Graham-Michoel Brandreth Wills
I was somewhere around ten years of age when I realised I was liking boys rather than girls. It was not long after that I had my first, and possibly only real, schoolboy crush. He knew it, and though himself gay, never objected to my knowing admiration. He was a neigbour too–part of family loathed by my mother, so in part my admiration was heightened by going against my mother's will as well as my own heartfelt crush. I knew that I loved him, and I still do. My love for him catapulted me into seeking all ways of gay knowledge and desire.
Though my first love was not a Christian and never attended church, there were fellow choristers at my home church who were exciting, who liked to play certain games, who were handsome and attractive. Words from Scripture always struck me as profound, not least any reference to being made in God's image. When, still quite young, asking my parish priest what parts of the Bible were best, his response was all of it–every bit of it. Those words stayed with me as I did sweep over some OT nasty bits. His advice and all the words of love in the Bible–Proverbs I always had a liking for–enhances and encouraged me along what I considered the right path. St Paul's words about equality jumped off the page–an added conviction that stimulated an already strong sense of equality for all men and women, regardless of gender, regardless of race or creed, or colour–or any other 'difference.' If, as I then believed, God has written these very words, then God is good, God is love, and God loves me no matter who or what I am.
Not a lot! The tragedies that British and European colonisation has caused around the world have strengthened my passion about equality. And too, the amazing power of forgiveness that many who have suffered at the hands of Christian colonisers, has reinforced my belief in the God of Love.
In my late teens I had a pang of conscience about being Gay–call it late adolescent anxiety–and I went to my then parish priest ( not the same PP I had grown up with ) and confessed my 'sin of being Gay'. I think there was more piety on my part than sincere confession. The vicar forced me to my knees and began beating about the head with a very heavy copy of the Bible, screaming at me that I was the most sinful person on earth. What hurt was not the ensuing headache but the fact that he used a Bible to hit me with.
This I knew, instantly, without reservation, was not the God of love, but one man's controlling power play. Perhaps the fact that his own teenage son and just made an underage woman pregnant has something to do with his immense anger? One instinct was not to return to that church, but, I had a lot of friends there, and besides, I was head over heals in love with the curate.
In recent times, as a member of an intersex trust, my beliefs have strengthened as I have watched more and more people 'come out' and most of society absorb what has for far too long been considered abnormal. Their brevity, alongside prayer, provides courage to hold the Scriptures high–not as a weapon, but as an instrument of peace and love for all people. The Bible, alongside the Scriptures of other Faiths, is a powerful tool of redemption, forgiveness and love–for all people.
Important resources for me included the Holy Scriptures of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam; the writings of the Desert Fathers; the writings of the Holy Women of the OT and the NT as well as Tradition; modern saints: Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Desmond Tutu, Elizabeth Canham, Teihard de Chardin, and Hans Urs von Balthasar; the strengths of St Francis, St Romuald, the Martyrs of the Reformation, Martin Luther, Meister Eckhart. And last but not least, the men and women who been martyred for their faith, and, those who have struggled, fought, and won their place in the Church.
How would I describe my life now? Contented. Happy that I have spent more than 50 years working for the equality of my LGBTI brothers and sisters and herms, in the Church. Sometimes sad that at times that work has been thrown back in my face with anger and vitriolic language–hate!
I sit and listen ( as any monk should ) for the voice of God. A considerable number of my waking hours are spent in prayer–prayers of and for the Church, of and for other Faiths–but especially for people who have been shut outside the doors of the Church, or who have become refugees.
I sit happily amidst my chosen congregation on a Sunday morning. And like dear Pierre de Chardin, I know the Mass of the World cannot be contained inside bricks and mortar.