid to become an affirming environment and try and save other people’s lives like Lizzie.

In Andover, LGBT reverend Andy Fitchet, who is establishing an inclusive church at Picket Twenty, said it is a “generally negative experience” being gay within the church.

He said: “My thoughts on Lizzie is that it is a devastating tragedy.

“I heard Reverend Nick Bundock, Lizzie’s vicar, speak on this recently. His church wasn’t unaffirming of LGBT people, they just didn’t really say anything.

“The prevailing wind in church, however, is that if you are gay you will have to live alone and die alone and try to act as straight as possible so not to make anyone else awkward.

“My own experience of being gay and being in church has been a very painful one but that’s not the whole picture.

“There is a growing and loving community of Christians who want to affirm LGBT identity and affirm that God is the God of love and welcome.”

Andover Methodist Church’s Reverend Carmel Ieraci told the Advertiser how the branch upholds the inclusive policy which is formally adopted by the institution nationally.

She said: “Irrespective of sexuality and gender, all are welcome within the Methodist Church.

“Indeed the Methodist Conference, the governing body of the church, recognises, affirms and celebrates the participation and ministry of lesbians and gay men in the church.

“Methodist people are called to combat repression and discrimination, to work for justice and human rights and to give dignity and worth to people whatever their sexuality.”

The Church of England’s Diocese of Winchester, which is the overarching body for around 26 churches in the Andover area, was also asked its view on the actions of its counterpart in Manchester, and on its own inclusion policy.

A spokesperson said: “The Church of England strives to provide a Christian presence in every community.

“In the Diocese of Winchester, we encourage our churches to be welcoming to all. We do this by offering a Christian witness, living out our values and loving our neighbours.”

In response to the statement, Reverend Fitchet added: “All churches are called to be welcoming however that is not the same as being affirming of LGBT people.

“The church needs to be as radical as the Christ it worships in loving, welcoming and affirming those who religious structures have too frequently shut out and often oppressed.”

Although St Mary’s Church in Malborough Street is under the Diocese of Winchester, a spokesperson said a review of all of its policies will be done next year after the arrival of new reverend Chris Bradish.

Koinonia Evangelical Church in Church Close said it does not have an inclusion policy and is not considering to adopt one.

Elder Don Olden said: “I can assure you that everyone, no matter what their background or circumstances would be made welcome at Koinonia.”

A number of other churches were also contacted for comment.

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