On Sunday 14 February the parish of St Chrysostom’s in the Diocese of Manchester will host the controversial “Trans Jesus” play “The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven” which portrays Jesus as a transsexual (male to female). The play forms part of Manchester’s “Queer Contact” festival. The play has aroused understandable protest since it’s debut in 2009 as it seeks to actively rewrite Christian belief. Here’s a good example from their promo video:

Here’s a playlist of interview videos with playwright and actor Jo Clifford (also a transsexual – male to female).

“A play which imagines Jesus as a trans-woman, and she’s come back to Earth and she’s living in the present day and she tells many of the familiar stories that we know from the Bible but they have a very particular interesting slant on them. And she preaches a wee sermon and at the end she invites the people around her for a Communion service.”

“I hope [Jesus] would like it, he and she – because I’m sure he was a he and a she”.

Interesting stuff (and certainly helpful to hear some of the pain of rejection that many people with alternative sexualities regularly experience) but is it something that should be hosted in a Church of England building given it’s radical reportrayal of Jesus as a “he and she” transsexual?

St Chrysostom’s is an obvious choice for the play, being well-known for promoting the new sexual revisionism.

Back in 2013 when the Church of England published new guidelines on same-sex blessings (effectively banning them) the vicar of St Chrysostom’s had this to say:

St Chrysostom’s in Victoria Park, Manchester, states on its website that it encourages “all who have significant relationships” to “seek the blessing and prayers of the church in their relationships”.

Canon Ian Gomersall, rector of St Chrysostom’s, said: “I believe we probably sail close to the wind, but I think by avoiding the term ‘blessing’ we probably do not contravene the statement.”

The canons of the Church of England state:

F 16 Of plays, concerts, and exhibitions of films and pictures in churches
1. When any church or chapel is to be used for a play, concert, or exhibition of films or pictures, the minister shall take care that the words, music, and pictures are such as befit the House of God, are consonant with sound doctrine, and make for the edifying of the people.
2. The minister shall obey any general directions relating to such use of a church or chapel issued from time to time by the bishop or other the Ordinary.
3. No play, concert, or exhibition of films or pictures shall be held in any church or chapel except the minister have first consulted the local or other authorities concerned with the precautions against fire and other dangers required by the law to be taken in the case of performances of plays, concerts, or exhibitions of cinematograph films, and the said authorities have signified that the proposed arrangements are a sufficient compliance with the regulations in force as to precautions against fire or other dangers.
4. If any doubt arises as to the manner in which the preceding clauses of this Canon are to be observed, the minister shall refer the matter to the bishop or other the Ordinary, and obey his directions therein.

I think it’s clear, whatever side of the more general sexuality debates you take, that there’s some doubt as to whether this material could be termed as  “such as befit the House of God” or “consonant with sound doctrine, and make for the edifying of the people”. So I reached out to the Diocese of Manchester who were initially very keen to be helpful (times are AEST, it was 11am in Manchester at the time):

Excellent. Ann Mummery is the communications and events officer for the diocese. So I sent them this email asking for comment:

Dear Bishop David,

I am an Anglican blogger writing for Stand Firm  and on my own website, both very widely read sites for Anglican news.

It has come to my attention that the parish of St Chrysostom’s in the Diocese (http://www.stchrysostoms.co.uk) is due to host the play “The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven” (http://contactmcr.com/whats-on/46696-qc16-the-gospel-according-to-jesus-queen-of-heaven/) which portrays Jesus as a transexual who refers to God as “Mother” on Sunday 14 February at 3pm and 8pm.

Given that Canon F16 of the Church of England states the following:

F 16 Of plays, concerts, and exhibitions of films and pictures in churches
1. When any church or chapel is to be used for a play, concert, or exhibition of films or pictures, the minister shall take care that the words, music, and pictures are such as befit the House of God, are consonant with sound doctrine, and make for the edifying of the people.
2. The minister shall obey any general directions relating to such use of a church or chapel issued from time to time by the bishop or other the Ordinary.
3. No play, concert, or exhibition of films or pictures shall be held in any church or chapel except the minister have first consulted the local or other authorities concerned with the precautions against fire and other dangers required by the law to be taken in the case of performances of plays, concerts, or exhibitions of cinematograph films, and the said authorities have signified that the proposed arrangements are a sufficient compliance with the regulations in force as to precautions against fire or other dangers.
4. If any doubt arises as to the manner in which the preceding clauses of this Canon are to be observed, the minister shall refer the matter to the bishop or other the Ordinary, and obey his directions therein.

I had the following questions, the answers to which we would seek to publish:

  1. Given the controversial nature of the play, were you or the appropriate suffragen consulted according to section 4 and, if so, what directions were given?
  2. Do you consider the portrayal of Jesus as a transexual is “such as befit the House of God, are consonant with sound doctrine, and make for the edifying of the people”?

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Regards

David Ould

cc Ann Mummery

And then silence. No acknowledgement of the email. No follow up. The Bishop of Manchester is known as a supporter of the move to revise sexual doctrine in the Church of England (and of St Chrysostom’s progressive stance in particular) so the canons of the church may prove to be awkward here.

We’ll update you if the Diocese choose to respond.

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4 comments on “Manchester CofE Church Hosts “Trans Jesus” Play, Bishop is Silent

  1. Wow. Just wow.

    Thank you for publicising this David – it needs to be publicised, and it is not surprising that the Diocese of Manchester would be ashamed of it.

    Have any of the Anglican Gospel Partnership churches in the Manchester area commented on this?

    That question is particularly interesting because the leader of the North West Partnership, Justin Mote, is also the Chairman of the Anglican Mission in England.

  2. I am not Anglican, but:
    I spent about 30 years in a church that was quite clear that God is male and the “Brethren” of the church are his sons. References to the church as the “Bride of Christ” were awkward. I am now in a church with a feminist and very inclusive minister who welcomed Jo to perform this play in our church. I get the impression that most of the Anglican church is firmly rooted in the past, but every now and then there is a small step forward in one place or another.

    • There is nothing “forward” about abandoning the God-breathed text of the Bible to conform to the temporal depravity of mankind so as to portray the very Son of God as a sexually delusional individual steeped in sin.

  3. If a transgender person requests to be known as ‘she’ when they are biologically ‘he’ it’s not unreasonable to comply.

    Yet when folk arbitrarily designate God as ‘she’, despite God identifying as ‘he’, the same respect is not shown.

    It seems that when some folks want to allow us to deny our biological gender, they simultaneously want us to deny God the ability to speak. (For instance, by claiming that the divine ‘he’ we read in the bible is not God speaking, but is merely an expression of male power and male authorship.)

    Perhaps it’s ultimately a denial of Genesis 1 and 2, where God speaks to make humans male and female, and declares his creation ‘good’.

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