The video below tells the story of an Anglo-Catholic priest in the Church of England, who is happy to share his experience as an intrinsically ‘gay’ person, whose sexual identity was once questioned by both the Church and society. Fr. John-Francis, before his entering upon the priestly life, was convinced by well-meaning Christians that he should submit to what is now known as ‘Gay Conversion’ – in the hope and expectation that with both hormone therapy and counselling he would become heterosexual in his orientation, leaving behind his attraction to people of the same gender.
What this therapy did, instead, precipitated a near nervous breakdown causing him to cease therapy and to try to settle into what he had been encouraged to believe was a need to live a celbate life – without in anyway indulging in a sexual relationship that he felt, instinctively, was natural to him. His first instinct, feeling called by God into some form of spiritual commitment was to enter into an Anglican Religious Community; where celibacy is one of the conditions of membership. It was only later that John-Francis realised that his calling may not have been to the celibate life and, subsequently, he left the Community to explore the possibility of living out his innate sexual identity as a gay man called into the priesthood of the Anglican Church.
Fr. John-Francis’ story, in some respects, is not very different from that of some other Anglo-Catholic clergy who, despite their innate homosexuality, have felt the call to the priesthood of the Church, observing – in some cases – the old meme of “Don’t ask; Don’t tell” towards the ordaining bishop, which allowed them to go forward for ordination, believing in their own hearts, that their calling was from God, despite any disapproval of the official Church.
It is only lately that the Church has realised that one’s sexual orientation – even when not the predominant binary model – is not a matter of personal choice but, rather, an inner instinctive reality that is personal to each and every human being. Whether or not that person chooses to live out their sexual identity in a relationship is a deeply personal matter, and any decision that involves the choice of celibacy, or an ordered, committed same-sex relationship, should best be left to the individual(s) concerned.
Being LGBT+ is no longer considered by most people as contrary to what is now considered to be a ‘normal’ sexual identity. However, it has taken the Church much longer that civil society to understand that ‘being gay’ is neither sinful nor aberrant; merely different. As such the Church is currently moving into a more accepting tolerance of gender/sexuality variation, that is part and parcel of the variety in creation that God has permitted to exists in humanity. Promiscuity is now recognised as an equal problem for both ‘straight’ and ‘gay’ Christians.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand