The Vicky Beeching Affair

beecingI have to confess to having never heard of Vicky Beeching until about five days ago. Vicky is a Christian popular singer who has a massive following on both side of the Atlantic among Christians of a conservative persuasion. Last week in an interview with the Independent she declared that she was gay. Why the fuss when so many other prominent names in show business have followed the same path? But this particular ‘coming-out’ could have massive significance for the evangelical world as it struggles to make sense of this particular defection from the ‘clear’ path of Scripture.

In my perusal of the web-site, Thinking Anglicans, there was a fascinating vignette recorded about a meeting at Holy Trinity Brompton from about a year ago. An invited speaker, no doubt carefully vetted for his correct views, tried to get a reaction from his audience by talking about the evil in society for its tolerance of gay marriage. Instead of the sounds of approval for his upholding the teaching of scripture, the speaker was greeted with total silence. Are we in this small incident witnessing the end of the assumption that all evangelicals are totally united in condemning gay relationships? Is this the Ceacescu moment when suddenly the hitherto obedient crowd stop cheering their leaders?

Within the evangelical world there have been precious few issues on which all their constituent members agree on. The Evangelical Alliance in the UK has tried to give the impression that evangelicals have basic common understandings even though they differ radically about almost every theological issue under the sun. It has always been a point of joking that two fundamentalists on a desert island would build at least three churches. There would be one each for the fundamentalists and a third to be the church that would be the one that did not preach the gospel and could be the object of condemnation by the other two. The Evangelical Alliance does in fact have some ‘dodgy’ groups among its members who then proudly proclaim their membership as a sign of respectability. Occasionally certain groups are expelled for gross violations but it is only fairly rare. Recently the point of breaking with the Alliance has been over the gay issue. Steve Chalke, a highly respected evangelical leader, came out in support of gay relationships. His organisation, the Oasis Trust, immediately had its membership of the EA withdrawn. This action leads one to assume that the gay question is the point of departure between ‘acceptable’ evangelicals and the rest.

One watches this fault line within the evangelical world with enormous interest. If there is a breaking of ranks among evangelicals then that will be of enormous significance for everyone else. Hitherto the evangelical world has been able to present a fairly united front in spite of their many squabbles over doctrine. The gay issue has been the one thing that has been held up as being distinctively Christian for many of them. The bed and breakfast couple who went to court to defend their right to refuse hospitality to a gay couple, declared that to do so was against their Christian beliefs. For them and for many evangelical Christians, the Christian faith stands and falls on the acceptance of the condemnation of gay activity.

To return to Vicky Beeching. Her coming-out is a significant moment for the evangelical world on both sides of the Atlantic. At the age of 35 her popularity is likely to be great among the younger evangelical set. It has already been indicated that younger people, regardless of their religious beliefs, are more tolerant to the gay question than older people. Is it not possible that the Beeching affair is the beginning of the end of evangelical unity over this issue? We watch the fall-out from this story with interest. Meanwhile there is an intriguing footnote for Anglicans in the UK. Vicky is a close personal friend of one of the daughters of Justin Welby, the Archbishop. Presumably she is known to him personally. Is this incident going indirectly to cause a further shift in Anglican attitudes? The attitudes of many evangelicals all over the world, will be affected. That is a small mark on the journey that readers of this blog look for, an acceptance of difference, a greater tolerance and inclusivity in the church as well as in society as a whole.

9 comments

  1. Chris Pitts

    Again we see the cult of Christian celebrity pushing an issue “A popular issue’ into the arena of debate. I am not happy with this.
    If your name is Paul Jones, Cliff Richards or one of the many musician/performers married to the Christian music industry people will listen.

    Many others and I scream in the silence for the unimpeachably disempowered, many of who go hungry and are without shelter. The Gay issue is about personal preference, something that sadly the people that I see don’t have the time to exercise.

    Coming to the point about scripture. Even from my present agnosticism I can see a vast issue here. One is the great difference between Jesus and the God of the Old Testament. Evangelicals have been schooled on the assumption that they are the same, after all Jesus used the word ‘Abba’ ‘Father’?
    Many are locked into the belief that we are children in God’s sight, they talk of ‘child like faith’. This whole issue of gay rights and respect requires a very adult input; very awkward questions need to be raised. The American radical right wing bullies who go around with their banners about ‘ Fagots will burn’ seem oblivious to the fact that Hitler killed thousands of homosexual people.
    The Gospels seem somewhat silent on the issue, but strangely we see Jesus saying something about Sodom Matthew 11:20-24 that has a shadowy hopefulness.

    Now all of the above to me suggests a hell of a mess to me. We have to deal with misplaced emphasis on certain subjects. Again the word ‘Power’ enters into this, who is empowered to speak at any given time and who isn’t and why?

    I personally see no hopeful signs here.

