Monday, August 18, 2014

heroes and villains

Theologian, broadcaster, songwriter, worship leader - not to mention Wycliffe Hall alumna - Vicky Beeching came out as gay this week.

It's been a bit of a thing.

She has quite a high media profile. Here's a picture of her on Sky News. The article that announced her sexuality was in the Independent. There are rumours she'll be a Songs of Praise presenter. She was on Channel 4 News.  She was on Stephen Nolan's show on BBC5 Live.

Most Christians who come out don't get that kind of coverage.

It's been an interesting experience, watching & listening. She talks of the fracture between who she was inside, and who she needed to be outside in order to have the life & ministry - and indeed simply the faith she wanted to have in the part of the church where she belongs. And yet that fracture made her very ill, and the time came where she had to do something to put it right. She chose health.

I think that this is something which huge parts of the church still don't quite get. When you are a (vast) majority, you don't get the pressure you put on a minority. You don't get how it feels to be in that minority and to want with all your heart to conform - but for it to be impossible. And when the majority tells you it's a matter of choice, or prayer, or maturity in Christ - and you find it's simply not possible, you do all that's within your gift to live a life that looks like the one you are supposed to be having.

This is the road to disaster.

Well done, Vicky for the honesty to stop the lie.

I posted on my facebook wall about this. And I was astounded by the response. It came in two ways. There were those who opposed my support of Vicky; and one in particular was strong in their condemnation of Vicky's stance and in their propounding of what, for them, are traditional Christian values. They unfortunately chose to be a little ungenerous in their tone, and I removed a couple of their posts as a result. I didn't remove them because I disagreed with their viewpoint but because of the aggressive way it was delivered. I welcome debate; spoken kindly.

There were others who spoke of their own journeys, where the unkindness of Christians had been so hurtful that church had become hard.

Let me say this, and say it clearly:

I know what you mean. I've been there. I've felt it. I've felt every cut of every thoughtless word. In a church where I was serving & giving myself beyond myself, I stood with two people one day in conversation, and one of them said: "At least we'll never have a gay vicar, eh?"

This was not a bad person who spoke these words. This was a good person. A person I cared for very much. A person I depended upon. A person I regard as a godly, caring, prayerful person.

What do you do in the light of that?

Well, I went through my own illness eventually. But I came through the other side because Jesus is wonderful, and he loves us all very much. Me included. And there came a point when I realised that having a life where I didn't need all the fingers on one hand to count the people who knew about me was never going to work; so I started to tell friends and family, and that was scary, but good. I came through the other side because people in the church were terrifically caring and believed in me more than I did. It's important to say that. Sometimes the story sounds a bit lop-sided - I think Vicky will look back on some of these interviews and agree she didn't say everything she should have.

The thing is - and despite her media blitz, Vicky Beeching has yet to discover this - I'm afraid there is no end to coming out. It goes on and on and on. You get 'coming out fatigue'. I'm not terribly demonstrative as a person; so it's not easy for me to stop someone in mid-flow and say - "Oh you have quite the wrong impression, I'm as bent as a three pound coin." My usual phrase, if I get there at all, is "Sorry. Not exactly the straightest arrow in the quiver".

And it is upsetting beyond words when you do that and find that someone who ten minutes ago would have said you had a wonderful and Spirit-filled ministry is now calling you names and accusing you of selling people down the river to hell; but I have learned that when grace and kindness have left the room the only thing to do is to bring them back in. And it is wonderful when you start to speak with trepidation and find more affirmation in those minutes than you'd ever imagined possible.

I hear dear friends say they would leave the church over "this issue", and I tell them that I am bemused as to why they would leave the church over me. Over my ministry. Over my commitment to the Scriptures and to worshipping Jesus and to bringing people to faith in him. We belong together. I am, politically, a Unionist. I believe in bringing all sorts of unlikely folk into a shared space and asking for grace to find the best in our shared lives. Isn't that New Testament church? I want to belong to the same church as the person who thanks God they'll never have a gay vicar, because (thoughtlessness put aside) I like this person enormously and I am less without them. And they are less without the gay vicar, it turns out. (As, subsequently, they have themselves pointed out.)

We are not heroes and villains, we are children of God, brothers and sisters in his family. We will disagree, it's what happens in families. And yet we are family. So we should find a way to love, and to speak, and to speak when speaking is hard, and to avoid name-calling and to think about each other and of finding ways of expressing value and -

of being kindly Christian. It has to be possible. It has to make a better, more Biblical way of life. For us all.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

three things

What to do in the face of the unbearable?

Every day, Canon Andrew White's facebook page brings fresh horrors. At last, the newspapers are catching up to the shock of what is happening in Iraq, and the US are there in military force. Britain is offering humanitarian aid.

What can we do?

Three things:

1. Pray.
It's always the first. When we sink beneath the waves of life, we find Jesus' arm lifting us up. We look to Jesus. We call to him. He is our first, our last, our middle, our beginning, our end, our journey. If we don't pray, we are practising atheists.

What do we pray for?
For those who have nothing. For those who are dying on mountainsides. For those who have been turfed out of house and home. For hope in despair. For material relief. For those who have to help those who have not.
For change.
For mercy.
For those with military power, that it gets used wisely and not ultimately to everyone's detriment.
For those who are right now making the world a terrible place: they are people too. We pray for them.
We pray for ourselves - that we might not be impotent, and that we might somehow help.
And we pray that we might forgive & be forgiven, and that in our lives, where there are poor and forgotten people, we would reach out and remember and do something - or our tears over those far away are unconvincing.

2. Speak.
In these last weeks, many folk have been speaking on the internet and in private to people who are more powerful than you and I, and though it has taken time - now things are happening.
We carry on.
In whatever pulpit you have, speak.
Speak so that people hear the voice of those who are being silenced.
Write to your MP (or equivalent).
Participate in online conversations.
Talk about these issues - and be informed. Read newspapers, follow Andrew White's page & blog, as unbearable as it it. Tell others.

3. Be Generous.
This is practical love.
The UK government has pledged £8M of aid - that sounds a lot, but when you see the numbers of displaced people already, and the money it takes to get the aid there, this will go quickly.
Support our fellow Christians who have had their lives destroyed.
Read the Barnabas Fund page & give; they are constantly helping persecuted Christians all over the world. Iraq is their front page right now. Or if you prefer, give through the Christian Aid appeal, or the Red Cross.

We get faced with unbearable news stories. But we aren't living in the middle of these stories. So we aren't actually feeling the waves crashing over us: others are. Let's pray in every way we can, speak of their plight to those with the power to do something, and give to those who are going out there and making their lives that but better.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

no pun in ten did

  1. She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still
  2. Sign on the lawn at drug rehab centre: Keep off the grass
  3. A midget fortune-teller escaped from prison. Police are looking for a small medium at large.
  4. A soldier who survived mustard gas & pepper spray is a seasoned veteran
  5. In democracy, it’s your vote that counts; in feudalism, it’s your count that votes
  6. When cannibals eat a missionary, do they get a taste of religion?
  7. A vulture boards a 747 holding 2 dead racoons. “Sorry sir,” says the stewardess, “Only one carrion per passenger”
  8. A dog that gave birth to puppies at the roadside was cited for littering
  9. A hole has been found in a nudist camp wall. Police are looking into it.
  10. A man sent a list of amusing wordplays to all his friends in the hope that at least one would make them smile. No pun in ten did.