Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Theatre of Noise is Dead - Long Live the Theatre of Noise

The more long-suffering visitors to this blog will know that for the last 6 years, I have been involved with a local RSL Christian radio station in Manchester called Refresh FM which broadcasts for 3-4 weeks at Easter time. This post is not for sympathy or for an agenda, but because the writing is a helpful expression of how I feel about what has happened over the last few months.

Over the years I have helped Refresh in a variety of roles although mainly as a presenter and producer. I have been part of the Scheduling Team and also helped set up the music playlist. They have been a big part of my volunteering life for over half a decade and I will always be grateful for the opportunities offered and the trust placed in me by Refresh FM.

However, unfortunately, that relationship has now had to come to an end. Every year I have presented a show called the Theatre of Noise with one of my friends. We have developed the show over the years and it has been a big part of the evening schedules. Eyan, my co-presenter, was asked in the summer if he was willing to take a larger role in the organising and leadership of the station.

At this stage, Eyan felt it was important to be open with Refresh and informed them that he was gay. Within a month, Eyan and I were invited to a meeting with the leaders of Refresh where Eyan was informed that it was no longer possible for him to continue as a presenter due to his sexuality and the incompatibility of his lifestyle choice with the core evangelical message of the church that runs Refresh FM. For Eyan's eloquent account of this incident visit his blog for the initial article and a follow up piece. There has also been an article in the Guardian CiF section on the wider issue of volunteer rights.

While Eyan was left with little choice as to whether he could carry on, it was made clear to me that because I am straight, I was welcome to continue with Refresh. In the end, I felt that I was unable to reconcile how my friend was treated due to the narrow evangelical views of Refresh's leadership and the core message of Christianity. Therefore, I took the decision to step down from presenting and my positions on the scheduling and playlist teams.

The whole situation has caused upset and soul-searching in all parties and I'm worried for Refresh's future. I have always had such high hopes for a station that has taken some very bold steps in the past (the moment they defied critics to broadcast a Catholic church service in the Sunday morning service slot made me very proud to be a part of the organisation), and I hoped they would react better in this situation. Sadly, it seems (as is the way with us Christians in general) sexuality proved a step too far. My worry is that Refresh will withdraw and look inwards and try to involve only those who share their core beliefs. Its biggest strength has always been the involvement of a wide range of Christians of all denominations, ages and backgrounds. My suspicion would be that a good number of key volunteers would not be willing or able to 'sign on' and that would only make the station poorer.

On a positive note, Eyan & I have already had a meeting with someone interested in perhaps giving the Theatre of Noise a new home. So the Theatre of Noise is dead. Long Live the Theatre of Noise.


Fat Roland said...

A brilliant post that I think sums things up perfectly. I'm so aware that, in a way, you lost more in this because you spent so much time working your guts out for Refresh FM.

I think our co-presenting future is bright. I also think Refrssh FM's future could be bright if they make the right decisions now.

I'm also, if you don't mind me saying, honoured to have a co-presenter and friend with such passion and such principle. You've kept me sane throughout all of this.

Steve Martin said...

I find myself somewhat divided on issues like this; on the one hand I would want to defend any 'religious' organisations right to select workers on this sort of basis and would strongly oppose legislation which would take away this freedom, on the other hand, however, I'm constantly disappointed in the church at the judgementalism and discrimination which often results...

Despite the fact that many evangelicals will point to verses in the Bible which they believe specifically prohibit homosexuality, I believe that Romans 14:4 does indeed apply in terms of us not passing judgement, after all there are far more verses in the Bible which prohibit other practices which Paul specifically makes permissible.

One might argue that Paul himself prohibits homosexuality, however, the condemnations in Romans 1:18-27 are in the context of idolatry, lust and ritual debauchery.... Read more

Unfortunately this does reflect the condition of many homosexual men who live an extremely promiscuous life style having many indiscriminate sexual partners and separating sex entirely from relationship, but this is not always the case, and often notably not so in the case of homosexual believers who apply the same Biblical principles to their relationships as straight believers.

In all of this I'm constantly amazed and humbled by the vastness of God's grace and consequently have found myself developing increasingly liberal tendencies over the years, (bet you didn't see that coming Lee! ;o)

Tim Footman said...

Paul condemns homosexuality. Jesus doesn't. People who claim Biblical authority for excluding confirmed bachelors and ladies in sensible shoes from the Kingdom of Heaven should not call themselves Christians; they are called Pauline. All of them. Especially the men.

9/10ths Full of Penguins said...

Eyan: Cheers fella

Steve: Hey hey! Good to see you on here my friend and I'm glad to see those liberal leanings peeking through ;) I think there is a danger when some evangelicals imply a judgement on homosexuality due to the actions of promiscuous gay men/women. They generally don't judge heterosexuality on the actions of promiscuous straight men and women

Tim: I've known many Paulines in my time. Some were confirmed bachelors/bachelorettes (is that a usable word?) and all of them wore sensible shoes. WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN??!!

Steve said...

Hi Lee, likewise it's good to be in touch again!

I absolutely agree with your point above, my stance is on general promescuity NOT homosexuality, I was merely pointing out that promiscuity is perticularly prevelant (pardon the un-intended illiteration!) among homosexual communities and I believe this can be to their spiritual / emotional detriment just as it is for anyone of any sexual orientation.