Evangelical Christian pundits are up in arms over the coming out of a popular writer and performer of Christian worship songs, Vicky Beeching, a British writer of Christian devotional songs, theologian and media commentator. Many conservative Christians who once sang along with her as they worshipped God together in Christian community now attack and revile her. Others are simply confused, having found her devotional songs to inspire them in their praise of God for many years. One Christian publication headlined a recent story on her fellow worshippers' struggle over her public announcement that she is a lesbian, "How Should We Respond to Vicky Beeching?" Those who previously were moved to worship by her music are reported to be asking themselves, "How could she do this to us?"
As a Christian who identifies LGBTQ, I've had to grapple with this question myself for decades. I've wrestled with it professionally as an academic theologian who has studied the scriptures both in the original languages and in multiple translations as well as the history of their interpretation cross-culturally and more recently as a pastor whose service is mainly in LGBTQ communities, not just privately but with countless others over the years (as a pastor, brother in Christ, and teacher). However, we are fortunate that the answer is simple and does not require knowledge of biblical languages or cultures nor a doctoral degree in theology. Jesus Himself gave Christians a direct and clear answer as to how Christians are to respond when confused by the actions, words, or identity of another Christian in the Sermon on the Mount.
"You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them" (Mt 7.16-20).
So what do Christians do with Vicky Beeching, who leads powerful worship experiences in the Christian community that inspire many to deeper connection to God? Applying what Christians sometimes called the "fruits test" of Jesus, it's simple: If you liked her music ministry and witness when you didn't happen to know she was gay, then you noticed her good spiritual fruits. Nothing has changed except your former unawareness of the gender of the person she loves, which really has nothing to do with your ability to connect with God through the spiritual gift of leading worship that God has clearly given her. The fruit is good, so the tree is good. She hasn't actually done anything -- let alone "to you." She is simply as God requires being honest, not bearing false witness. Coming out isn't about suddenly "becoming gay" -- it's about a change in others' awareness that you always have been gay. It doesn't change the fruits she has born and will continue to bear in ministry, which are gifts of the Spirit. The fruit (her songs, her worship) hasn't changed: It's still good. And the tree is still good, too.
Like Vicky Beeching, all the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender Christians continue to bear spiritual fruit in ministries of all kinds all over the world, whether they are closeted or "out," showing us that God gives good spiritual gifts to whomever God wills. Gay Christians and allies will be celebrating Vicky Beeching's spiritual gifts at GCN 2015 in Portland this coming January, the annual meeting of the Gay Christian Network. A bad tree cannot bear good fruit, Jesus tells us. If Christians are willing to be guided by the words and example of Jesus in this matter, it's time to stop cutting good trees (gay Christians) and casting them into the fire and to join gay Christians and allies in celebrating the good gifts of those whom God has blessed with them, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation.