Action Together marks LGBT+ History Month, shining light on the inspiring individuals in the community, like David Austin, 60, an Oldham-based Vicar and a proud gay man.
Speaking to community charity Action Together, David said: “I am open about my faith and my sexuality – both are integral to who I am."
He added: “As a Christian priest, I am well aware of the Church's opposition to equal rights over race, gender and sexuality. As a vicar, I am allowed to be in a civil partnership but not a legal marriage with a person of the same gender."
Before ordination, David worked in homelessness outreach and supportive housing, which included setting up the first statutory funded LGBT mental health group in the country in 1988. The group was called 'Out Take' in Hackney/Homerton Hospital, and its aim was to combat pathologisation of a patient's sexuality.
Same-sex marriages in Anglican churches are still illegal. However, David highlights that many churches are 'inclusive'. For example, the Oldham Parish Church flies the LGBT freedom/rainbow flag from its tower and hosts a Pride celebration service each July – with the blessing and participation of the bishops.
“My own struggle to be 'out' as a gay priest has led to homophobia and death threats in previous places, but I seek to be a minister to people of all sexualities, genders and faiths - including serving on Oldham interfaith forum steering group and serving as Chair of Oldham LGBT Pride this past three years.
"I walk in Pride marches wearing my dog collar and proclaiming, 'GAY = God Adores You'. We even had an eight-foot Jesus wearing a rainbow sash walk with us in Oldham in 2022!” he added.
David is also a vicar of two Anglican/Church of England parish churches in Coldhurst and Lower Moor.
Action Together CIO is the infrastructure organisation for the voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise (VCFSE) sector in Oldham, Rochdale, and Tameside.