The Apology (written for the Church of Wales, September 2015)
I still remember the dread of seeing my Godmother’s number flash up on my phone, and the sinking feeling of wondering what on earth she was going to say.
It hadn’t been an easy few weeks. I had told my parents the “devastating news” a couple of weeks before, and had then sent a letter detailing the reasons behind my decision to all my past Archbishops’ Council colleagues, close friends and family. I had had quite a range of responses, and some deafening silences.
“Apologise for what, Aunty?” I tentatively asked the woman who was my mother’s sister and closest confident, and who I knew had been speaking to her about “it” ever since I had told them “the news”.
“Darling, we’ve always known, ever since you were a little girl, I just wish we’d had the courage to speak to you about it sooner and not let you suffer so.”
I crumbled, and from somewhere deep down in my core came a low moan that turned into a heart wrenching cry….I doubled up, and let years of silent tears flow. Putting the phone down I felt a mix of emotions surge through me – from waves of gratitude for this wonderful woman, who in her kindness had poured such healing balm on raw wounds caused by the onslaught of so many recent harsh words, to a burning anger that made me want to scream “Why on earth didn’t you tell me? I’ve been battling with accepting who I am for the past 40 years – and it’s nearly cost me my life, twice!”
And then I felt it yet again, that warm surge of liquid gold that floods through every vein, moving steadily from head to toe – that familiar feeling of being overwhelmed by something so completely good. A Holy Spirit Hug. Out of nowhere I was reminded of that wonderful Matt Redmond song:
Oh, no you never let go, in every high and every low – even when I’m caught in the middle of the storms of this life. I will fear no evil, for my God is with me. And if my God is with me, whom then shall I fear?
That said, sometimes it does indeed feel that God has let us go. I remember sharing this once with a “dear Christian friend”, who trying to be helpful had said “ah yes, but think of the Footprints story - that’s when God is carrying you”. I must admit I’ve never got so near wanting to hit someone as I did then! You see, sometimes we do just feel abandoned – and we scream: “My God, My God, Why have You forsaken me?”
I know because that’s precisely how I had felt during years of failed deliverance ministry, courses and counselling. I felt it even more so when I determined to embrace that fact that I was doomed to be single for the rest of my life. Surely I had done all that God had required of me – so why did I feel so depressed, sad, alone and in desperate need of someone significant in my life? Why couldn’t God give me the grace to cope? My body too had found it impossible – landing me twice in hospital with undiagnosed crippling pain for which there appeared to be no diagnosis. In the end my doctors determined it had to be stress related.
Finally then, after years of failed prayer which left me feeling crushed by shame and guilt, I decided that the only option left to me was to do the one thing I had never previously countenanced. Somehow I needed to find the courage to fully embrace who I knew I truly was and am - a Christian evangelical who is attracted to women. Miraculously, shortly after doing so I met the most wonderful partner, whose love completely transformed my life – the fruit of which even my most sceptic critics couldn’t fail to see.
At the same time I started to pour over the scriptures again – paramount amongst which were the “clobber verses” which I had read thousands of times. However, this time it was different. This time I determined to ask God to help me to see them in His light. I asked Him to send me people who could help me read them afresh – and so He did. From priests on a plane, recommending me books out of the blue, to bishops in the House of Lords reminding me that “by the grace of God I am who I am”. I met some other gay Christians, and began to realise that I was not – as I had sadly feared – the only gay Christian out there.
God is Love. Period. He sent His Son, the Incarnate Word, to bear witness to this amazing truth. Jesus spent his life taking on people who felt they knew the Bible better than he did, and who certainly believed they were adhering to it more than He was. What He constantly sought to do, however, was to remind them why the scriptures they held so dear had been written in the first place – to point to Him, the bringer of Good News. Christ is our way, our truth and our life - He is our Living Gospel, who heals the sick, binds up the wounds of the broken hearted, and brings us hope. Indeed, in Him is life, and life in all its fullness.
So my question is – what would it take for you to look, as I did, at the scriptures in a new way and countenance for a moment that there might be a different interpretation to texts you’ve never previously questioned? Is it witnessing the pain and trauma of a loved one who is struggling with all of this, and wondering what Christ’s Good News can be for them? Perhaps you feel you need a Holy Spirit revelation? If so, have you asked for one? Or maybe it’s a statement from a leader you respect? If so, how have you reacted to those who have changed their mind and given sound biblically based arguments for doing so?
I too could give some in-depth expositions of scripture, which would start by explaining how we are meant to read scripture in context. I could talk about the fact that the concept of homosexual orientation (as opposed to activity) is a relatively recent phenomenon, and that I don’t see myself reflected in Romans 1. I could expound on the central theme of Genesis 2 (found right at the start of our Holy Book) and share the importance of God providing a “help-mate” for Adam. Someone who would complete him and meet his deepest human need - not to be alone. A need, by the way, which God recognises He alone cannot meet.
I’m not sure that arguing over different interpretations of scripture however will truly get us anywhere – theologians have been doing this for years. What I’d far rather do is ask you to look at the abundance of fruit that comes from loving, stable, committed and faithful same-sex relationships and weigh this honestly and truthfully against the heart ache and pain of those who are feeling rejected and judged by the Church.
By their fruits you shall know them – and know them indeed.