Vicky Beeching, Worship Leader Closely Connected to the Church of England, Comes Out

Vicky Beeching is known for worship hits on both sides of the Atlantic - and for being closely connected to the Church of England and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

And recently, she came out as gay.

The Independent told the story earlier today:

At Easter this year, she came out to her parents. “I was terrified but they reacted really well. They said, ‘We’re so sorry that you had to go through this alone.’” Beeching and her parents have agreed to disagree on the theology around homosexuality. “It’s a picture of what is possible, even when you don’t agree, that love can supersede everything.” She hopes the Church of England can one day follow suit. “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. When I think of myself at 13, sobbing into that carpet, I just want to help anyone in that situation to not have to go through what I did, to show that instead, you can be yourself – a person of integrity.” After what Beeching has suffered, why not discard the faith that considers her sinful and wrong? “It is heartbreaking,” she says, her eyes glimmering again. “The Church’s teaching was the reason that I lived in so much shame and isolation and pain for all those years. But rather than abandon it and say it’s broken, I want to be part of the change.”

The reason this story is important, I think, is not just because of the courage and perseverance of Vicky herself, but also because of the juxtaposition of her open identity and the Church of England’s official non-affirming position (and internal struggle between affirming and non-affirming clergy and congregants). The article tells how her close friend’s father is Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, and the views of her own parents match the views of the Church - a representation of the larger Church debate on a microcosmic level, and a hopeful one at that.

Vicky and her parents agree to disagree; Vicky is accepting of this, and her parents are accepting of and compassionate toward her; “It’s a picture of what is possible, even when you disagree, that love can supersede everything.”

Wow.

This is what I mean when I talk about a third way (or whatever you want to call it). The mutual acceptance and love among affirming and non-affirming Christians, which really lays the much heavier burden of change upon the non-affirming side of that equation. Because in order to really love, to really accept, there must be a positive affirmation of the legitimacy of gay Christians’ faith, and practices of authentic inclusion even in officially non-affirming contexts.

The third way, as I imagine it, is not about non-affirming churches softening a bit. The third way is about BOTH affirming AND non-affirming churches, denominations, and individual Christians walking in a kind of deep and real mutual acceptance that bespeaks the love of God in Christ. And this does not deny the need for change either – it is not a call for apathy. Again, the much heavier burden now rests on non-affirming people to submit their theology to lived-out love and inclusion.

Vicky’s witness here is kind of overwhelming. Who can say it better?

“The Church’s teaching was the reason that I lived in so much shame and isolation and pain for all those years. But rather than abandon it and say it’s broken, I want to be part of the change.”

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About Zach Hoag

Zach J. Hoag is a writer and missional minister from notoriously non-religious New England. He blogs here at Patheos and HuffPost Religion. His book, Nothing but the Blood: The Gospel According to Dexter, released in 2012. Most importantly he binge-watches TV dramas and plays in the snow with his family.

Find him on Twitter & Facebook!

  • Steve Hollinghurst

    Absolutely with you Zach – one fo the big issues is that in many circles this subject is so charged that everyone assumes you ‘must’ agree with their view on it and this makes reasonable discussion and your third way very hard to pursue – but that mustn’t stop people pursuing it – Vicky’s courage today has made me realize i need to play my part i hope it will do so for others

  • Nate Carey

    To quote from the author above:

    “……Because in order to really love, to really accept, there must be a positive affirmation of the LEGITIMACY of gay Christians’ faith…..”

    It is amazing how twisted our thinking becomes when we are being dominated by the power of sin.

    First off there is no such thing as a “gay” christian. A true christian may struggle with homosexual desires but will never be able to live at peace with the issue.

    The authority of scripture is what we’re accountable to if we call ourselves christians. If we say we belong to Christ but do not have the Spirit of Christ we are none of His. The Spirit will never allow us to be “okay” with compromising what God has clearly outlined in Scripture.

