God bless you, Vicky Beeching

For those of you who are thinking ‘Vicky who?’ let me give some brief background.

Vicky Beeching – acclaimed Christian singer-songwriter, worship leader, Oxbridge-qualified theologian, contributor to BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day programme. Currently in her mid-thirties, Vicky has long been one of the bright stars of the charismatic evangelical rock-worship scene, and her albums have sold millions worldwide, particularly in the US.

As an aside, in all of this Vicky Beeching has represented many of the things I myself once aspired to. I’ve long been a worship leader in a similar tradition to hers; I’ve written a number of songs; I’m passionately interested in theology. Don’t tell anyone, but secretly I might well have been tempted to envy her the success, the popularity and the song royalties.

Then just a few weeks ago Vicky announced to the world, via an interview in the UK’s Independent newspaper, that she was (and always had been) homosexual. Unsurprisingly, all hell broke loose in the Christian world – or at least the charismatic evangelical world of which she was such a well-known and well-loved part. And sadly, but again unsurprisingly, many in the church were quick to attack and criticise her, to write her off as a sinner and deceiver, and to consign both her and her musical back catalogue to the garbage.

St Vicky…

Meanwhile Vicky’s response has been unfailingly gracious, thoughtful and Christian – I would go so far as to say Christlike. She has refused to respond with anything but grace to the venom and prejudice directed at her by so many fellow Christians. She has refused to give up on the church, though parts of it have given up on her. She has spoken out calmly, reasonably, rationally, intelligently and with great dignity.

To my mind Vicky Beeching has emerged from this unenviable situation little short of saintlike. I’d guess she must have suffered considerably through this whole episode, both emotionally and financially. I know she has suffered physically – the stress of concealing her sexuality led to a life-threatening auto-immune condition in which her body started attacking itself, soft tissue turning into scar tissue. (As I understand it, it was this in the end that led to her decision to come out publicly, to stop concealing and repressing the truth of her sexuality. You might even be tempted to wonder whether, just maybe, God might have forced her hand.)

Unity in uncertainty

I still can’t honestly say that I’m sure for myself on the whole homosexual question. I don’t know for certain whether all (or any) homosexual orientation is innate. I don’t know whether any form of homosexual relationships can ever be ‘okay’ in Christian terms. My strong personal feeling now is that it can, but I don’t know.

What I do know is that I’m in no position to judge, condemn or write off anyone on the basis of their sexuality, or of the choices they make before God according to their own conscience and understanding.

And what I also know is that people like Vicky Beeching – fellow flawed human beings doing their best to follow Christ – need and deserve our full support and kindness, not rejection or condemnation. We can still have fellowship in our difference, and unity in our uncertainty.

God’s paradox – power in weakness

There’s also a profound irony and paradox in this whole situation to my way of thinking – which suggests God’s hand in it, because God is nothing if not a God of profound irony and paradox.

Vicky Beeching is a highly talented, intelligent, successful person who has dedicated all her considerable gifts to God’s service over the years, to general acclaim and doubtless to great effect. She has had a highly successful international ministry which has probably impacted countless people’s lives for good.

Yet (and here is the irony and paradox) it may well be in her brokenness that she is of greatest service to God. It may well be in this very public and painful situation which was not of her making or choosing that God uses her most powerfully. Her most enduring legacy to the church and the world may arise from what for years she was taught to view as shameful and unacceptable.

I think there’s an important truth in this for each of us. Many of us may secretly hanker after the kind of successful career or ministry Vicky Beeching has had up till now – whether because we want to serve God in the most effective way, or simply because we’re attracted to the money, acclaim and popularity. (It may well be a bit of both.) And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being successful in using our God-given talents.

But God does seem to like to do things in upside-down, expectation-confounding, convention-upsetting ways. He seems to enjoy working precisely how we would never imagine or choose. ‘My power is made perfect in your weakness’ is a favourite motto of his. So rather than it being our great successes and gifts that God most wants to use, it may well be our weakness and woundedness, our areas of brokenness and rejection, of shame and pain and humiliation.

Even with Jesus we can see this to be the case. Jesus had the most amazing ministry of healing and teaching that the world has ever seen. Yet it was in his final few hours of utter humiliation and loss, of rejection and agony, that he truly changed the world. I believe that there is much more to Christ than just the cross, and I no longer subscribe to evangelical understandings of the atonement; but I’m convinced that the cross of Christ is in some way central to the redemption of the cosmos and all humanity.

