Disclosures: Conversations Gay and Spiritual
By Michael Ford
Darton,Longman & Todd Ltd
This book is confronting, and reading it can hurt. Michael Ford interviews 25 people from a wide range of backgrounds – men and women, African, British, and American, Greek Orthodox, un-churched, Anglican and Roman Catholic.
While the brevity of each interview leaves us wanting to know more, common to all is a palpable transparency of pain.
Many of the interviewees have been savaged by the Church as they attempted to be both homosexual and Christian. In Disclosures: Conversations Gay and Spiritual we meet Martin, a former candidate for the priesthood, who was asked to undergo a psychological examination; Rowland, an African-Caribbean member of a British congregation, approached by his church leadership who attempted to exorcise his demons; and Rowan Smith, Dean of Cape Town, who declared his homosexuality openly in 1994. Smith pays tribute to Desmond Tutu, who supported him, and said “To discriminate against our sisters and brothers who are lesbian or gay… is as totally unacceptable and unjust as apartheid ever was.
For some, the expectation that they will not ‘rock the boat’, and be complicit with a covert ‘we won’t ask and you won’t tell’ lifestyle eats at the heart of their integrity and the integrity of the Church.
For others, who are at peace with their orientation, the suggestion that homosexuality is ‘objectively disordered’ lacks academic integrity and is personally insulting. Even worse is the attempt by some Church leaders to conflate homosexuality with paedophilia, escaping culpability through scapegoating.
Clearly there are weaknesses in reaching conclusions through anecdote. However this book demonstrates there are also very real pitfalls in arriving at conclusions, and administering them, without empathy for the real human realities of the marginalised.
Disclosures is an important book. Whatever conclusions we reach regarding homosexuality, we should meet the human face, and count the human cost.