Vicky Beeching is gay: Why it matters and what the Church needs to do

Aug 19, 2014 by

By Andrew Symes:

Vicky Beeching is one of the commercially successful young British Christian singer-songwriters who have transformed the way we worship God over the past twenty years. She is not as well known in this country as Matt Redman, Tim Hughes or Stuart Townend, because after her student days at Oxford she went to America to ‘live the dream’ with a recording contract and tours around the country, singing and leading worship in front of big congregations. Although as we are being told, the dream became an internal crisis. Some time ago she returned to England, embarked on a PHD, and for those following her tweets and blogs it became clear that she was now distancing herself from the charismatic evangelical theology of her youth. In the last year she has been prominent in campaigning for women Bishops and for the Church of England to accept and celebrate same sex marriage. Then last week she gave a series of high profile interviews in which she declared that she is a lesbian.

This is significant because of who Vicky is, because of the timing of the announcement, and because of the way in which it has been publicized. She has been, particularly for young Christians, a role model: beautiful, single, with a passion for Jesus expressed in song; articulate, concerned for the church and for justice. The timing coincides with summer holidays when many vicars and Bishops are away, but also many young people and families are at Christian festivals like New Wine and Soul Survivor, the kind where Beeching herself has sung and led worship, where many young people (including a majority from Anglican churches) will be following her tweets and blogs and where this will be a huge topic of conversation. It is also, as journalist Alice Arnold notes, only a month since the C of E voted yes to women Bishops – and Vicky “believes that the only remaining hurdle in the Church is sexuality”. So the Beeching story, coming shortly after the considerable publicity given to Jeremy Pemberton, means that church leaders will be facing the clamour to change the church’s teaching on sexuality at the top of their in-tray as they plan for the coming year at the end of August, and many Christian students will be seeing Vicky’s ‘testimony’ as an example of courage, integrity and truth as they prepare to come back to school and university.

The way that Vicky Beeching has chosen to “come out” is also significant. She is not known in this country outside Christian circles, and even then her name only registers with churchgoers under a certain age, and/or those who have a preference for or knowledge of contemporary worship music. But she has not been satisfied with talking to the Church about her change of heart. Nor has she quietly got on with attempting to find happiness in a relationship and not making a big splash about it, like many homosexual clergy. Rather she has gone to the nation, to try to leverage the secular media to influence the church from without. She sought advice in this from Ruth Hunt of Stonewall.

And among the print journalists to whom she gave ground breaking interviews were Alice Arnold, high profile newsreader and partner of national treasure, TV sports presenter Claire Balding, and Patrick Strudwick, long time gay activist who clearly has a Christian background and once “exposed” a Christian counsellor by pretending to seek counselling to move away from homosexuality and then writing about it in the Guardian. Arnold admits that she is “not a person of faith”, but this does not stop her pronouncing on Church policy – she hopes that Vicky Beeching’s experience and views will become normalized in the Church, noting that this is more likely given the close friendship between Beeching and the recently-married daughter of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Strudwick’s article focuses on Beeching’s “psychological torture”, knowing she was gay but not being able to live a liberated homosexual lifestyle in a conservative Christian environment, and laying the blame firmly at the Church of England for perpetuating this torture for many gay people today.

This is now Beeching’s theology, her message and her mission: “What Jesus taught was a radical message of welcome and inclusion and love. I feel certain God loves me just the way I am, and I have a huge sense of calling to communicate that to young people.” How do we answer that? It is now a matter of urgency that the orthodox in the Church of England, Bishops, clergy and especially youth leaders in charismatic churches, take the challenge of Vicky Beeching’s “coming out” seriously and answer it with the good news.

Who is doing that? Ed Shaw has responded with a short article, saying that he agrees the Church does not show enough understanding to people with same sex attraction, but Vicky Beeching’s solution of finding happiness through a sexual relationship with someone of the same gender cannot be accepted as it is so clearly against what the Bible teaches. Its really important that Ed and others in the Living Out group are supported as they teach the Bible and promote sound pastoral approaches for people with same sex attraction in churches from a perspective of being open and honest about their own sexual struggles.

However we need more than this – firstly to identify the anti-Christian secular or neo-pagan ideologies at work here, and address the problem of those promoting these ideas now openly attempting to force the Church to abandon its core doctrines. Then we need advocates of a positive theology of sexuality, marriage and spirituality in addition to or perhaps as a nuanced alternative to the current understanding of  “love the sinner but hate the sin”, or “if you’re a gay Christian you can’t have sex”. Perhaps we could start  with the idea that the clue to a solution may be in human desire for companionship, for community, for intimate union, for heaven; and the pain and stress of unfulfilled desire leading either to learning to find rest in Christ and abiding in the Vine, or to the false satisfier of the abandonment of chastity.

Revd Andrew Symes

Executive Secretary

Anglican Mainstream

+44 (0) 1865 883388

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