All in this together

Of course, Vicky Beeching is human like the rest of us, flawed like the rest of us. I’ve no wish to make her into a plaster saint. But the point is that she is no more flawed than the rest of us. For sure, we shouldn’t put her (or anyone else) on a pedestal, but nor can we put her (or anyone else) in a cage marked ‘bad Christian’ or ‘fallen woman’ where we can dismiss and condemn and scapegoat her.

We’re all a mess in different ways, and we’re all in this messy world together. Together we can also be part of the redemption of the world, but only by acknowledging our own flaws and not trying to put them onto other people who we dislike or disagree with, who we think are the problem. The problem is always us; the solution always starts with ourselves.

Which also means, annoyingly, that I can’t just dismiss and condemn those who have reacted so negatively to Vicky Beeching’s story. I disagree with them, but I can’t afford to judge them. There but for the grace of God go I.

I remember when the highly-regarded evangelical minister and Bible expositor Roy Clements came out as gay about 15 years ago and started arguing that homosexual relationships were okay for Christians. At the time I was convinced he had gone badly wrong and was leading others astray with false, unbiblical teaching. Now I’m far less certain; I think it was probably me that was wrong – certainly in my attitude, if not in my thinking.

Saving evangelicals?

So I applaud and marvel at Vicky’s decision to remain within the evangelical church, a decision which seems to me both courageous and generous-hearted. The evangelical church desperately needs the presence and support of people like Vicky; needs voices and stories like hers. And maybe, just maybe, through people like her, the upcoming generation of evangelicals will be more open to diversity and difference. Maybe, just maybe, Vicky Beeching is God’s ambassador and apostle to the evangelical church.

Vicky Beeching used to lead worship at Soul Survivor and New Wine; it may perhaps be too much to hope that these organisations will welcome her back again in this capacity. But maybe one day that won’t be such an impossible dream.

I have to admit I’ve never bought one of Vicky Beeching’s albums, and I don’t know many of her songs. I have a feeling that much of the theology they express would be too conservative for my current tastes. But still, I’m half wondering whether to buy one now anyway, as an act of solidarity and support.

You’ll probably never read this, but God bless you, Vicky Beeching.

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About TheEvangelicalLiberal

Aka Harvey Edser. I'm a web editor, worship leader, wannabe writer, very amateur composer and highly unqualified armchair theologian. My heroes include C.S. Lewis and Homer Simpson.
This entry was posted in Evangelicalism, Homosexuality, Sex and sexuality, World events and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to God bless you, Vicky Beeching

  1. jesuswithoutbaggage says:

    Evan, I tweeted this to Vicky Beeching, but she gets lots of tweets so there is no way to know if she will see it.

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  2. Peter Harding says:

    Oh please!!! I respect Vicky Beeching’s coming out, but this article is little short of sycophantic! I can think of far more Christlike and less narcissistic people than her!

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    • Thanks for your comment – I think 😉 I intended no sycophancy, merely genuine respect and admiration – I’ve been very moved by VB’s story and impressed by how she’s handled what a highly difficult and painful situation. And I’ve seen no evidence of narcissism on her part.

      As I said, I don’t wish to put her on a pedestal – of course she’s flawed like the rest of us. But I think how she’s acted in this situation is worthy of support and praise, not the vilification she’s received at the hands of many in the church.

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  3. smellofburntwiggle says:

    When you say that “it may be to much to hope that organiations like New Wine and Soul Survivor might welcome Vicky Beeching back some day” I think it impllies that she has let them down or ‘fallen’ in some way…when I suspect you are actually making a comment on those organisations’ homophobia?
    Hats off to her for her courageous honesty and authenticity.

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    • Oh dear, that shows how careful you always have to be with words and how easy it is to give the wrong impression! I totally didn’t mean to imply that VB had done anything wrong or had ‘failed’ New Wine somehow – quite the contrary. It was simply that I’d be willing to bet that New Wine’s current stance regarding homosexuality would preclude them from inviting her back to lead worship – a stance which they would doubtless want to call ‘biblical’ and others might wish to call ‘homophobic’ (though I’m not sure that would be entirely fair).

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  4. Chas says:

    This reminds me of an encounter with the partner of a person who had worked at the same place as my wife. The partners were a lesbian couple and they eventually made their relationship even more open by entering into a Civil Partnership (in UK this is a contractual commitment which will, in time, be replaced by the now legal homosexual marriage). My wife and I went to their celebrations in the evening. Some time later, the partner in question asked me how I was able to reconcile my beliefs with she and her partner being lesbians, as she had been subjected to hostility and condemnation in her church, for being lesbian, when she was much younger. At that time, I was less experienced to answer her than I would be now, but I told her that in two places in Leviticus in which it dealt with male homosexuality and bestiality in men and women, lesbianism was not mentioned: in fact it was very notably absent where it ought to have been present. I had therefore concluded that there was no condemnation of lesbianism in the Bible. She was surprised, but accepted what I had said.

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    • Hi Chas, that’s an interesting answer, and I congratulate you for being non-condemnatory in an informed way! I’d be interested to know how you might respond to a similar situation now, given your altered views on the Bible’s inspiration/inerrancy?

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      • Chas says:

        It would depend on what God wanted to say to the person, because their approach would open many potential opportunities. If God wanted that, I would first explain that everything in the universe has always been separated from Him, and that He gave us His Son Jesus, and that by accepting this we come out of separation into the Presence of God. This is the Good News as I understand it. Only when we have come into the Presence of God can we avoid doing things that might lead to suffering.

        Alternatively, I might be required to explain the feelings of a male friend (we have now lost touch, but that is another story) who was attracted to men. This seemed to have its origins in his childhood, because his mother had separated from his father early in his life, so that he did not know his real father. His mother, who he said often went out drinking and might even have been a prostitute, had taken on another man as her partner and, when she was out this man had sexually abused the boy. To complicate the matter, this man was the only one who had ever seemed to care about him and he had mistaken this for love. Eventually this man committed suicide, so the boy had lost the only one who seemed to care for him. With considerable difficulty he told me, and also separately a mutual friend, about this and it made no difference to our friendship. We understood why he felt as he did. It also helped me to see that to condemn somebody who had homosexual feelings would only add to the suffering that they had already endured.

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        • Thanks Chas – that sounds like a pastorally-sensitive, Christ-centred approach. I guess we all just have to find our own ways to address situations like this based on our own current understandings, experiences and consciences (or, as you would probably say, based on listening to God).

          I think it’s certainly good to base what we say on personal experience, such as yours with your friend who had homosexual feelings. Of course we can’t necessarily extrapolate from this to assume that all people with gay feelings or orientation have had similar causes or backgrounds, but it’s a useful starting point for discussion.

          I don’t think I’ve yet engaged properly with your idea about everything being separated from God originally. It’s an interesting idea, and I can see why you find it helpful. I might try and look at it in more depth in a post sometime… though probably in the far-off future!

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          • Chas says:

            Yes, I would say that. I would also say that the two incidents of interaction with gay people was to give me understanding of their experiences so that understanding could be passed on to others. I agree that it would be bad practice to extrapolate to all other circumstances from this one example, but I also believe that it might be difficult for someone who had had such an experience to talk about it, or even think about it.

            In regard to everything being separated from God originally, this fits better than the idea of God separating people from Himself because they have sinned, and then making provision for their rescue by belief in Jesus as His Son. This second option is to do with punishment and would mean that God caused certain suffering, rather than minimising it by avoiding it wherever possible. The minimisation of suffering is actually a very useful concept, because it causes you to look at things differently, often coming at them from the opposite direction.

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          • Chas says:

            As a postscript, I must add that my comment was not Christ-centred, since I do not believe that Jesus was the Christ. My reason for this belief is that the Messiah was only a mythical figure in the Judaic scriptures. Much of the Gospels was written to support the supposition that he was the Christ, not least of which was the supposed crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. It is not necessary to believe in either of these to be in the Presence of God.

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            • I think that’s one we’ll have to agree to disagree on! 🙂

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            • I’m interested to know more about where your thinking comes from re the Messiah only being a mythical figure in the Judaic scriptures, and Jesus not being the Christ. Also, when you say ‘the supposed crucifixion and resurrection’, does that mean you’re not convinced that these events took place?

              To me, Jesus’s identity as the Christ/Messiah is pretty much central, one of the very few tenets of faith I feel I couldn’t lose without ceasing to have a meaningful faith (which is not to say it has to be the same for you). And two of the others I also couldn’t lose would be the crucifixion and resurrection.

