Does it matter if the lyrics you sing to worship God were written by someone with whom you have deep theological disagreements?
Christian rock star Vicky Beeching forced her fans to confront this question last week when she toldThe Independent that she is a lesbian. Her songs are among the most commonly sung in North American churches. But many within her Christian fan base believe gay sex and marriage are sinful.
Beeching has shared harrowing stories of struggling to shirk her sexuality. She even recounts participating in a traumatic exorcism at a Christian youth camp. Nineteen years after the failed attempt to purge the gay-ness from her spirit, Beeching chose to just be open and honest about who she believes she is.
“Old habits die hard,” Beeching told me via email. “I’m finally free from guilt and shame, but it’s been a very long road to get here.”
Beeching isn’t the first major faith-filled musician to come out of the closet or change his or her views. Many in the Christian music industry — like their book publishing counterparts — appear to be slowly and quietly shifting on the issue of gay marriage. This is a formative moment when many Christians are reconsidering the traditional understanding of sexuality and marriage. And popular leaders within the Christian music industry could accelerate a broader swing.
Christian musician Vicky Beeching has written songs that have reached Gold status and hit the top 100 iTunes chart. But now the 35-year-old British musician is singing a different song about her sexuality. Beeching told “The Independent” that she is gay in an interview published on Wednesday.
Beeching’s star has risen in recent years as a regular commentator on the BBC and Sky News. She is an Oxford-trained theologian, PhD candidate, and has been influential in the Anglican Church’s debates on gender. She told me she plans to be involved in the two-year conversational process on sexuality happening within the Church of England, and she personally told Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby she was gay before the Independent interview. (She’s scheduled to have dinner at Lambeth Palace next week for dinner with the Welbys.) Beeching also says she plans to write a book–perhaps two–about her personal journey and what she believes the Bible teaches about sexuality.
Here we talk about her decision, why she plans to stay in the church, and what she wants to tell the many people who sing her songs.
RNS: After coming out as gay, “The Independent” said you may “become a key figure in the liberalisation of Anglicanism.” Is this how you see yourself?
VB: All I want to do is play whatever small part I can to help people rethink their beliefs around sexuality; to stir people to reexamine doctrines that need a second look. I don’t see myself as a “liberal” as I value the Bible highly and hold to many of the same views that evangelical Christians do. I just think we’ve misinterpreted the Scriptures that talk about sexuality – as many people did with the Bible passages about women in leadership.
For me, believing God can be in favour of same-sex marriage isn’t to dilute the Bible or become theologically liberal. It’s actually rooted in my very high view of the Biblical texts, as there is much in the Bible about relationships based on love, faithfulness, commitment and authenticity. Jesus taught, “You’ll know a tree by the fruit it produces” and “good trees can’t produce bad fruit, and bad trees can’t produce good fruit.” So if a relationship is displaying the traits of God’s selfless, pure, faithful love, the relationship is proven to be innately godly and not sinful.
RNS: You attempted to fight these feelings in early life and even cure yourself through seeing a Catholic priest and participating in an exorcism. How did this affect you?