Reverend Dr Christina Beardsley, a transgender priest, was invited by Hertford College to preach at Evensong on Sunday.
Representing Changing Attitude, an organisation that works for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the Church of England and in the Anglican Communion, Beardsley preached in front of a wide range of students, tutors and fellows. This included members of the Christian Union, as well as college and University diversity a LGBTQ officers.
In her sermon, Dr Beardsley said, “Some Christians seem to treat the Bible exactly like a rule book, especially when it comes to matters of sexuality and gender. Texts and verses are ripped from their context and misused as sticks with which to beat lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as well as women.
“Though he does not address homosexuality specifically in his teaching, the values of Jesus towards those who are sexually compromised…is one of compassion and forgiveness…the values of Jesus in the gospels seem very different from those who appear to demonise the sexually or gender variant person.”
The Revd Dr Andrew Teal, Chaplain at Pembroke College, who recently delivered a sermon in which he encouraged the acceptance and affirmation of the LGBTQ community from the Church added, “I’m delighted that she was invited and have no doubt that her humanity will help others.”
Dr Beardsley was warmly received by members of the college. Mei Cooper, an LGBT rep at Hertford, stated, “From an LGBTQ perspective, I’d say that it was pretty good… she did give a sense of the progress being made in parish churches, and also gave a message of hope to those who might feel marginalised by the Church.”
She added, “In terms of the choice of preacher, I think it was quite a bold move on the Chaplain’s part, but reflects Hertford College’s progressive stance.”
Another member of the college explained, “I was pleasantly surprised to have some of my stereotypes about Hertford Chapel broken – I’d always thought it would take a conservative stance on most issues…absolutely no-one should ever be rejected from a church regardless of identity, belief or opinion.”
However, she added, “In terms of her main point about the church accepting transgender people, I absolutely agree. But I think her overarching message that everything and anything to do with LGBTQ was totally fine by the Bible was too huge a message to put across in ten minutes, knowing she wouldn’t have the time to Biblically justify it.”
Following the sermon, Beardsley blogged about her experience, writing, “At one point I was strongly challenged, not, as might have been expected, by the CU members, but by two bisexual people, a young man and woman, who felt bruised by identity politics; caught between ‘both sides’: gay and straight. It’s not a view anyone’s expressed to me before.
‘I was glad that they felt free to discuss idenity and that we had an opportunity to talk it through; and to talk about other things, for there’s far more to life than gender, sexuality and the Church of England, important as these matters are.’