Keeping It Local: Two new leaders for the LGBT community

On Palm Sunday, 20th March, Archdeacon of Liverpool Ricky Panter commissioned two new Local Missional Leaders in recognition of their ministry with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Christians across the diocese.

Warren Hartley and Kieran Bohan are LGBT Ministry Facilitators at St Bride’s Church, Toxteth, where they have coordinated Open Table, a monthly eucharist for LGBT Christians for more than seven years. We spoke to them about the difference being LMLs will make to their community.

Pictured right are vicar of St Bride's Liverpool Canon Guy Elsmore, new Local Missional Leader Warren Hartley, Archdeacon of Liverpool Ricky Panter, new Local Missional Leader Kieran Bohan, Director of Church Growth Linda Jones, and Diocesan Missioner Janice Hill.
Q. Why do you think being a Local Missional Leader is important, and what role will you play in your church?
Warren: In my day job at St James’ House, I have been involved in developing the LML programme, which is about recognising lay ministry and providing support, supervision and training to enable and sustain it for the future. Through this process colleagues on the Church Growth Team suggested that I should consider applying to support and develop the voluntary work I was already doing for Open Table. Open Table is one expression of St Bride’s vision as a ‘Creative, Progressive, Inclusive’ community, by reaching out to LGBT Christians who may have felt excluded from church or unable to reconcile their spirituality with their sexuality or gender identity. My hope for Open Table is that we can be a place where LGBT people and others can meet God, the source of life, love and being and thus come to know that they are beloved children of God.  As LGBT people, our lives, our identities and our relationships are precious gifts from God which we are called to live with integrity and I desire to continue to build a community where this is evident and which equips others to go out and do likewise. 

Kieran: I have informally supported Warren with Open Table for seven years - this has increased over time as the service and community have grown. When I heard about the LML opportunity it made so much sense as a way of supporting and sustaining the mission of Open Table, so we can build on what we have achieved together so far and nurture others in this community to grow this ministry and reach out to raise awareness of the issues our community faces. My hope is that becoming authorised as Local Missional Leaders will consolidate our roles individually and collaboratively to enable us to develop ourselves and our relationships with and between the LGBT and Christian communities on behalf of those who live in the intersection, and sometimes the conflict, between them.
Q. Where are you from originally, and have you lived or worked elsewhere?
Warren: I’m originally from Australia, but my dad was from West Derby. He emigrated in the 1960s, I came back in 2006 for a year, and ended up making Liverpool home. My career has been in administration, event management and recruitment. I’ve worked for the Diocese since 2012, first in the Church Growth and Communications teams, and now as Appointments Secretary, managing clergy recruitment. I also support St Bride’s as a part-time administrator.

Kieran: I grew up in London and moved around the country to study and work, eventually coming to Liverpool in 2003. I’ve been here longer than anywhere else since I left London. Liverpool’s fame for its friendly welcome is well deserved - I have made it home now too. My background is in education, youth work and support for vulnerable adults. I have just begun a part-time role with Mission In The Economy as chaplain to the YMCA. I also work part-time for the Diocese Communications Team and as Communications Officer for Modern Church, an organisation promoting liberal theology.
Q. Was your interest in ministry gradual, or something you knew you have always wanted to do?
Warren:  I have been involved with Open Table from the very beginning.  Initially I was simply someone in the congregation, moving to the key holder and opening and setting up to gradually taking on more tasks as needed. I didn’t set out to be a leader - I’ve always seen my role as facilitation, a holding of the space.  So rather than leading from the front, it is about hosting and serving the community; preparing food for the big occasions, hosting house groups and empowering others to take their role in a supportive space. I find this role of providing hospitality in its broadest context energising and rewarding.

Kieran: I spent time training for Roman Catholic priesthood in my twenties, but chose not to be ordained. In exploring my sense of vocation through spiritual accompaniment, I reached a new understanding with the help of these words of Frederick Buechner:

The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.

I find deep gladness in serving the LGBT community, in which there is a deep hunger for spirituality. I believe this is the place where God is calling me.
Q. How do you see your ministry developing?
Warren: Kieran and I will work in collaboration to lead Open Table. I see it as an opportunity for each of us to play to our strengths.  Perhaps a helpful analogy would be that of ‘Interior Ministry’ and ‘Exterior Ministry’. I can care for and nurture the existing community and Kieran can explore ways of building the community further and deeper while we support and encourage each other.

Kieran: I aim to use my skills in marketing, training, youth work and professional connections within the LGBT community to respond to requests for advice and support from other faith communities, including new Open Table gatherings which have grown in the last year, including a URC congregation in Warrington, an Anglican parish in Manchester and an ecumenical partnership on the north Wales coast. I would also welcome opportunities to facilitate LGBT awareness workshops for any faith community which is seeking greater understanding of pastoral issues for LGBT people.