    Peace, Chris

  2. EnglishAthena

    Well, you’re right that there are worse problems, Chris. But that doesn’t mean you can only concentrate on one at a time. We’d never finish! We need to address all the unkindnesses and prejudices as well as the bullying and abuse and cults and so on. We need a proper Christian faith. we can’t afford to be single issue, the other side are that.

  3. Chris Pitts

    Thanks English Athena, Thanks for really hearing what I’m saying. There are times when I think I’m talking to myself. As a child of the sixties, I will solemnly assure anyone that I’m not anti Gay, “All you need is love’ is my position on just about everything. If by the ‘Other side’ you mean spiritual deception (I see it all as brain police really) then darkness appearing as a Angel of light needs a lot more thought?
    Peace, Chris

  4. Stephen Parsons

    I think I ought to explain that my reason for posting about Vicky Beeching, was not an interest in celebrity,the gay issue or even what the Bible says on the matter. My concern is to point out that there is a massive amount of posturing which claims that the opinion of all sound Christians has to be, in effect, a position of homophobia. I wrote this last blog piece because it is topical and I only had 40 minutes to complete it. I resent being told by many Christians that the Bible ‘clearly states’ that homophobia is the correct position for Christians to take. I am hopeful that the the tyranny of opinion making (which is a form of abuse) will begin to falter as the differences of opinion among conservative Christians become more and more obvious. I believe that this story may be the ‘tipping point’ The event is small in its itself but the implications of it may start the revolution against the massive intellectual bullying by conservative leaders who, in effect, tell their followers what to think. What I think comes as the result of education and free discussion between people. I want that thinking and and discussion to be the birthright of all and to be as common among Christians. At present among many Christians, thinking seems to be a tribal matter rather an individual one. That is why I talked about Vicky Beeching. I glossed over another part of her story which was the way she herself had been subject to abuse in the form of exorcisms etc.

  5. Dick Davies

    I think Chris bringing us back to the issue of “Fame” in the Church is important – perhaps the subject of a whole new post.

    Personally when I read the piece in the Independant where Vicky came out I wept with her.

    There again that is a whole other issue.

    Stephen is pointing out the significance of “tribalism” – and that is a key issue – one that abusive leaders often seem to use as a lever to hold on to power (Stephen mentions intellectual bullying). Not sure what the answer is to that. It is certainly not helpful to make unequivocal statements like “The Bible Says…”. Ironically, one of the worst people I have heard in this regard is Richard Dawkins (though he argues from “Science” of course).

  6. Chris Pitts

    Thank You Stephen, I see the reason you posted this blog. I am motivated by a strange despair most of the time. For me there will always exist a stilted overview of ‘Need’ that produces tunnel vision.
    “That hollow place where mothers weep and angels play with sin”
    ( Bob Dylan)
    “Their ghosts, if tears have ghosts, did fail that day” (Edward Thomas) Hopefully these quotes hint at this where words fail.

    Peace, Chris

  7. David Pennant

    I was angered and upset by this article, so I have allowed a week to pass before responding.
    Stephen is highly intolerant of those who are highly intolerant, yet says he wants a church marked by greater tolerance. There’s an inconsistency here.
    Tolerance is a modern idea rather than a scriptural one. Tolerance is not a virtue in itself; the question is, what are you tolerant of? Few of us are tolerant of scams and rip-offs, of those who abuse children for example – where’s the virtue in being tolerant of such things? So no, I don’t want a church marked by tolerance.
    Jesus is the one who sets the tone and agenda for the church, and he wanted his followers to be marked by love, in particular love for enemies. Tolerance is seen to be nothing when it is compared to love. Those of us who have been abused and respond by asking ‘how can I best show love to this person’ are making a Christian response to my mind. Jesus prayed for his tormentors when hanging on the cross. We should do the same.

  8. EnglishAthena

    I feel sure that Stephen is not arguing for a lack of passion or commitment. Have you never been in a situation where bad feelings have resulted from, at bottom, one individual’s refusal or inability to see the other side? That’s what Stephen meant by tolerance. The Church has a shameful history of inactivity when abuse is going on, and no-one can be tolerant of that. Nor of the abuse, either. But even so, do remember that the abuser or bully is still a child of God, and much loved by Him.

  9. Chris Pitts

    Reality check as they say in the USA:
    Vicky is about to fall out with one group of supporters and fall in with another.
    The Popular issues are generated and supported by the media machine. Christ’s focus was on; ‘The Base things of this world, that are counted as nothing’
    I remain deeply saddened that the Church denominations in this country are still playing mind games and allowing real need and suffering (Check out http://outsider-project.org) to be hid behind a language of limited definition, that keeps the questions (and answers), in a safe area that can be confined and controlled.

    “Launch out into the deep” No Fear Mate! Chris

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