• Festival One is a "celebration of art, music, creativity and community, centred around the Christian faith." (Facebook)Source: Facebook
The stall encouraged festival-goers to discuss gender, sexuality and the Christian faith.
Michaela Morgan

3 Feb 2017 - 10:00 AM  UPDATED 3 Feb 2017 - 10:00 AM

A Christian festival in Hamilton, New Zealand has shut down a stall for displaying references to LGBT+ issues.

The Wilderpeople Collective stall invited festival-goers to engage in a discussion about sexuality and diversity in regards to the Christian faith.

The stall openly displayed signs that read “Gay”, “Lesbian” and “Transgender” and featured LGBT+ multimedia, including a documentary about a Christian lesbian couple and their child.

A member of the group running the stall, Chris Watson, is an openly gay Christian man and says none of the material they displayed was offensive.

‘Welcoming, but not affirming’: being gay and Christian
"I couldn’t even take up the offering. I was simply looking to be actively involved and become a member of the church… Because I was gay, that was sufficient for [them] to turn around and say no. And by then, I thought, ‘That’s just not right'."

"I think it's just a clear indication of how we are as a Christian journey with this topic. There's still a lot of work that needs to be done. To not be able to use those words at a camp that is predominantly full of teenagers and adults is a clear indication of what's going on,” Watson tells Stuff

The group was asked to remove all references to sexuality and gender if they wished to remain.

The group paid $6,000 to run the stall at the drug and alcohol-free festival and had previously been approved by the festival after they described the concept in their application.

Festival One Organisers issued a statement that read:  "Wilderpeople Collective accepted that the Wilderpeople Collective could not meet expectations of Festival One organisers about what their presence in the Wilder Precinct should be. Therefore the Wilderpeople Collective decided to withdraw their stall."

Watson says that many young people want to talk about sexuality and gender identity.

Finding my faith again as an out queer
"I understand why so many of my LGBT+ friends want nothing to do with religion—I spent more than a decade of my life living that, too. But these are not the only options; there are now a number of faiths in which LGBT+ people are not merely accepted, but affirmed."

“It's a huge thing for a young person but in the Christian sector it's more complicated because you've then got a faith that has been very much rooted in your upbringing that unless you are a straight, normal person then you are an abomination and destined for hell.”

He says there was a missed opportunity to have that conversation with the large number of young people that the festival attracts.

"I believe that it's right to get the message out there that it's important to have these conversations and that it's important to talk about so it doesn't lead to depression and suicide which we see in a lot of young people in New Zealand," says Watson. 


Shaun Micallef's Stairway to Heaven airs on SBS on Wednesdays at 8.30pm. Watch all the episodes online after they air on SBS On Demand. Watch the first episode below: