John McNeill on “GAY MYOPIA”*

One of the curiosities of the human psyche is that we tend to pay more attention to bad news to good. – a phenomenon well known to newspaper editors.  Here, I have to plead guilty myself. Especially in the current extraordinary saga surrounding clerical abuse in the Catholic Church, there is an awful lot of bad news that regrettably needs airing. For gay, lesbian and trans people in the churches, we also have to face the very visible opposition by some in the church, and those highly visible opponents of LGBT equality and inclusion, who claim to be speaking for the church. It is not surprising then, that so many queers and others are  convinced that the Christian churches are uniformly hostile, and only the high-profile bad news is reported – with a few exceptions for the major events, like the election of openly gay bishops.
The truth, however, is far more complex, and includes a lot of encouraging features that are seldom reported.  This becomes strikingly clear is you read just a little way back into recent history, as I have been doing.  Two books I have been reading, Gary Comstock’s “Unrepentant, Self-Affirming, Practicing” and Michael Vasey’s  “Strangers and Friends“, both date from just fifteen years ago, but in their telling of then current events, they read as if they were much older.  For instance:

Queer Acceptance in Church: A Review of Progress

In releasing their goals for the next decade, the Religious Institute included a short review of progress over the last ten years for sexual and gender inclusion in church. While much remains to be done, the ten year view is encouraging. Now, I have been given an even longer term perspective. I have started reading Gary Comstock’s book, “Unrepentant, Self-Affirming, Practicing”,  on research into LGBT people of faith, which begins with a useful historical review. It is worth recognising that the present (limited) visibility of queers in church is no flash in the pan, but is part of an established and growing historical movement that now goes back over sixty years.

Breakthrough Publications

The publication of  John Boswell’s Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality and John McNeill’s The Church and the Homosexual at the end of the 1970’s are widely recognised as landmark publications at the start of the gay and  lesbian theology movement – but they were not the first. Read the rest of this entry »