“Open Table means everything to me. It has truly saved me.” – Gail, of Warrington’s Open Table community.
OPEN TABLE NETWORK (OTN), a growing partnership of church communities hosted by and for LGBT people, has just been awarded charitable status.
The first OTN community began 13 years ago because many church congregations do not offer a kind or an honest welcome to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer or questioning, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA).
From a gathering of just six people at St Bride’s Church, Liverpool, in 2008, it became a network in 2015 when other churches asked for help to create safe spaces where LGBTQIA people, their families and friends can feel welcomed and affirmed. In the words of the Open Table Network slogan, to ‘Come As You Are’.
There are now 18 OTN communities, supporting hundreds of people a month in England and Wales, with more coming soon.
Leading lights in the movement toward a more inclusive Church have welcomed the growth of OTN, and are delighted by its new charitable status. OTN has the support of seven patrons:
- Reverend Doctor Barbara Glasson, former President of the British Methodist Conference.
- Right Reverend Cherry Vann, Bishop of Monmouth, Church in Wales.
- Reverend John Bell, social justice activist, hymn-writer, Church of Scotland minister.
- Reverend Doctor John Bradbury, General Secretary, United Reformed Church.
- Pádraig Ó Tuama, Catholic poet, broadcaster, theologian and peace-maker.
- Right Reverend Paul Bayes, Anglican Bishop of Liverpool, Co-Chair of the Global Interfaith Commission on LGBT+ Lives.
- Reverend Doctor Rachel Mann, trans Anglican priest, writer, broadcaster.
The name Open Table emphasises the welcome of each unique, self-governing, non-judgemental community. It is a sign of OTN’s commitment to make everyone ‘more than welcome’.
The network currently supports churches within five Christian traditions to host Open Table communities, in Baptist, Church of England, Church in Wales, Methodist, and United Reformed churches. It will support any inclusive church which shares its Vision, Mission and Values, to recognise the integrity and potential of LGBTQIA+ people.
A recent survey of OTN’s members showed that welcoming LGBTQIA+ people to build community has significantly reduced their social isolation and improved their well-being.
Open Table communities typically meet monthly, within respectful, loving and safeguarding guidelines, welcoming people from any faith who need a spiritual home.
OTN Patron the Right Reverend Cherry Vann, the first lesbian bishop in the Church in Wales, and in a civil partnership, said: “It’s an honour and a privilege to support the LGBTQIA+ community in this way. I know from my own experience how important it is to have safe spaces where we can not only meet together but gather to pray, worship, explore faith and enjoy fellowship with others openly and without fear.”
OTN Patron Reverend John Bell, a Church of Scotland minister, said: “Having moved in my life from fearing I was gay to not wanting to be anything other than gay, I’m keen to encourage other people to feel the same way about themselves, and Open Table is a good place to help that to happen.”