John Bell: ‘Why I came out’
by PAUL HANDLEY 26 AUGUST 2017
THE death of the Manchester schoolgirl Lizzy Lowe was what prompted the Revd John Bell, a hymnwriter and speaker, and member of the Iona Community, to be open about his sexuality, he told a large audience at the Greenbelt festival on Saturday morning.
At the end of a talk in which he took issue with conservative readings of scriptural passages about sexuality, Mr Bell, a Church of Scotland minister, told the audience that he had a vested interest the subject: he was gay himself.
He had chosen not to broadcast the fact in order not to compromise the work his denomination had given him over the years, supervising new liturgy and the Church’s new hymnal. He has no partner.
This was not a confession, he said: it was not something he was ashamed of. It was a disclosure. “You disclose the truth.”
He decided to be more open about his sexuality on hearing the story of Lizzie Lowe, a 14-year-old girl who took her own life in 2014 after telling friends that she dreaded telling her parents, both Christians, that she was a lesbian.
To sustained applause, Mr Bell said: “Those not compromised by their work should not keep silent.”
Presbyterian Minister, John Bell, is one of the latest spiritual leaders in the Church to acknowledge his innate homosexuality – prompted by yet another suicide of a young woman who could not come to terms with her own sexual orientation.
In acknowledging the truth about himself, John was merely following the path of many Christians who now recognise their need for honesty about an important part of their lives that has been hitherto hidden – because of the fear of rejection by the Church’s lack of understanding of sexual differences among those of us whose Christianity is questioned because of our sexual orientation; a situation we have no control over.
‘This was not a confession, he said: it was not something he was ashamed of. It was a disclosure. “You disclose the truth.” ‘ – In saying this, John is stating a fact. Those of us who have been stigmatised by the Church because of our innate sexuality can no longer pretend to be other than we are – which is an aspect of our being that we have no control over, but which is subject to the very same oughts and shoulds as those of our sisters and brothers who are heterosexual.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand