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Monday, August 29, 2011

Back Again and some background info...

After a lengthy hiatus and some false starts I have decided to return to blogging. In order to provide some context and generate some feedback I thought it best to give some perspective on the last few months of my life and also to talk about the thesis which is slowly making progress.

Because of the lengthy gap between my last post I thought a little bit of background would create some context for my blogging and other writing.

I am 43 and live in Newcastle, Australia. I am English and moved here in 1998. I married an Australian in 1998 (we met in UK) and separated at the beginning of 2009. I have active shared care of 3 awesome boys aged 12, 10 and 5. The middle one has aspergers and I have him 5 (sometimes 6 nights a week) and care of the other two boys 3 nights a week.

I work 30 hours a week as a Business Development Manager for a Health Services Company. I look after Sales and Marketing. I am a former Baptist pastor and was ordained in 2004.

I do not come from a church background. I had a bout of severe depression in late 2004 and then two bad church experiences in 2005 and 2008. This, along with my questioning mind, eventually led me to move away from attending church. I no longer attend a church and, at this time, would consider myself a spiritual person with an active belief in God but I find it difficult to call myself a Christian with all the language and ideas that I see emanating from the church.

In 2004 a friend of mine came out from the UK to stay with my family for a while. We went out for lunch and she told me that she was gay and in a relationship. I always had questions about the official policy of my Bible College on this issue but this lunch meeting prompted me to do a lot of reading and research.

To cut a long story short my journey led me to attend a gay church in Sydney which I visited many times. I have made a lot of friends in the gay Christian community across the world. I have attended two gay Christian conferences and become a firm advocate for Christians in the Church.

I started a coursework-based Masters Degree in 2007 with a Christian college and was going very well and had completed 3 subjects out of 8. The last two subjects were a long-paper and I decided to be upfront and plan ahead and look to do subjects that would be useful for the long paper. I approached my tutor and proposed a long paper looking at a favourable response to Homosexuality from a Christian perspective. After going away to consult on the topic I received an email telling me that under no circumstances could the college support such a proposal.

This left me in a quandary. Should I continue with an acceptable topic and at least complete the Masters or should I look at other options. I decided to pull out of the course and was not sure of my choices when I had a chance meeting with an Anglican in 2008 who informed me that the University of Newcastle had started a Theology Department and had appointed a professor from Edinburgh University.

This meeting led to me having a conversation with Professor John McDowell who graciously gave me an opportunity to apply for the MPhil at Newcastle University. So here I am working on my Masters Thesis with the hope and belief that I can do enough work to move onto a PhD.

I will do a blog post explaining the range of the thesis but I thought it worthwhile to give this background. I am hoping, through the blog, to make more friends and to get feedback and advice and encouragement for the thesis and my journey to support GLBT Christians.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Changing Focus

I have never thought of myself as a negative person. I try to take people as I find them and look for the best in everyone. With my 3 boys I am constantly seeking ways to support and affirm them. With myself it is another story altogether. I guess that's a problem for many people. We can support and affirm others but our own weaknesses seem to be so glaringly obvious that they overwhelm all attempts to move forward productively. I have been seeing a psychologist for over a year now. I have seen counsellors and therapists on and off for over 10 years but this particular psychologist has been a great source of encouragement and is helping me to like myself more. In recent times I have made mistakes in my job and let my boss and co-workers down. I have walked away from church and last year was just exhausting with full-time care of my autistic son for 8 months and trying to juggle work and shared care of my two other boys. When my father passed away in January and I had opportunity to return to England to support my mum I decided to use the trip as a chance to think through my childhood and teenage years in England and find a way to return to Australia with a more positive view of myself. I am very fortunate because my boss has agreed, in the face of some contrary advice, to give me another chance and so I resume my job on April 1st. In a recent conversation with a friend they were telling me how they see the positives in me and how they outweight the negatives. I have been pondering this concept for the past two days and, today, when I was sorting through my good which are still in storage I came across a book that I have had in my collection for 2 years and never opened. It is called "Living Your Strengths". The opening chapter of the book explains that many people, especially Christians, have been told that in order to succeed they need to "fix" their weaknesses and so many are drawn into patterns of guilt and inadequacy BUT "(in) Gallup's research into human potential over the past 30 years...the evidence is overwhelming: You will be most successful in whatever you do by building your life around your greatest natural abilities rather than your weaknesses. Your talents should be your primary focus!" I would like to think it wasn't an accident that I stumbled upon this previously unnoticed book. Today I am focussing on my abilities and strengths. Tomorrow I start work with a new attitude and on Sunday I return to church and the past is truly passed. Be encouraged.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A turn in the road...but the journey continues...

On Sunday January 16th at 1.10am in Hereford, England my father passed away after a battle with prostate and then lung cancer. I will miss him a lot and offer to him my love and respect.

The New Year presented me with opportunites to get my life in order. I have made a mess of my finances and am receiving help to get on top of my debts. I am still in the process of rediscovering my relationship with God and now I need to process my undulating relationship with my father and the final weeks where we were reconciled and talking well together.

On Tuesday Feb 1st I fly out to the UK. My ex-wife and her family have been very supportive and have assisted me to get to England. I am there for at least 10 weeks. It is a time to support my mother, reminisce with old family friends, enjoy being back in my home country and time to think.

I want to work when I am in England and also put some thought into developing my writing skills and utilising them more frequently and productively.

I am in the midst of putting my home contents into a friend's garage and giving up my lease. It is a new start, a new turn on my life's journey and a time of reflecting upon all the good that my father bought into my life. Michael James Chatwin RIP. Love Les xxx

Friday, January 07, 2011

Stumbling into Grace

Blimey! This blog is becoming random, sporadic, a confused jumble of spiritual experiences and a whole bunch of highs and lows. Oh yes...just like my life...
Well, Jesus did it. After my attempt to evade the Hound of Heaven and seek consolation in either some vague form of fuzzy spirituality or nothing at all I finally found myself over New Year's Day stumbling reluctantly into the Kingdom of God again. Not that I'd probably ever been away.
Last Monday I met with a Christian friend to talk, tentatively, about returning to church which, to be honest, scares the pants off me...
As always, watch this space if you are still tuned in to Channel Les...