    We love to trumpet the idea of loving our neighbor but he who said “love your neighbor” also said, those who are “inflamed with lust for one another do what is shameful and ought not to be done” -Romans 1:26-28

    Would you call it love to give someone who is dying of cancer a “sugar pill” and pretend like everything is okay?! How cruel and cold!! yet this is exactly what we are doing when we positively affirm the “faith” of someone who is practicing a “gay” lifestyle.

    Legitimate faith never endorses or makes peace with sin. James in his epistle referenced this sort of empty profession when he said in chapter 2, “What good is it my brothers if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?….” The works James is speaking of here are the evidence that one has been born-again. The true christian cannot be at peace with that which is opposed to God. And likewise he or she will not be opposed to what God wants!

    To positively affirm the “faith” of someone practicing the gay lifestyle is to make a mockery of the sacrifice of Christ at the Cross. The shed blood of Jesus is so powerful that when it is applied to the heart and life of a believer, it turns their world upside down. The things they used to hate, they now love and the things they used to love they now hate!

    -Nate C.

  • http://www.fordswords.net/ Ford1968

    This is not the thrid way as I envision it. Agree to disagree is bulls**t. Our disagreement is too important. I don’t come from a communicative or confrontational family; but my theologically conservative parents have made their estimation of my marriage very clear in a beautiful way. If they hadn’t, I’m not sure we could have a relationship. Too much water under the bridge to pretend. Either support me or don’t; but don’t pretend the sanctity of my marriage is on a par with a disagreement over politics. If Vicky Beeching wants to disagree with her parents – and vice versa – fair enough. But that’s not a conversation that can be dropped and pretend all is ok. It’s not. Dropping the conversation is emotionally devastating for all.

  • Darryl Stringer

    Nate: Would you call it love to give someone who is dying of cancer a “sugar
    pill” and pretend like everything is okay?! How cruel and cold!! Yet
    this is exactly what we are doing when we positively affirm the “faith”
    of someone who is a practicing sinner.

    To positively affirm the “faith” of someone who is a practicing sinner
    is to make a mockery of the sacrifice of Christ at the Cross.

    Of course, this is something that afflicts us all as followers of Christ – we all sin, daily.

  • http://exclusionandembrace.blogspot.com/ rob g

    Zach, thanks for your thoughtful comments on Vicky’s coming out, and especially the emphasis on real and mutual love and acceptance.

    Wendy Gritter addresses this in detail in her book Generous Spaciousness: Responding to Gay Christians in the Church. She also applies the concept of “disputable matters” to the question of same-sex relationships, as an alternative to the over-emphasis and demonization which so many put on this matter. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it.
    http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/generous-spaciousness/349140

    Best regards,

    rob g

  • Darach Conneely

    “inflamed with lust for one another do what is shameful and ought not to be done” -Romans 1:26-28
    Now you just have to show that this applies to loving and committed same sex couples and not just the context Paul used it in, people combining idolatry with orgiastic sex and heterosexuals in these pagan revels exchanging their heterosexual practices to indulge in homosexual acts.

  • Jeff Preuss

    How utterly disingenuous and condescending of you to speak for what constitutes a true Christian.

    I personally hold myself accountable to Scriptures every day – the teachings of Jesus guide my life.

    My faith is no less legitimate than yours because I do not adhere to YOUR standards of what is right. I do not point our YOUR sins and state that clearly you are not a “true” Christian.

    Signed – a gay Christian, completely at peace with being gay and at peace with my Lord and Savior for over 20 years now. It’s not an issue; it just is.

  • http://zhoag.com/ zhoag

    Yes, hoping to read/review the book on the blog soon!