              Not only the Gospels but the entire New Testament is based around the idea of Jesus as Christ and/or Messiah – a quick search on BibleGateway for either term highlights that the concept permeates from beginning to end, and as a central rather than peripheral idea.

              I could agree to the extent that the Messiah is, in some sense, originally a mythical figure in Jewish thought – but to me that myth is God-inspired, and Jesus fulfils the myth and makes it a vital living reality.

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            • Chas says:

              Harvey, you are right, I do not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, as the Messiah is just a myth. For me, the truth centres on Jesus being the Son of God, not the Messiah. His being the Son of God is the central belief that brings us out of being separated from God and into His Presence. The crucifixion and resurrection were written trying to ‘prove’ that Jesus was the Messiah, because of the suffering servant in Isiah 53 (which Jewish authorities do not recognise as applying to the Messiah) and the assumption that Jesus would have to return to his Father in Heaven, having come down from Him there, as the Messiah was supposed to do. Jesus did not fulfil a number of the characteristics that the Messiah was supposed to fulfil, and that is why it is very difficult for Jewish people to hold on to belief in Jesus as the Messiah. Resurrection was invented in an attempt to understand the afterlife, which is just the continuation of consciousness. How many other people has it been claimed have been resurrected and gone up to Heaven; that is what we would expect if Jesus was our pattern. I have not experienced any substantial change by no longer believing in the crucifixion and resurrection. All I have experienced, through understanding that all of the Bible was written by men, has been a liberation, although I still recognise that it can be a useful source from which to draw truth, as God leads me.

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  5. I don’t know anything about Vicky or this situation. And I can’t speak to reactions to it, even in the USA where I live (So. Calif. to be specific). But some of what you refer to IS quite familiar to situations I know of, small and “large” (or widely publicized, involving many people). There IS a lot of “homophobia” in Christian circles (or what may be called “homoignorance” leading to assumptions and judgmentalism). My main call for accountability is to pastors, denominational leaders, all kinds of Christian therapists, social workers and such. Especially the church leaders have a major responsibility to study and come to understand the nature of homosexuality, the psychological dynamics of it within individuals and society. THEN they have a responsibility to counsel accordingly and to preach/teach more godly responses to the issues (even if they don’t see it as always “inborn”) and support a humble, studious approach among their lay people and society more broadly. Is this not in the valid realm of being pastor of a “flock”?

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    • smellofburntwiggle says:

      OOh thank you I like the word “Homoignorance”, I think tis more constructive and conducive to non-defensive dialogue.

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    • Chas says:

      To be fair to those in the churches who are homophobic, this is the position that they must take if they believe that the Bible is the Word of God/inspired by God.

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      • I take your point and agree to an extent – those evangelicals and others who feel they cannot affirm homosexual behaviour/relationships are often doing so on the basis of what they believe God to be saying through the Bible.

        However, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this is the position they ‘must’ take, even if they believe in the total divine inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. There are many alternative ways of reading the Bible even for evangelicals, and there is considerable variation in interpretation of all sorts of issues – creationism, the role of women, abortion, etc – based on different understandings of key Bible passages.

        The same applies to homosexuality – even if you take a very high view of Scripture, the actual verses in their original languages are not necessarily clear and unequivocal, and they need to be read in context. The Old Testament ones can be dealt with in much the same way as the Old Testament food laws and restrictions on wearing clothes woven from more than one kind of material, none of which evangelicals any longer see as applying to Christians. And the New Testament passages use words which can be interpreted in other ways than referring to faithful, monogamous same-sex relationships.

        As I said to Howard, evangelicals have changed their views on all sorts of issues which the Bible appears to speak clearly to – divorce and remarriage would be a relevant case in point. So to my view there is a degree of homophobia (albeit unrealised and unintentional) in the refusal to budge at all on this one issue.

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        • Chas says:

          Your reply raises another question, because even quite ‘high view’ interpreters of scripture discard bits of it, yet the same scriptures seem to say that you accept it all or reject it all (in the book of James, i think).

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          • Hi Chas, that’s interesting – I think the passage you mean is this one:

            “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself,’ you are doing right. But if you show favouritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as law-breakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘You shall not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a law-breaker.” (James 2:8-10)

            I interpret that rather differently. To me it doesn’t mean that you have to either accept or reject the whole Bible, or every specific written command. Rather it’s that God’s ‘law’ (i.e. the way humans are designed to live) is a single entity, all of a piece. Furthermore, this complete package of ‘law’ is entirely founded on the principle of love. We don’t murder because murder cannot come out of love; we don’t commit adultery because adultery cannot come out of love.

