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Vicky Beeching's decision to come out publicly as a lesbian is so important because she is such a prominent figure in evangelical circles. As I mentioned on this blog yesterday (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/20744), there is good evidence that the news has given many other gay Christians the confidence to come out.
Of course, there have been comings-out before this, including among evangelicals. Sally Hitchiner, an evangelical Church of England priest, was outed as gay on national television last month. I confidently predict that the number of comings-out, among Christians generally and evangelicals in particular, will increase over the next few months.
The phrase 'coming out' tends to be used as short hand for 'coming out as gay'. I find this slightly irritating, as there are lots of things you can came out as, whether to do with sexuality or otherwise. I hope we will also hear about the coming out of bisexual, asexual, trans and other Christians who have been wrongly excluded from equal inclusion in the Christian Church.
I admit this desire is influenced by the fact that I am bisexual. I know lots of bisexual Christians, but I cannot think of any prominent Christians in the UK who are openly bisexual (please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong on this).
Sadly, much of the media, and even parts of the LGBT movement, seem to regard 'bisexual' as simply a variant on 'gay', and barely worthy of being mentioned in its own right. I've been introduced on the radio as a “bisexual Christian writer”, only to be described as “gay” a moment later by the same presenter who has introduced me. While most gay and lesbian people are very supportive of bisexual people's rights, there are a small number of gay people who are just as prejudiced against bisexuals as any homophobe is against gays.
I sometimes come across Christians who say they are OK with people being gay but have a problem with bisexuality. In some cases, this is because they believe that gay people 'can't help' being like that, but bisexuals could simply choose to enter only a mixed-sex relationship. This is as offensive to gay people as to bisexuals, implying that attraction to members of the same sex is some sort of pitiable condition.
All these issues relate not only to whether LGBT people are given equal inclusion in the Christian Church, but why they should be. There are a range of arguments in favour of equality and inclusion, some of them contradictory. Pro-equality Christians hold the views they do for varied reasons and I sometimes find myself disagreeing with liberal Christians on sexuality just as much as conservative ones.
The more Christians talk about their varied sexualities and gender identities, the more it will be possible to have a real discussion on Christian sexual morality and how it relates to life, faith, ethics and politics today.
(c) Symon Hill is a Christian activist and writer and an associate of the Ekklesia thinktank. In 2011, he walked from Birmingham to London as a pilgrimage of repentance for his former homophobia. His recent writings include a section of Fresh From the Word: The Bible for a change, published by the International Bible Reading Association, which can be ordered at http://shop.christianeducation.org.uk/9781905893614.
For links to more of Symon's work, please visit http://www.symonhill.wordpress.com.Tweet