  • Nate Carey

    No matter how much we attempt to dignify or beautify same-sex unions, the tenor of Scripture in both the Old and New Testament is consistently opposed to the practice of homosexuality of any shape or form. Scripture does not offer any exception clause as to whether or not it is practiced within the context of a loving and committed relationship. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 is quite clear on the issue……”Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived, neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God”……

  • Nate Carey

    Darryl,

    How then would you explain 1 John 3:8-9 “…..Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God……”

  • Alexander Winston

    If they think something is wrong with you then they don’t love you. It doesn’t matter. Blood means little to nothing when fully examined. What matters is you find a family of your own that loves you.

  • Darryl Stringer

    Nate: Do you still sin, ever?

    And what do you make of Billy Graham’s quote:

    “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to love.”

    How do you think that might apply to gay and lesbian Christians?

  • Nate Carey

    If you think I’m saying I have no sin, you’re missing my point. Of course we all sin. But my sin is not something I can be at peace with. This is the mark of a true child of God!

    “…….God deals with us as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline in which all have participated, you are illegitimate children and not sons…..” Hebrews 12:7-8

  • Darach Conneely

    The word used in 1Cor 6:9, arsenokoites is a pretty obscure word to use to bind homosexuals to a life of loneliness and celibacy. It certainly has something to do with homosexual sex, but the evidence from the other places it was used suggests the world spoke of homosexual activity in the context of economic exploitation or violence. Paul is talking about violent and exploitative homosexual acts, not the the loving consensual sex of a committed same sex couple. The tenor of scripture is one that takes us from law to grace, from a religion based on following rules and regulations to a life based on sacrificial love. Same sex couples fulfill the new Law of the Spirit.

    Rom 13:9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

  • Eliel Cruz

    Zach,

    This story seems like co-opting Vicky’s coming out. LGBT people’s coming out isn’t always a teaching moment and especially not one for you to use to promote third way (which i’m actually a supporter of).

    I’m curious to know what your background is with the LGBT community.

    What work do you do with the LGBT community? And when critiqued on twitter, why do you block LGBT people who have criticisms of your posts?

  • http://www.registeredrunaway.com/ Benjamin Moberg

    I think you can and are capable of doing better Zach. I feel exploited, as perhaps many of queer brothers and sisters do, when you write about issues of faith and sexuality without actually listening to those in the LGBTQ community. I’ve seen far too many bloggers use the LGBTQ conversation as content and click-bait and it’s super frustrating when you write without listening to our concerns/criticisms.

  • http://zhoag.com/ zhoag

    I hear you Alexander. I’m just trying to respect and trust Vicky’s own words.

  • http://zhoag.com/ zhoag

    Thanks for commenting over here :). And I’m sorry the post comes across that way to you. I will definitely do my best to avoid that tone or impression in the future. Coopting is not my intent at all.

    My intent really is to name what I think Vicky is demonstrating as a hopeful future for a divided (& often harmful) church. “Third way” is a name, but it’s not the name or even the best name necessarily (esp as it has a negative connotation in some circles). The intent is simply people who disagree on an “issue” to come together around love.

    My work is in the church, & my posts come from that perspective. My desire is to see the affirming, non-affirming, & LGBT people in the congregations I’ve served able to live in mutual love & respect with a genuine practice of inclusion.

    On your last point, I have boundaries online just like in real life. They pertain to anyone, & have been used far more with white straight males than anyone else. But I have the right to keep those boundaries in my spaces. Peace.

  • http://zhoag.com/ zhoag

    Ben, I am truly sorry you feel that way. Others have expressed a very different impression & haven’t felt exploited at all. But I have listened/am listening.

    Unfortunately the conversation can escalate, as you know, and can deteriorate into attacks and harassment. I won’t stand for that, from anyone. I’ve said this before.

    That said, I will certainly aim to do better in how I write about these things in the future. I want to avoid the impression of coopting for sure. Appreciate you coming here to express your thoughts.

  • Darryl Stringer

    Nate: Firstly, what about those sins that you don’t consider significant but are still sins? Are you envious of others, are there things you covet, are you unwilling to let go of some of your possessions, are you hospitable at all times? Those of us within the evangelical church are well aware of the ‘big’ sins, but a lot of us seem happy to live with the little sins, oblivious and completely at peace with them because we don’t even acknowledge these ‘little’ sins.

