I woke up yesterday morning to the news that Christian worship leader and theologian Vicky Beeching has revealed that she is gay. This doesn’t come as a particular surprise after the Oxford graduate openly supported same-sex marriage both on live radio and in print last year.
A stir has indeed been caused within the Christian community, and the wider world, after the story made front page news in both The Independent, and the newspaper’s more concise version The i.
The big question for the Christian population, is how we should respond to this news. No doubt our response to this ‘coming out’ will show the rest of the world our character and values – which the media could well put under scrutiny should they choose to. (In fact, a follow-up article from The Independent was published last night, where the singer-songwriter says she has been “overwhelmed” by support). It appears we have begun to get our response right, and it is crucial that we continue this. We respond in the wrong way, and we only add fuel to the fire of those who disagree with our values towards homosexuality.
So how should we first respond, not only to Vicky, but to all homosexual Christians?
Firstly I’ll say, that as a Christian, I believe in the Bible. And therefore I do believe that homosexuality is a sin. (Leviticus 18:22 is one of the clearer verses on this). I’m well aware that the Bible was written a long time ago, and that we must be careful not to use verses beyond purpose they were written for. Though I do believe that this verse is still applicable today.
That said, I think I first response to Vicky, and others, should be that of acceptance. I get the feeling that some Christians feel as if homosexuality shouldn’t be in our churches. The first thing we need to remember, is that as the church, we are not exempt from sinners. We are all sinners of past, present and future. The Bible says, in Romans 3:23-24: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. (The fact that we all fall short, in my opinion, makes us equal.) And then the important bit… “And are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus“.
What does not accepting homosexuals do?
To not accept homosexuals, but to be willing to accept people like ourselves, puts homosexuals as worse than others, which begs the question of at which sin should we draw the metaphorical ‘line of acceptance’ (Fraudster? Adulterer? Murderer? Rapist?), and ultimately questions the strength of God’s grace in being able to cover every sin.
We shouldn’t be isolating anyone. That was never God’s heart for His people.
Secondly, I think we need to respond with compassion. Vicky’s story is difficult to read in places. Unfortunately, hers is not the only story like this. Many gay Christians have received some form of maltreatment from their church communities, damaging them emotionally. We need to act compassionately towards this, and pray for that damage to be undone, and that they would not resent the church for the treatment they have received. By doing this we acknowledge the church’s failings in this area, and we seek to understand the hurt these people have experienced. This is likely to be highly valued by the recipient. At a time where the person has had immense bravery to tell you (and possibly others) about their sexuality, part of our response must be compassion.
Now we’ve seen the importance of accepting and acting compassionately, the final response I think should be that we love these people. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). God is a God of love, and therefore love is a core value of the church.
On a practical level, I think this means explaining to the person that although we don’t agree with that aspect of their lifestyle, we still consider it absolutely fine to spend time together, worship & pray together and so on, and that we don’t treat them any differently than we would have done before.
What does not loving homosexuals do?
If you are treating them differently to how you did before, or treating them differently to others, they’ll pick up on it. It could break down your friendship, and if a lot of people do this, they could end up leaving and resenting the church. God loves them, and we should be seeking to replicate that.
I believe homosexuality is a sin, I don’t want to shy away from that. But our priority must be to respond to these people in the most Godly way possible. Accept, be compassionate, and show love.
Thanks for reading :)
Please know that I am aware this is a much bigger topic than I have covered here, with many complications and circumstances and these are just some of my thoughts.