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.
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.”
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.”