    Secondly, are there things you do that you’re okay with, but which other Christians consider sinful? Maybe they could even show you a passage in Scripture, but you might brush it off by saying, “Yes, but the context …” or “The original Greek actually says …”. Perhaps that is the case with gay Christians, many of whom have done significant study into the context and the original language of the well-known passages that speak of homosexuality, and decided that the Bible does not consider their actions to be sinful. They are at peace with it, after much prayerful consideration. Perhaps you’ve done similar things with other sins, which some Christians might feel very guilty about but you have no problem with them.

  • Eliel Cruz

    Both to me and Ben you gave non apologies of “I’m sorry you felt that way.” That’s not an apology.

    Coming out is something you’ll never understand and incredibly difficult task. This shouldn’t be used as anyone’s talking point.

    You have no actual work specifically relating to the LGBT community, and are not apart of the community, but don’t find it necessary to listen to those of us who have concerns. I’m not only queer but have run a 501 c 3 for 4 years now creating safe spaces for LGBT people in the church around the country.

    I did not personally attack you, simply asked you questions and you set boundaries for me like i’m a threat to you which is insulting.

    You’re not listening Zach and until you’re ready to listen you shouldn’t be writing about our community.

  • Hannah

    Every human I love has stuff wrong with them, – whether it’s just wrong in my opinion/paradigm or in something more objective like psychology or health, etc. – precisely because they are human. It doesn’t follow that someone has to think everything about you is right and perfect to love you. That’s where I believe third way – in many, many issues/views, not just LGBTQ ones – is hopeful: Imperfect, disagreeing human beings loving each other. We don’t have to remake everyone into our own image to get along or love one another.
    And good grief, I sure hope I’m able to be loved by others while having stuff wrong with me! I’ll never be perfect. But that’s how God loves all of us: Wrong stuff and problems and hangups included. And that’s how he wants us to love each other.

  • http://zhoag.com/ zhoag

    Great perspective Hannah, thanks for that.

  • Hannah

    Hoorah for setting personal boundaries! Healthy thing to do. I’m a big fan of boundaries. :)

  • http://zhoag.com/ zhoag

    likewise :).

  • http://www.emilytimbol.com/ emilytimbol

    Zach, I follow you on Twitter and have engaged and read your stuff before, so as someone who knows your intentions – can you please answer some questions that have been asked of you by some of my friends in the LGBT community? I ask this with respect and peace.

    1) Why have you deleted some of their comments on your posts? You’ve said you won’t engage with “disrespectful” comments, but can you define what that is? I’ve seen many criticisms from people that did not involve personal attacks/cursing/or threats that you have dismissed so I’m not sure what that means to you.

    2) Do you think you’re being fair when it comes to critiques – of which by now there’s been many – from LGBT people about the tone and content of your posts, that are supposed to be from an ally perspective?

    3) Do you think it’s important to listen to people in the LGBT community when they have concerns about your writing?

    4) Why do you choose to disengage/block certain people who have disagreed with you?

    Like I said on Twitter I think that maybe a blog post answering these questions, with an open comment section – where nothing gets deleted – could be really good. If your goal in these posts is to do good work in the church for LGBT people then you have to listen to them – even if (especially if) they’re angry. Does that make sense?

  • http://zhoag.com/ zhoag

    Emily, I’ve already answered these questions in previous comments (see: boundaries). If you’d like to talk about the actual post you’re commenting on, I’d be happy to :).

  • jtheory

    I don’t think we can afford boundaries in this case, not when the lgbt critiques of our “ally-ship” are so important to how we engage as allies. How can we be truly engaging in conversation with those we are supposed to be learning from if we are creating boundaries around ourselves? I know you continue to point back to this post, but the reality is this is a larger conversation that very much has to do with the main theme of this post, that being how we practice Third Way if we’re going to practice it. Love listens. Love takes critique, even angry critique, love doesn’t co-opt stories and experiences that are not our own, etc.

