Jesus wore drag, because trousers hadn’t been invented yet.
He loved all sinners, including prostitutes.
So what would he make of a carry-on in Tyneside, where the Rev Martin Wray dressed up in shiny gold tights, a little black dress, pink high heels, a pink necklace and a long black wig for a charity event near his church in South Shields.
Alas, the vicar’s picture was published in a local newspaper and some parishioners complained to his superiors that he had brought the church into disrepute.
The resultant furore has triggered the 59-year-old cleric’s resignation.
But it seems there’s more to the Rev Wray’s troubles than dressing up as a harlot.
It turns out he is in a civil partnership with another bloke, the sort of carry-on that is apt to cause much tut-tutting in church circles.
True, you won’t find any record in the New Testament of Jesus explicitly stating that homosexuality is wrong,
But he did say –
“Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ “and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’” (Matt. 19:4.)
Can’t argue with that, eh?
And Alf is sure this underpins the fuss in Tyneside about the Rev Wray, helping to explain why –
Last night his family and friends said that he had been called a “pervert” and threatened with violence.
His sister said she suspected that his some of his “elderly and very old-fashioned” parishioners had used the pictures as a smokescreen to attack him for his sexuality.
The vicar came out of the closet, so to speak, and revealed his homosexuality to his flock when he announced he was entering a civil partnership with his partner Lee Lovely, 34 – a divorced father of one – at their local registry office last May.
The vicar’s wife Carole had died after a prolonged illness three years earlier.
Janet Bridges, Rev. Wray’s sister, said: “My brother has been subjected to a witch-hunt for being gay. When he announced to his congregation at a service one Sunday that he was getting a civil partnership everyone stood up and applauded.
“But a lot of people in that church are elderly and very old-fashioned. When his picture appeared in the paper dressed like that some people used it as an excuse because they didn’t like the fact he is gay. He started receiving threatening abuse. Martin played me one message left on his phone which threatened violence against him and called him a pervert.”
Alf has mused on this situation and the rights and the wrongs.
He wouldn’t say he was “elderly” but he would not get too fussed if folks called him old-fashioned.
Accordingly he is apt to side with the good people of the parish who took umbrage at their vicar hitching up to another bloke.
Alf is still struggling to accept woman vicars and bishops and what-have-you.
But let’s get back to Tyneside, where the situation worsened last August when the Rev. Wray was invited to attend a tarts and vicars party at the Steamboat pub.
Several hundred pounds were raised for the church and for a charity called Arts4Wellbeing, which provides art workshops for local people with mental health problems.
Alf can think of a few Labour supporters who might benefit from the work of such a charity.
But while the Rev Wray was cheered and applauded by locals at the boozer for his outfit and sense of humour, the photograph of the vicar in fancy dress in the local newspaper provoked a different rection.
A complaint was made to the local diocese and the parish refused to accept the money, while the Rev Wray went on sick leave.
He has since resigned from the parish and retired.
“I have taken early retirement following advice from my doctor,” he said.
“I have apologised to people in the church, but people can say one thing to you and think something different.
“Perhaps the problem was of my own making. Perhaps I should have been wiser and not taken part in the event. But that’s what life is about. Sometimes it takes you down a different route.”
He had served in the church for 20 years, five of them at St Lawrence’s.
Alf has some sympathy for him.
When he was invited to a vicars and tarts party, it wouldn’t make sense to go along dressed up as a vicar.
And let’s face it, even if he had gone in his vicar’s garb it would like drag.