October 2018 - Gay is OK

Gay is OK


On the whole, as time moves forward, we hope that each generation becomes more open and accepting of gay people. What was once an outrage, in time became surprising or unusual, and is now just an accepted thing.

What I do know is that the experience of coming out for young people today can still be painful, to the point of traumatic. What will parents, friends and family think? Coming to terms with one's own being, even as a heterosexual in a hetero-normative world, is hard enough in those teenage years without adding anything further to it. Even when parents are completely loving (and often unsurprised), the fear of telling can still be there.

Add to this the compounded element of religion. The church has had an uncomfortable relationship with sexuality for most of its history. St. Augustine has a lot to answer for! But it was only when I heard Vicky Beeching, a talented singer and writer of worship music, speaking at the Greenbelt Festival and telling her story of coming out about four years ago, that I realised something that perhaps should have been obvious: the default understanding of a gay person is that the church will be negative and unwelcoming to them, unless that church explicitly says otherwise, This was the story that Vicky told. She also related her experience, and that of others, of the trauma inflicted through judgmentalism and crass 'pastoral care', particularly on teenagers. Her plea was that, at the very least, please try not to do enormous damage to young people, even when you have theological differences.

It made me realise that, however accepting, fully supportive and inclusive of all people we are, unless we say it out loud, the implicit message is a negative one. So along with the organisation Inclusive Church, I want to say: "We believe in inclusive Church - church which does not discriminate, on any level, on grounds of economic power, gender, mental health, physical ability, race or sexuality. We believe in Church which welcomes and serves all people in the name of Jesus Christ; which is scripturally faithful; which seeks to proclaim the Gospel afresh for each generation; and which, in the power of the Holy Spirit, allows all people to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Jesus Christ." I want to actively seek the inclusion and equality of gay people, including those who are in same-sex relationships, at every level of church and society.

Let's raise the standard of our inclusivity, deepen our understanding, overcome prejudice, and welcome all those whom Christ welcomes.

Nick Bird

Your Rector

This letter from Revd Nick Bird appeared in the October 2018 issue of The Grapevine