Maintaining Your Faith Whilst Supporting your Child: Q&A with a gay priest

by | May 27, 2024 | Resources & Support | 0 comments

Religion and sexuality don’t often go hand in hand. The Church of England is yet to allow same-sex marriage, which may seem daunting for you and your queer child. 

As a gay priest, Charlie Bell, 34, meets parents from all across the country who seek his advice on how to  maintain their faith whilst supporting their queer child.  

Click on the questions below to reveal Charlie’s insightful answers.

Q: What advice do you give to parents of LGBTQ+ children? 

A: “I think firstly listen to your child. Children who are coming to terms with their sexual or gender identity are coming to terms with something, and that’s hard for them. So, they’re going to need you to listen and it might be really difficult for you sometimes because it might be conflicting with what  you’re feeling or believing. Sometimes you’re not going to see things exactly the same way. So even if you do get to the place where you think you can’t get your head around your child being gay, other people might. It’s important to listen to them and engage with them and do some of the hard  work yourself rather than getting your child to do it.” 

Q: How do you try and incorporate LGBTQ+ education in your services? 

A: “I try to talk about where the bible is positive about relationships. When we ask, ‘what does the Bible say about same sex relationships?’, we’re already deciding that there’s a difference between same-sex and heterosexual relationships. So I tend to look at what the bible says about relationships generally, and work from there.” 

Q: How do you address the more conservative views on the LGBTQ+ community? 

A: “There are people who will say that all gay sex is a sin, gay relationships are sinful and call gay people ‘disordered’. I try to address it because I think it’s important to know, but it depends on the particular situation. If I’m going to talk to children about it, I’d much rather present a positive vision and give people the chance to listen to the positive side of it. I think people have heard and know about homophobia and that the church is so known for it still. I’d rather give them a more positive perspective but I don’t want to pretend those views don’t exist. It’s all about balance.” 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is charliebell-20220812100806530_web-884x1024.jpg
Q: Do you think that things will get better?

A: “I realise that there are other people who are trying to make things better. As a priest, I have a responsibility and a loud voice that people will listen to  and that keeps me going. There is a responsibility if you’re in The Church and in an institution which is now and historically been homophobic to try and change it.”

Q: What reaction do you receive as a gay priest?

A: “Almost every single person in the congregation that I’ve told couldn’t care less. There are some people who openly say homophobic things or will actively exclude you as a member of the clergy and essentially call you a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ and a ‘false shepherd’, but they’re a minority. I think they’re just frustrated and sad themselves.”

Q: What do you personally think about the Church’s stance towards queerness?

A: “It’s disgraceful, I think. If any heterosexual couple wanted us to marry them, we would have to do it. But if a gay couple who had been going to church for 60 years wanted us to marry them, we can’t do it. That feels deeply, deeply unfair to the people who are long term givers and attenders of the church.”

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image2.jpeg
Charlie Bell (right) and his partner (left).

Q: What made you decide to become a priest?

A: “I started helping the Church and doing lots of roles before I got ordained. Then I joined the Bishop’s council because I wanted to speak out against the Church’s stance of homosexuality. From there it progressed and progressed there were a couple of hiccups on the way. I had a very homophobic advisor at one point who made things very difficult. It just kind of happened and you find yourself in front of the Bishop getting selected to become a Priest, aged 32.”

Q: “What was your journey like coming out?

A: “Coming out is always nerve-racking, but luckily there was never any homophobia from my family. They were a bit concerned about my future, just because it still wasn’t talked about and people were still using ‘gay’ as an insult. 

“I came out to my parents when I was around 18 and I told them over dinner that I was seeing someone, who was a boy. I think the initial reaction was a bit stunned but they made it clear that they still loved me and wanted to be a part of my life as fully as possible.”