I have never known a time when I didn't know
God. Evidently I used to drive my mother nutty, asking to
go to church from a very early age, even though my parents were not
I knew in my teens that I was called to
ministry. But I didn't pursue this avenue until I was 40,
when I clearly heard God tell me that now was the time. My initial
career was in residential social work and the care industry.
I went on to become a forensic psychologist before
training for the priesthood. I worked on a sex-offender
treatment programme, working with violent offenders - mainly
helping with their rehabilitation, doing assessments to see if they
were suitable for the programme, working on it, and then doing the
I do believe God can change us; but we also
have a duty to protect other people. I'm always happy to give
someone a second chance, but, equally, people have to be protected.
The perfect creation has been completely damaged by us, and
everything is affected by that. For example, all people are welcome
to my church, but not all behaviours are welcome. We don't allow
people to be disruptive in church, but that doesn't mean the
individual isn't welcome. God loves us all, but we don't all behave
My background was as a Baptist, but the Baptist
Church isn't always welcoming of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
transgendered] people, and I wasn't very welcoming of their
theology. We would have struggled to accept each other. The
Metropolitan Community Church has social justice very close to its
heart, as it is to mine, and they were very accepting of me.
I was ordained in that church, and started off
in the Brixton (then Balham) church. Now I work in Camden. It draws
people from everywhere - even as far as Leeds. I think only about
two members of the congregation live in Camden.
My own upbringing, and the diversity of my work
experience, meant that I was painfully aware of how much
discrimination, exclusion, and abuse was perpetuated in God's name
if you were "different" in any way. This made me passionate about
sharing the inclusive love of the God I knew, and to fight
discrimination in all its forms.
I don't think I can say if being CEO of the Lesbian and
Gay Christian Movement [LGCM] has been the most important part of
my ministry: often we are unaware of the depth of the
impact that things we do can have on others. Certainly, though,
it's given me opportunities to make a visible difference.
God drew me to the LGCM. I wanted a full-time
ministry, and LGCM offered this.
Nothing can prepare you for the work: you have
to trust God will give you what you need.
LGCM will exist as long as there is even a whiff of
faith-based homophobia, biphobia, or transphobia anywhere
in the world. LGCM has always believed that we are all God's
children, wonderfully made in God's image, and that our sexual
orientation and/or gender identity does not alter that fact.
There are quite a few other LGBT faith
organisations, but LGCM is unique in being an ecumenical
movement working across all denominations and none. Our membership
used to be 80- to 90-per-cent Anglican, but now it's about 50 per
cent, as other denominations are beginning to recognise the work we
do as an ecumenical organisation.
I think Anglican bishops are hurting
themselves, as well as other people, by not being honest
about gay clergy. Jesus spent a lot of time talking about
hypocrisy. It's the thing he hated above all things. If they are
silent about their own sexual orientation, or speaking out against
gays when they know they are gay themselves, they are damaging the
work of God, and the work of the Church of England, and the LGBT
community. Because people know. I think it's going to take somebody
very brave to stand up and say this is the way to set this clean. I
don't think it will be Justin Welby, but it may be his
I'm leaving to care for my two adopted disabled
brothers, as my mother is no longer able to do so. I grew
up in an extended family which included aunts, uncles,
grandparents, siblings, and foster children. While many of them are
no longer with us, my family doesn't seem to have diminished, as I
am constantly "adopted" by members of my congregation.
I'm also undertaking Ph.D. research into the biblical
and theological understandings of non-binary gender. If
you start with Genesis, it says in the Hebrew that God created both
male and female - making it clear that every human is male and
female. It's just a societal construct that we are either/or.
The passages in the Bible about eunuchs also have a lot
of say about gender. Again, in Hebrew, there's an ancient
term that talks about people who are sometimes male and sometimes
We also see gender variations recognised in other
religions, such as the hijras in Hinduism, or Two-Spirit
people in North American spirituality. There have always been those
people who don't fit comfortably within the binary gender. I'll be
looking at the impact this had on misogyny, and on how we spread
I will also be continuing to support the work of
LGCM, taking on the role of co-president of the European
Forum; and will continue as Senior Pastor of the Metropolitan
Community Church in north London.
As for a favourite place, Kenya was very
special to me; but, as I love the heat, anywhere hot will do.
I would have to choose two sounds: birdsong -
there's something hopeful about it; and a baby laughing - the
innocence and pure joy liftsmy spirit and makes me laugh, too. They
both make me wonder how anyone could deny the existence of God.
Most influential were my grandmother, the Revd
Elder Jean White, Bishop Gene Robinson, and Archbishop Desmond
Tutu. They have all shown me Jesus at work in this world.
Apart from the Bible, I am a fan of science
fantasy, and love the escapism that these stories offer.
With a congregation as diverse as mine, and
with 40 per cent of them seeking asylum, most of my prayer-life is
for their protection and well-being. However, the prayer I saythe
most is simply two words: "Use me."
I'd choose to be locked in a church with Jesus, of
course. But, just in case he's too busy, I'd welcome a few
hours with my partner, Franka, as we don't get many opportunities
for quality time.
The Revd Sharon Ferguson was talking to Terence Handley