A vicar in Southend-on-Sea is defending the decision to host a drag queen performance for children as part of the town Winter Pride event.
St Marks Church has received significant backlash online as a result of the show, but they have assured critics that the event was “a family show” with “nothing inappropriate”.
The church has been part of the Pride celebrations for three years in a row.
In a comment to The Echo, Mother Cherry Sandover said: "Saint Mark’s is proud to be an inclusive church that seeks to welcome and serve LGBT+ people. We do this because we believe this is what Jesus, who we love and follow, calls us to do.”
However, Tim Dieppe, head of public policy at Christian Concern, disagrees.
Speaking to Premier Christian News, he said: “Obviously, we do welcome people in church, but we also encourage them to follow Christian standards of holiness, purity and basic morality.
“That obviously includes sexual ethics, obviously includes respecting gender differences between men and women.
“That is not what is happening in this kind of event. Promoting drag queens in front of young children is not about inclusivity, it is about actually trying to indoctrinate and normalise unchristian behaviour.”
The event comes as US state Tennessee signs laws to ban drag performances in front of young children.
The new legislation, which is set to come into force next month, will ban “go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, male or female impersonators,” from performing in public spaces.
Commenting on the new laws, Tim continued: “I don't think it's appropriate for children to be exposed to drag. I do not think it is the right thing, least of all in churches, for example.
“Well done to Tennessee for doing that.”
A spokesperson for the Diocese of Chelmsford said: “We are aware that the drag artist Kenzi Blackheart performed as part of the Southend Winter Pride event that was hosted at St Mark’s Church, Southend on Saturday 25 February.
"This comes at a time of considerable public debate about drag artists performing at events where children are present.
"We recognise that there is concern about performances that might include sexualised or inappropriate content for children and we are clear that any such performance would be wrong. Nor would a church be an appropriate location for any performance including such content, irrespective of who the performer is or the audience.
"We are reassured by Mother Cherry’s assertion that this was not the case at the event at St Marks. Nevertheless, we are concerned about some of the content we have been made aware of at the event and we are reflecting further with the St Mark’s church leadership on that matter.
"We also recognise and welcome the important work that St Mark’s do to welcome and serve people in the LGBT+ community in Southend of which their relationship with Southend Pride is an important part.”