Part 3: United Kingdom

One of the days I was in London I had the privilege of speaking at the Salvation Army International Headquarters to a wide variety of British clergy, pastors, denominational heads, theologians, authors and some overall movers and shakers. Beyond such a great opportunity, the unique part to that day was immediately after I had the privilege of meeting with two of the most prominent leaders in the Gay Christian movement in the United Kingdom: Colin Coward from Changing Attitude (with their ever provocative and informative blog) and Jeremy Marks from Courage (video above).

Here’s the kicker to that meeting: When I mentioned to the straight Christian group that I was heading to meet with Colin and Jeremy, I can’t tell you how many of them looked at me in shock. A few even came up to me after and asked:

“Why would you go to meet with them?” 

My response:

“Why would I not want to meet with them? What are you going to do, talk about gay people and then not actually talk to them?”

That didn’t go over too well with one person in particular, and a certain very conservative UK publication has written, and publicly called me quite a few nasty and offensive names over the last couple months because of it. Maybe I could have been more sensitive with my response, but one of the things that frustrates me to no end is when people like to intellectually or conceptually talk about something or someone and could care less about actually talking to them – what has been effectively turned from a child of God to an ethereal construct of not much worth.

The time to sit back and talk has passed us long ago. I can’t deal with it anymore; I’ll let those who talk, talk. I, like my Savior, want to be known for doing good – Reconciling God to human and human to human.

When I’m back in the UK throughout the month of April, I’m looking forward to reconnecting with the number of conservative Christian leaders who passionately caught the vision; as well as Colin, Jeremy and their groups in person (instead of just emailing with everyone) and seeing what partnerships and bridge building efforts we can really start tangibly working within. I’m very encouraged at the start we’ve been able to have thus far.

Tomorrow I will begin posting the more thorough reflections I wrote for Anvil, a UK theological journal.

Any thoughts on what Jeremy communicated in the video?

Much love.

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  • Jeremy is a star, and I’d highly recommend his book as well. He was a pioneer in starting Courage in the first place as an ex-gay ministry, when the majority of evangelicals in the UK had no thought or intention of helping or acknowledging gay folks outside the Church, nevermind inside. It was still illegal in some parts of the UK and there was no protection against discrimination.
    At great personal cost Jeremy had the courage (no pun intended) to face up to the realities he faced in such a ministry – that the people that were following their advice (celibacy, heterosexual marriage, trying to change your orientation etc) were struggling spiritually, facing depression, losing their faith etc – all major negatives; whereas the people who embraced their sexuality and were in faithful committed same sex relationships were in fact growing spiritually, happier, fulfilled etc. Not that they had no problems or struggles, but that the difference should have been in the reverse. It takes a lot of guts to reassess and look at whether you are right or not – especially when you are so involved with groups and people who would oppose any change – as experienced by Jeremy and Courage in 2000.

    I totally agree with Jeremy, about the fact that in general evangelicals don’t like to think about Gay Christians existing or even the LGBT community. That is true, but I don’t think it relates to the context of our discussions here recently regarding Evangelical’s attitudes towards the LGBT community/Gay Christians in particular. Jeremy isn’t saying that the Traditional Church/Evangelicasl are not bitterly and unequivocably opposed to Gay Christians who accept their sexuality, or the LGBT community in general. They are. We’re not clashing every week – partly because they refuse to engage in any form of dialogue. There is NO willingness from what I can see to listen to our viewpoint. When Evangelicals ‘come out’ and embrace their sexuality, or straight evangelicals accept same sex relations as valid the reaction of the Evangelical majority is to cut them off, silence them and refuse to engage with them. Witness the fact that Roy Clements’ books sit in a warehouse in the North of Scotland and you can’t buy any of them. They were withdrawn from shelves the Monday following his outing. Why? Because he was ‘out’. Therefore nothing he had to say was valid any longer. The Friday before he was outed everyone was reading them, buying them, happy to have on their shelves. After that he was persona non grata and ministers removed his previously well used books from their shelves.

    So the silence is there. It is meant to make us disappear. Then in their own Churches, conferneces, blogs, fraternities the discussion of LGBT community and gay christians is there and is one of the hot topics – but its all (with few exceptions) hostile. Yes, all because they believe they are theologically correct, so I understand it – I used to be there. If only they were willing to listen and dialogue with us. After all there are many LGBT Evangelicals who theologically agree with the traditionalists except on the gay issue.

  • I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed my conversations (via email since this interview) with Jeremy. He is one of the most caring souls, as he will randomly check in with me to do nothing other than send his love and encouragements my way. Not many people ever do that unsolicited, at least not in my experience, so these interactions have meant a whole bunch to me and show me his character.

  • Mrs T

    Jeremy sure sounds like a gentle, caring soul. I wish him well.

    Is there any way for someone to buy Roy’s books & sell them in the US?
    I never heard of him, but he sounds like he had something to offer. Too bad that someone can be marginalized in one weekend!

  • Hihopes

    Bravo! Bravo to Jeremy. He is a beacon of hope. I am truly inspired by his faith and courage to step out, making a turn about-face that seeks to include and reconcile folks to Christ. The bravery he demonstrates here. His example needs to be championed so others can find their way. And they will you know. They will find their way.

  • Mrs T – no, the publishers have refused to sell the books on at all – especially to people who would sell them. Some of his books are available on the Courage website – He was one of the foremost Evangelical Bible teachers/preachers in the UK and had an international ministry. He taught in a Seminary in Kenya and was pastor of the largest Baptist Church in Cambridge (England). One of the most respected Conservative Evangelicals around until he was outed in 1999.

  • From what I understand, Roy was John Stott’s main disciple and was being groomed to take over for Stott when Stott retired/died. Many friends I have in the UK speak of Roy as the biggest conundrum in their Christian history – he was so theologically/spiritually influential and now ‘he’s gay’?! Intense stuff … I think situations as his really show the character (lack there of) regarding our commitment to the process of faith and life regarding such divisive topics of sexuality.

  • Yea a lot of leading Evangelicals – like Rico Tice who wrote and runs Christianity Explored course – said to me a few years ago that Roy’s coming out was the biggest problem he’d ever faced… a lot of Evangelicals were shaken by it – but not enough to explore the issues or to investigate what Roy was now saying. Instead it was declared that Roy was no longer a Christian and had abandoned the faith. When I came across his website (sadly no longer available) and found he was still a Christian it was a major part of my own coming to terms with my sexuality.
    Roy and Stott were certainly close, though Stott is Anglican and Roy was Baptist. There is still a large divide between Non-Conformist and Anglican Evangelicals that dates back to the 1950s division between Stott and Martin Lloyd-Jones. But certainly Roy was the obvious candidate for the leader of British Evangelicals if he wasn’t already in 1999.