Britain’s ‘first non-binary CofE priest’ says ‘God loves variety’

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The Church of England’s ‘first’ non-binary vicar said today that discovering new ways of understanding gender makes ‘perfect sense for a God who loves variety’.

Bingo Allison, 36, who defines as gender-queer and uses the pronouns ‘they/them’, experienced an epiphany seven years ago while reading the story of Adam and Eve.

The vicar, who works in Liverpool, said they came to terms with their gender identity while reading Genesis 1-3 in the Old Testament and came out to their wife and three children.

Bingo appeared on ITV‘s This Morning to discuss the issue with hosts Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby.

The Church of England's 'first' non-binary vicar said today that discovering new ways of understanding gender makes 'perfect sense for a God who loves variety'

The Church of England’s ‘first’ non-binary vicar said today that discovering new ways of understanding gender makes ‘perfect sense for a God who loves variety’

Bingo Allison, 36, is gender-queer and to their knowledge the Church of England's first openly non-binary priest

Bingo Allison, 36, is gender-queer and to their knowledge the Church of England’s first openly non-binary priest

Schofield told her: ‘The point you make, which I thought was lovely when I read it this morning is the fact that you have male and female, and that God created night and day but he also created the times in between – dawn and twilight .’

The vicar replied: ‘Creation is full of variety. That’s what we learn from creation, is that God loves variety.

‘God creates all these different animals, we’re still discovering new animals, and the fact we’re still discovering new ways of understanding gender makes perfect sense for a God who loves variety.’

Bingo came out seven years ago, halfway through the Church of England’s vicar training programme.

They explained how the language which the bible originally used in Genesis 1:27 spoke about ‘from maleness to femaleness’ as opposed to men and women.

‘I was sitting there in the middle of the night when I realized I might need to run my life upside down – it was a deepening spiritual experience,’ they said last week.

At that point Bingo had only met two openly gay people and no trans people, and there were times when they questioned their new gender identity.

Now they visit schools and speak to youth groups to encourage other LGBTQ+ people they have a place in the church.

Speaking to BBC Radio Merseyside, Bingo described coming out as a ‘gradual process for me and my family.’

They said: ‘I’m married and I’ve got three children, and it was really important to come out to them, give some time letting them understand about me before I emerged on the world.’

‘My children are young and when you’re little really you accept most things and they’ve been lovely about it.

‘We taught them about trans people before I came out so it wasn’t a completely alien thing for them.’

Bingo continued: ‘It was difficult for my wife to begin with obviously you marry what you think is a straight guy and suddenly things are more complicated than that.

‘But I’d like to believe you marry the person someone becomes as much as you marry the person that they are.’

Bingo uses social media to spread their message and in one playful post wrote how 'Jesus loves sparkly eyeshadow'

Bingo uses social media to spread their message and in one playful post wrote how ‘Jesus loves sparkly eyeshadow’

Bingo, who previously trained to become a priest in Durham, said the Church of England was ‘open to me coming out’ but added that it was ‘difficult’ for some people they had worked with ‘because for them I was the first transgender person they had worked with closely’.

They have since moved to the Liverpool Diocese ‘which does so much to support and empower LGBT people’ and they have found their new congregation ‘wonderful’.

Talking about how it has received them, Bingo added: ‘On the outside you might think “oh, they’re quite a traditional church so they might have traditional views”, but I’ve always been treated as a person and as a priest .’

Bingo is now vocal about gender issues and uses social media to spread their message – including posting selfies with captions saying Jesus ‘loves sparkly eyeshadow’.

The parent of three grew up in a ‘strongly religious’ household in West Yorkshire and was raised to believe being gay was ‘sinful’.

But a 15-year journey, which included meeting other LGBTQ+ Christians, completely changed their ‘very traditional and conservative’ outlook on life, they told the Liverpool Echo.

‘My views used to be very traditional and very conservative certainly. Some might call them bigoted and there was a lot of ignorance and a lot of ”othering”,’ they said.

‘I didn’t take the time to learn from other people’s experiences. I was definitely in a lot of denial and some of that denial came out in denial of other people’s identities.’

They came out seven years ago, halfway through the Church of England's vicar training programme, after having an epiphany while reading the Old Testament

They came out seven years ago, halfway through the Church of England’s vicar training programme, after having an epiphany while reading the Old Testament

Now they visit schools and speak to youth groups to encourage other LGBTQ+ people they have a place in the church

Now they visit schools and speak to youth groups to encourage other LGBTQ+ people they have a place in the church

Bingo is ordained at St Margaret's Toxteth in the Diocese of Liverpool in 2020

Bingo is ordained at St Margaret’s Toxteth in the Diocese of Liverpool in 2020

In a speech to a panel on making churches more inclusive, Bingo said Christianity had historically been guilty of prioritizing the views of ‘rich, white, straight, cisgender, able-bodied, neurotypical men’.

Explaining that they are also autistic and dyspraxic, Bingo wrote: ‘I am passionate about fully including neurodivergent people in the life and faith of the Church, particularly in our telling and retelling of stories from the Bible.

‘The history of biblical interpretation is literate with the opinions of rich, white, straight, cisgender, able-bodied, neurotypical men assuming that everyone in the passages that they read thought like them and perceived the world like them.

‘The biases that this creates exclude anyone who doesn’t fit from fully engaging with the Bible, and often lead the church to miss out on vital perspective on all sorts of biblical narratives.

‘So if Biblical scholars tended to be neurotypical and tended to assume that everyone they read about in the Bible was like them unless specifically informed otherwise, what would happen if I assumed the opposite?

‘What if a neurodivergent hermeneutic started with the assumption that, unless specifically informed otherwise, certain characters were neurodivergent?’

A photo from the ordination in September 2020. Bingo believes they are the first non-binary Church of England vicar

A photo from the ordination in September 2020. Bingo believes they are the first non-binary Church of England vicar

Bingo says that during their educational work they are constantly impressed by how ‘open-minded’ younger people are.

A recent survey by Stonewall found that more than a quarter of younger people now identify as LGBT.

The LGBTQ+ charity claimed 71 per cent of Gen Z respondents – those aged 16 to 26 – identify as straight.

The figure is a contrast to the Baby Boomer generation – those aged 56 to 75 – in which 91 per cent described themselves as straight.

Of the next generation, Gen X, described as being those aged 43 to 56, Stonewall said 87 per cent said they were straight.

The figure was 82 per cent for Millennials – those aged 27 to 42 – according to the charity.

In its report, which uses data from polling company Ipsos UK, Stonewall said the results show Britain is becoming a ‘rainbow nation’.

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