  • jtheory

    I’ve been trying to think about how to approach this post in specific.

    I can point to something that happened in my own life.

    My father was a teacher at Regent University, and a student before. He was very integral in the Divinity Department of Regent, and known by many of the higher ups and admins of the different departments. Was even sort of a personal acquaintance of Robertson’s.

    When he committed suicide several students came forward wishing to discuss the more theological points of suicide; is it a sin? was my Dad in hell? etc. There was understandably a huge amount of unrest in the school community, especially since at least two other people had committed suicide in the short space of time.

    So, in an effort to answer questions, and just generally discuss my father’s actions, Robertson and the Divinity Department chose to have a question/answer session which they invited my stepmom and me to. As I sat there, very uncomfortably, listening to these men discuss my father’s actions, which I had wished to remain a private matter, it could be easily argued that what they were doing was something that needed to be done for the larger community. But the reality is they didn’t own my dad’s story. Neither did I really, but I am not sure my dad would have been comfortable either having his story used. And they even came to the conclusion that Dad is in heaven/did not sin, but it still felt very wrong.

    Your intention here is great. Discuss the love engendered from Beeching’s coming out. But her story is not yours to use to do that. Even if it’s public knowledge.

    Later my dad’s actions, and the subsequent session ended up in the Virginian Pilot, and became common household discussion I’m sure around many tables, but I wanted it to not be. It wasn’t their right. And it hurt. I didn’t care about intentions or even if good things came from it. I had a right to share that story because it was my father, and I have, but I did not feel like anyone else did, and no one asked me.

    Coming out is a hugely personal decision, and it’s incredibly troubling that so many are using Beeching as a way to create traction for ideologies that aren’t even created by lgbt people, but by the privileged unmarginalized church authority wishing for lgbt people to meet them on their terms and not lgbt ones.

    Am I angry at Regent? A little. Do I forgive em? Sure, dad woulda so I do too. He loved those people and they loved him. But they did do him wrong by using his personal tragedy for their gain.

    And when it comes to clicks, using stories of lgbt people to promote ideologies does benefit and give you gain. Even the fact that you’ve asked any lgbt critiques to focus them here gives you gain. But was Beeching’s story yours to gain from? Or Third Way’s? No. The story is hers and hers alone to share with who she desires. We can talk about the public square all we want but I hope that we are sensitive to the nature of how hugely personal these stories are, and listen instead of speak.

    That’s really all I have to say.

  • jtheory

    p.s. healthy boundaries are good, don’t want to be seen as speaking against that. but i just wanna say be careful using that language as it really has more to do with people triggering trauma, or ptsd situations than just “i don’t like feeling disrespected so I’m gonna create boundaries against that.”

    you will earn respect by listening to, validating and growing from even responses that make you feel disrespected.

  • http://zhoag.com/ zhoag

    Vicky was just fine with this post. She is obviously wanting this to be very public and discussed, as she’s done several interviews. My comments have been no different from others, entirely respectful, and accurate to her primary message of love amidst disagreement. And if pageviews are a problem, you’d be indicting the entire practice of writing on the Internet, and that’s fine if you want to do that. And that’s all I have to say, too :).

  • http://zhoag.com/ zhoag

    Quick warning to commenters: stay on the topic of Vicky’s story and message, which is what this post is about. Here’s the comment policy, just in case: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/zhoag/2014/05/10/comment-policy/

  • pagansister

    It saddens me when the beliefs of any faith/religion has members who are having to live as gay or lesbian in secret because of the faith they belong to. Vicky’s parents have accepted who she is, which is certainly a good thing BUT they cannot change their idea that it is still wrong somehow. (If I read correctly).


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