Gavin Ashenden reflects on Kelvin Holdsworth’s gay prince prayer
The ‘Royals’ have been in the news with the excitement over Harry getting engaged to Meghan.,
Surfing the media wave, the Anglican Provost of the Episcopal Church in Glasgow, The Very Rev’d Kelvin Holdsworth re-issued a blog he had written in which he explained that he was praying for Prince George to be gay, and to be ‘blessed’ with the love of a fine young gentleman.
He is campaigning for the C of E to follows the Scottish Episcopal Church to adopt same-sex marriage. His argument was that if George became homosexual, and entered a same-sex marriage, that might convince waverers what a beautiful thing the marriage of two men really was.
Not everyone was convinced that using a child as a gender-political football was in the best taste.
But the upside of Kelvin’s media foray, which was picked up by a number of newspapers, was that it got people thinking and talking about some of the issues.
One of the most interesting was Kelvin, who is a well-known LGBTQI activist, wanting to use prayer to move Prince George out of the 98.3% of the population who are heterosexual, into the 1.7% of people who are same- sex attracted. (If these figures surprise you, google National Office of Statistics.)
To many people this may not cause any anxiety at all. But there are two aspects to this in which giving some thought to what prayer is might be helpful.
Surprisingly, more people pray than you might think. In an ICM poll taken in 2013 only 9% of 18-24 year olds, said they would never pray; which leaves 91% who did.
The first aspect is a spiritual or metaphysical one. Prayer easily gets confused with magic. But they similar but different. Magic (as a system of belief) tries to use some kind of spiritual energy or connection to make things happen. The main point of it is that the person doing the magic gets what they want. It’s about power or control. Prayer is similar but yet very different (in the Christian context). It’s similar because it is also about making a spiritual/metaphysical connection, but this time, different because it is used in order to get what God wants. The great challenge as a Christian, is to learn to want what God wants, and to then pray for it.
You can see how easy it might be to mistake what God wants for what we want. If Kelvin has thought about it at all, he doesn’t show it. Kelvin himself certainly wants gay marriage in the C of E, and without showing us how he knows it’s what God wants, he is willing to use prayer to turn little George gay, to get what he, Kelvin, wants.
If Kelvin is wrong about God wanting it, then such praying comes uncomfortably close to magic. You might ask the obvious question “how can we know what God wants.” The answer to that, for Christians at least, is that we just need to look in the Bible. Perhaps not surprisingly, when it comes to marriage, the Bible contains a vision of men and women becoming inter-dependent on each other biologically and emotionally, and experiencing becoming co-creators of life, with God himself. This sharing of men and women, in the gift of creating life, is a big deal in the Bible.
In fact, anyone who has been in love knows that one of the most moving and wonderful parts of it is the prospect of mingling lives together, and creating a child, or children, who will be an astonishing variable mixture of both parents, along with a unique part that is themselves.
One of the sad costs of being same- sex attracted is the biological sterility; the inability to make a child from the pair of lovers. There may be other consolations, but this almost miraculous aspect is absent. While a couple can legally adopt someone else’s child, and lavish care on them, they can never the literal embodiment of your loving.
It seems a sadness to pray for someone that they will never come to know the joy of having making a child with the person they have fallen in love with and wants to spend the rest of their life with. For a future king this looks not so much a prayer; more like a curse, somehow reminiscent of the curse of the wicked fairy found in childhood fairy tales . “May your love be sterile”..
The second thought Kelvin provoked was this. There was a political hiatus that was kicked up when it was discovered that some Christian organisations offered to help people with unwanted feelings of same-sex attraction deal with them by praying for them. This was called ‘conversion therapy’ and has been attacked with a kind of secular fundamentalist energy by almost every professional body that has given thought to it.
So given that The Very Rev’d Kelvin believes it’s all about equality, why is it ok to ‘pray the gay in’, but not ‘pray it out’?
Why is it ok to pray for someone who doesn’t ask you to, that they become gay, but totally not ok, to the point of amounting to professional misconduct, to pray with someone who does ask you for help, to stop being gay?