Monday 18 August 2014


If there is one programme on the radio which is guaranteed to turn just about anyone into a militant atheist it is Radio 4's Sunday Programme which bills itself as a weekly look at religious and ethical news. And boy is religion creating a lot of news at the moment.

I try not to listen to this programme more than once in a blue moon because replacing radio sets which have been hurled at the wall or smashed with a sledge hammer can get a bit expensive.

The final item on yesterday's programme involved a woman called Vicky Beeching. Probably like most readers I'd never heard of Vicky before this week, but she is a bit of a star on the evangelical Christian rock scene, and this week she announced that she is gay.

Vicky is 35, eloquent, attractive, intelligent and clearly someone who has a very strong Christian faith. Earlier in the week she was interviewed on Channel 4 News, and the programme brought one of those good 'ole American evangelical pastors into the discussion. He began by saying that he has a sister who was (note the past tense) a lesbian.

That's right, she had been 'cured'. In Scott Lively's words, she had overcome her homosexuality. He felt sorry for Vicky Beeching because she had given into the "lie that she is homosexual".

Rev Lively didn't mince his words, and seemed pretty convinced that Vicky would not be joining him in heaven unless she changed her tune.

Roll forward to Sunday where the BBC had found a rather more mealy-mouthed, home-grown fundamentalist to go up against Vicky Beeching in the form of Susie Leafe, director of an evangelical campaign group called Reform. Reform is part of the Church of England and also active in the Church in Ireland, although thankfully not it seems in the Church in Wales.

Ms Leafe, who describes herself as a "radical feminist", is strongly opposed to woman bishops. What followed was a fairly lengthy exchange in which Ms Leafe made it clear that, like Pastor Lively, she thought that Vicky could overcome her affliction. Farcically she refused to utter the words "gay", "homosexual" or "lesbian", and insisted on describing Vicky Beeching's "problem" as "same sex attraction".

The distinction between homosexuality and same-sex attraction is probably lost on most of us, but the idea seems to be that homosexuality does not really exist ("a lie" according to Pastor Lively) and that it's just like a headache or cold. All of that dressed up as theology.

As a small boy in the 1960s I remember asking my mother about Miss Pugh, a lady who used to go to coffee mornings in the Congregational Chapel with us. Miss Pugh was tiny, and she always wore trousers, a grey gaberdine mac and had very short cropped hair. Tucked under her arm was a very snappy Pekinese.

I can't remember what my mother said, but Miss Pugh lived with another lady, and nobody batted an eyelid. Whatever it was, Miss Pugh was not going through a passing phase.

Vicky Beeching grew up in a pentacostalist family, and she realised that she was a lesbian as a teenager. The response of her family and her church was that demons were the cause, and at the age of 16 she was put through a public exorcism at a church summer camp. Unsurprisingly this had left psychological scars, she said, but she was still  passionate about her faith and her love for her family.

It is not clear what is happening to Towy Community Church's plans to set up a Mercy Ministries hostel for young women in Carmarthen, although the last we heard from the pastor just after the opening of the bowling alley was that the hostel was back on the agenda.

Since then the church has all but disappeared from the internet, preferring to keep its activities and plans out of the public gaze.

There are plenty of young men and women in Carmarthen with drug and alcohol problems, and some of them will be gay. We owe it to them to make sure that these peddlers of pseudo-science and theological mumbo jumbo aren't given a chance to mess with their minds.


Anonymous said...

"There are plenty of young men and women in Carmarthen with drug and alcohol problems, and some of them will be gay. We owe it to them to make sure that these peddlers of pseudo-science and theological mumbo jumbo aren't given a chance to mess with their minds." AMEN TO THAT!!!

Anonymous said...

So what you are saying is that there are some religious nutters out there BUT you don't know if the Towy Church are going down that same road ?

You need to calm down - if they do go down this road complain.

At the moment they seem to be providing a valuable service with no religious undertones at point of delivery.

Redhead said...

So, how is the bowling alley doing: what are its profits if any) being used for or what are its losses being covered by?

Did the 2 projects (bowling alley) get funded as one or two projects: if one, why is the council not asking for its money back? Or did all of it get spent on the bowling alley?

Bowling alley: you can't feed the poor on bowling balls.

Cneifiwr said...

Anon 10.19 - I think you're referring to the foodbank.

What I do know is that TCC previously said it was planning to open a hostel with Mercy Ministries in Carmarthen. That item was later removed from their website, and the pastor said it had all been a misunderstanding, not all seeds grew, etc.

This was while the church was going through a sensitive period ensuring that funding was in place for the bowling alley - phase 1 of a bigger project.

No sooner had the funding been secured than up popped another statement reviving the Mercy Ministries idea.

That was also subsequently airbrushed, along with just about everything else relating to the church.

So it is legitimate to ask what their plans really are, although based on past performance I don't think too much weight can be placed on what the church says (e.g. selling alcohol).

Whatever the status of the plans, I object to public money going to organisations which are no different to witch doctors, only dressed by Marks and Spencer.

Anonymous said...

I agree, and if they were stepping out of line I would be the first to say that this is wrong.

HOWEVER at this time they seem to be delivering services in a fashion that I believe is correct.

I have never noticed any religious undertones in what they do or say. I have only ever been to the bowling alley once and I couldn't see anything church related there either.

I speak as a confirmed atheist so I can hardly be accused of advocating for them but I just cant see where you have a gripe with them (at the moment that is !!)

Jac o' the North, said...

Wait a minute, isn't Anon the one who works for some other Third Sector gang? Possibly TCC itself.

Redhead said...

Because OUR money subsidises a bowling alley that was supposed to be built as well as a hostel not instead of. If a bowling alley is called for in a town, a private company can build and run it. A hostel will never be built by a private company because it will never make a profit.

So, is this a church, which benefits those in need or a private company running an entertainment venue?

Presumably, the venue has its own contract and accounts which taxpayers are allowed to see because it is with money from the council.

A few well- structured Freedom of information and Environmental Impact Regulations (very important the latter as more info has to be available than FOI) are called for, I think.

Anonymous said...

The church website being taken down may be something to do with the Towy Community Church changed it's registered and correspondence address from a property registered for religious worship at 3-4 Hall Street, SA31 1PH to the publicly funded Xcel Centre, Llansteffan Road, SA313BP. This change was registered at Companies House on 16/07/2014. It clearly indicates that the council taxpayers of Carmarthenshire have funded a religious organisation and the thin veneer of separation of distinct activities has now ended.

Mrs Angry said...

I would like to comment on this as we have seen similar advances from evangelical Christian organisations here, and such initiatives make me feel very uneasy.

My suspicions were borne out by the activities of a so called debt counselling service, used by the local authority, which was clearly used by the organisation as an opportunity to proselytise.

The website boasted about a suicidal Muslim woman, recently made redundant, whom they counselled, and subsequently 'dreams of Jesus visiting her and has been very open to us praying for her'.

Those who contacted their organisation in desperation were - presumably still are - being offered not just financial advice, but the 'opportunity' for prayer.

In my view Christian or any other religious charitable activity should not take place in order to make converts, but as a natural desire to serve others, without ulterior motive, as the good Lord himself commanded: preaching by example.

Unfortunately, in this age of artificially induced austerity, part of the agenda is to withdraw public funding of vital services, and push the cost onto the voluntary sector. This means that not enough scrutiny takes place of how those services are provided, and at what risk to users, many of whom are necessarily vulnerable, It is a deeply worrying trend.

Redhead said...

Oh, and "Charitable spending" appears to include the salaries of its 4 declared staff, as there is no other heading where else these salaries could appear. So "charitable giving is even lowe. And look at those assets!