World Pride 2023 is taking place in Sydney at the moment. It started on 17 February and runs through to 5 March, with a concentration of Pride-related events in Sydney, including a fine Pride Concert last night and the annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade that is taking place later today, Saturday 25 February. This is the first time that World Pride has taken place in the southern hemisphere.
The theme for World Pride 2023 is Gather—Dream—Amplify. The website describes the event as “A time to listen deeply, learn, take action, protest and party … A time to dream. Imagine the future we want and demand it … A time to step aside, making sure there is an abundance of space for everyone. New voices. New dreams. A time for new perspectives and possibilities.” It is a positive, optimistic, affirmation.
World Pride has been held since 2000, when it took place in Rome. It was next held six years later, in Jerusalem (2006), and then a further six years later, in London (2012). Momentum grew, as subsequent gatherings took place in Toronto (2014) and then Madrid (2017).
Two years later, in 2019, World Pride was held in New York City, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, with five million spectators attending in Manhattan over the central Pride weekend. The Stonewall uprising is widely considered to mark the start of the modern Gay Rights Movement (now more commonly referred to as the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights).
In 2021, World Pride was shared between Copenhagen, Denmark, and Malmo, Sweden. The Crown Princess of Denmark was patron of the event, making her the first ever royal to serve as patron for a major LGBTQ event.
This year, in Sydney, the key events include a Fair Day on Sunday 19 Feb, the formal Opening Ceremony and Concert in the Sydney Domain on Friday 24 Feb, the annual Mardi Gras Parade and Party on Saturday 25 Feb; a Human Rights Conference from Wednesday 1 to Friday 3 March; a First Nations Gala Concert and a Mardi Gras International Arts Festival and Film Festival; and on the last day, Sunday 5 March, a Pride March over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and a grand Closing Ceremony.
Faith communities are actively involved in World Pride 2023, with a full listing of events at https://www.worldpridefaith.com.au/?mibextid=S66gvF&fbclid=IwAR15hAd9eTPZqO1QlU_o_XyEBD7n8-dtFSChxoMGLr3ILkEBgjHvG2kdar8
The Uniting Church is strongly supportive of the event, and a number of Sydney churches are involved. See https://uniting.church/uniting-churches-welcome-world-pride/
The Pitt St Uniting Church, located in the heart of Sydney, is actively involved in World Pride 2023, bringing a strong faith voice into the event. Pitt St is holding a photo exhibition, Queer Faces of Faith and providing a rehearsal space for the Out&Loud&Proud Choir rehearsals, as well as providing a safe and celebratory faith space and pastoral support to World Pride people in the heart of the CBD. A full program of prayer support for World Pride is operating as well. See https://pittstreetuniting.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/Diary-of-Praise-and-Prayer-for-World-Pride-2023.pdf
Christians have had an unhappy relationship with LGBTIQA+ people. Sadly, far too many Christians hold a judgemental and discriminatory attitude towards people whom they regards as sinners, and many of these carry those negative attitudes through into discriminatory, oppressive, and damaging actions.
These negative attitudes were born long ago, in societies with different understandings of sexuality and gender. Many such societies of the past were centred around what they perceived as normality. “Normality” is what is most commonly found. “Normality” is also what is needed to ensure the ongoing survival of society. So regular reproduction of the species was essential in such societies, especially given the rate of deaths was much higher than in most modern societies.
The communities reflected in the Bible are no exceptions to this. Humanity is defined in Hebrew Scripture as needing to strive for perfection, so we see those who cannot see or hear, with missing limbs or those unable to speak, excluded from worship and community on the basis of how they differ from “perfection”. They are perceived as a threat to the good order and flourishing of society, because of their inherent “difference” from the norm. This is reflected in ancient Israelite law, and this continued on into in the understandings of the New Testament writers.
In modern times, our understanding of “normality” has broadened from such a binary understanding, to include now a spectrum of what is seen as “normal”. No longer do we exclude people on the basis that their physical appearance does not conform to the physical appearance of the majority of people, for instance. The understanding that the human brain operates on a spectrum has been well established, and we are now used to hearing regular references to the fact that neurodiversity in human beings has placed people at various points along a spectrum of neurological functioning.
The same applies to human sexuality. As further research is done, it has becoming increasingly clear that the way that people experience and express their sexuality, like the way that the brains of different people function differently, exists on a spectrum and is not confined to a binary state. Gender identity and sexual orientation both sit on such spectrums rather than existing in oppositional binary states.
Within such spectrums, there are “standard deviations” which we expect to find in any human population. This is a perfectly “normal” phenomenon. So, today we recognise that there is a range of gender identity along a spectrum of identities, and a range of sexual orientation along a range of sexual orientation.
Our Bible is an ancient document. It was written at a time when “normality” was seen as living within the divine favour and existing in a way that accords with the divine statutes. Those who failed to conform to the “normality” of those statues were seen as “abnormal”, incomplete and perhaps, at times, sinful. They occupied what we today call “the tails of the bell curve”. They were not seen as “normal”, since they were unable to promote the future of community.
In ancient times, sexual behaviour that fell into the expected variation of the tails of the bell curve was frequently perceived as “not normal” and threatening to the community, and an aberration that threatened the survival of the community. That is no longer the case for us, today.
The Hebrew Scriptures use the word nephesh (נֶפֶש) to describe human beings (and, indeed, all other living creatures). It is a common Hebrew word, appearing 688 times in Hebrew Scripture. It is most commonly translated (238 times) as “soul”; the next most common translation is “life” (180 times). The word is a common descriptor for a human being, as a whole. (I have learnt much about nephesh in my discussions with my wife, the Rev. Elizabeth Raine.)
However, to use the English word “soul” to translate nephesh does it a disservice. We have become acclimatised to regarding the soul as but one part of the whole human being—that is the influence of dualistic Platonic thinking, where “body and soul” refer to the two complementary parts of a human being. In Hebrew, nephesh has a unified, whole-of-person reference, quite separate from the dualism that dominates a Greek way of thinking.
Nephesh appears a number of times in the first creation story in Hebrew scripture, where it refers to “living creatures” in the seas (Gen 1:20, 21), on the earth (Gen 1:24), and to “every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life (nephesh hayah)” (Gen 1:30).
It is found also in the second creation story, where it likewise describes how God formed a man from the dust of the earth and breathed the breath of life into him, and “the man became a living being (nephesh hayah)” (Gen 2:7). The claim that each living creature is a nephesh is reiterated in the priestly Holiness Code (Lev 11:10, 46; 17:11). So we human beings are part of a wide spectrum of creatures, all created by God, all seen to be “good”, a wonderful kaleidoscopic variety of beings.
Our theology of the human being needs to underline the claim that all people, no matter where they are located on the bell curve, are “nephesh” and are filled with the sprit of God. We are all part of the creation that, in Christian and Jewish mythological, God declared “very good” (Gen 1:31). We are, each and every one of us, “fearfully and wonderfully made”, as the psalmist sings (Ps 139:14a)—like the intricate, complex, and beautiful created world in which we live, each human being is, exactly as they are, one of the “wonderful works” of the Lord God (Ps 139:14b).
And that is exactly what World Pride 2023 is celebrating!
and for Canberra people, there is a safe space every Sunday morning at 9:30am and once a month on Sunday at 6:00pm (the 2nd Sunday of the month) at Tuggeranong Uniting Church, where Elizabeth Raine and Sharon Jacobs lead the ministry team. See
and for further biblical discussion, see