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John Bell: ‘Why I came out’

26 August 2017

IAN USHER

Out: John Bell speaking at Greenbelt in 2013

Out: John Bell speaking at Greenbelt in 2013

THE death of the Manchester schoolgirl Lizzie Lowe was what prompted the Revd John Bell, a hymnwriter and speaker, and member of the Iona Community, to be open about his sexuality, he told a large audience at the Greenbelt festival on Saturday morning.

At the end of a talk in which he took issue with conservative readings of scriptural passages about sexuality, Mr Bell, a Church of Scotland minister, told the audience that he had a vested interest in the subject: he was gay himself.

He had chosen not to broadcast the fact in order not to compromise the work his denomination had given him over the years, supervising new liturgy and the Church’s new hymnal. He has no partner.

This was not a confession, he said: it was not something he was ashamed of. It was a disclosure. “You disclose the truth.”

He decided to be more open about his sexuality on hearing the story of Lizzie Lowe, a 14-year-old girl who took her own life in 2014 after telling friends that she dreaded telling her parents, both Christians, that she was a lesbian.

To sustained applause, Mr Bell said: “Those not compromised by their work should not keep silent.”

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