            But of course, everyone who reads the Bible has to reject parts of it, because many of the Old Testament requirements are superseded by the New, and not every passage can (or is meant to) be read literally.

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            • Chas says:

              Harvey, your sentence ‘we don’t murder, because murder cannot come out of love; we don’t commit adultery because adultery cannot come out of love’ is an example that can be covered by the fact that both murder and adultery lead to suffering. It could also be argued that adultery often does come out of love: that is love which someone ought not to have let happen, but gave in to temptation. (On the other hand this might be attributed to lust rather than love; however it often leads on to love.This might be how God minimises the suffering in the case of adultery, by compensating for some of it through pleasure).

              How we interpret the Bible is dependent on what God wants us to understand from it at the time. I would question whether we were designed by God to live at one with Him, since we have to live in the world and deal with everything that it throws at us, unless we come into His Presence. Once we are in His Presence, we have to undergo a process of having the weaknesses of the world pruned from us and replaced with what God wants us to be. We have to co-operate with this process, or we become stuck at some point because we are unwilling to change further. (Perhaps because we imagine that going on would cause us too much pain). The ultimate goal, if we can reach it, would be to be at one with God.

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            • I agree with you about the ultimate goal of being at one with God, and co-operating in the process of pruning to get there. I also agree that coming into God’s presence is very important, though that can mean quite different things to different people.

              Where I think we differ a little is that (as I understand it) you see minimising suffering as the central principle, whereas to me that’s important but secondary. For me, suffering isn’t necessarily always bad, and is often an inevitable by-product of the process of redemption and restoration, which for me is the primary thing. I believe that God’s ultimate purpose is to bring about a redeemed, renewed, restored cosmos and humanity – which will hopefully include the removal of suffering, but for me that’s not the absolute key thing.

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            • PS I don’t think adultery does ever come out of real love – at least not love understood in a Jesus kind of way. It can come out of a selfish love, or an infatuation, but not out of a genuine commitment to the deepest wellbeing of all concerned, which is what God’s love means to me.

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    • Hi Howard, thank you for a very thoughtful, considered, balanced and pastorally-sensitive reply! I’m in complete agreement re church leaders.

      I too like the term ‘homoignorance’ – I certainly don’t think that all ‘non-affirming’ Christians are homophobic. But I do think there’s a lot of what I might call ‘homo-blindness’ – an unwillingness to see the other point of view, to acknowledge that there may be valid alternative readings of scripture or understandings of homosexuality.

      A fair few evangelicals have come a long way or have changed their minds on many supposedly ‘biblical’ issues – ordination of women, slavery of course, and even in a sense abortion (that’s another story!). But on this one issue there seems to be a lot of resistance, as though the church is digging in its heels for fear it loses its identity or position.

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      • Thanks, Harvey. Yes, “digging in its heels” seems fitting. When it comes to this or anything dealing with sex and sexual morality, not just Christianity but most people and religions (institutionally) have lots of not-so-rational reactions. Some do make some surface psychological sense, others seem to belong to the “deep subconscious”. Most of us can’t understand what is “down” there and how it so powerfully drives feelings and opinions. But Freud was onto at least part of it… and others in the psychoanalytic tradition (or at least “psychodynamic” if not fully Freudian) have taken it further. But, of course, most of conservative Xnty is suspicious of “psychosexual stages”, the power of repression, and other insights of Freud, to say the least. (Some deny virtually all of “secular” psychology… VERY unfortunate). I say all this from “inside” knowledge, having trained and worked a dozen years in professional counseling and therapy simultaneously with church ministry, teaching “Christian psychology”, training Christian lay counselors, etc.

        Anyway… not sure how to stimulate further and faster change in terms of Christians’ (including pastors’ and leaders’) ignorance and avoidance of exploring the subconscious. But success in doing so could be a large step toward understanding both same-sex orientation and many people’s visceral reaction to it, often followed by scriptural or cultural justification for it. Maybe most people are afraid of exploring their OWN psychosexual development, and afraid that exploring the issues in more than just “moral” or societal terms might open up very uncomfortable feelings for THEM or put them in a potentially embarrassing position with someone(s). In which case Jesus’ saying should be invoked: “First take the beam (or mote) out of your own eye….”

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