Vicky Beeching: Yes to a theological debate on LGBT theology, no to argumentative tribalism
British theologian Vicky Beeching has opened up dialogue about same-sex marriage and homosexuality within the Church on her online blog.
A well-known voice on feminism and the ethics of social media, Vicky is also a passionate campaigner for same-sex marriage, although she chooses to refer to it solely as "equal marriage".
She has recently been more vocal in this belief, and has now begun a series of blog posts in which she intends to "explore how Christians approach the topic of gender, identity and sexuality".
"I'll discuss how I've come to the view that as a Christian I can follow the Bible AND theologically endorse same-sex marriage. I'll also explore Trans theology, and general questions around how orientation, identity and gender intersect with spirituality," she wrote earlier this month.
Her first post, which set out the background for her beliefs and reasons for speaking up, received over 20,000 views and was shared almost 2,000 times. Beeching's 40,000 Twitter followers immediately engaged in conversation, revealing the sheer weight of the debate and the range of views encompassed by the Church.
"[This] made me realise that it's a conversation that many of you are willing – and wanting – to enter into online," Beeching wrote in her second post.
"I know conversations like this are happening in lots of online spaces, but I'm glad that this can be one of them."
Interestingly, Beeching has not yet given her Biblical reasoning for her position on same-sex marriage, despite proclaiming her high regard for the Holy text. Instead, she chose to begin by offering the "framework" within which she hopes to catalyse and encourage open dialogue.
"I don't want to start this series with instant argument. Blogging my interpretation of the Biblical text on this topic would simply result in others responding with alternative, more traditional interpretations. The result? We'd instantly draw lines in the sand, delineating 'sides'. Who is 'right' or 'wrong'. We'd quickly form into tribes, shouting over the verses and their 'correct' interpretation," she writes.
"Yes, debating doctrine is crucial. But I've seen it so often spiral straight into argumentative tribalism over this specific topic. And that tribalism is the complete opposite of where I want to position the beginning of this blog series.
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"We must find a way to exist within the tension of our disagreements; to dialogue without destroying one another. To focus on how we treat each other in the conversation. To explore our calling to be family, despite deeply different beliefs."
The comments section on her site is already bursting with the voices of Christians and non-Christians, both gay and straight, conservative, liberal and somewhere inbetween.
"Encouraged by so many comments on my LGBT Theology blogs. Worth reading comments themselves," Beeching tweeted today.
"It's healthy & important that we have these kind of important conversations in a healthy, constructive way," author and blogger James Prescott tweeted in response to Vicky's initial post on 14 April.
"New blog by @vickybeeching is completely unbiased, extending a warm, embracing invitation for all to reflect & engage," added Rev Stephen Sorby, National Rail chaplain and LGBTI ambassador.
Rachel Held Evans, a US blogger who is also in support of same-sex marriage and keen to open dialogue about the way in which homosexuals are welcomed and encouraged into community, added her voice to the debate. "Be sure to check out @vickybeeching's series on LGBT theology. Important stuff," she wrote.
It's fascinating to watch the debate unfold, as many Christians are beginning to openly seek out, engage with and investigate the issues which have for so long been divisive within the Church, and Beeching will no doubt continue to be a leading voice.
Her blog is worth following for those interested in joining the conversation, whatever one's personal convictions.