Good Fruits – Jim Cotter

Jim Cotter(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

Jim Cotter, who died last week, was a prime mover in the founding of what was then called GCM. He first became famous when he wrote a regular piece called ‘Our God Too’ in Gay News back in the 1970s. Magazines like Women’s Own and Women’s realm had similar ‘God slots’. One article that I still remember was called ‘The cottage and the Confessional’, which is reproduced in this book, in which he compared the anonymity of both. Intimate sharing occurs in both but not in an holistic manner. The similarities: .It’s all very private; it needs to be. But it may also be anonymous — neither person may know the name of the other….Secret stories are told in both places — spoken in the case of ne, scribbled on walls in the case of the other. And there is a sort of communication going on, though it tends to be impersonal: Vulnerable secrets are told or vulnerable parts are put forward — in the hope that they will be accepted, received, affirmed. Above all there must be no rejection. Many come to both out of loneliness and guilt, believing themselves to be unacceptable. They find something, often only temporary relief, no more. It can all be very mechanical and partial — a list of misdeeds, the tip of yourself. A Roman Catholic writer, Sebastian Moore, referred to confession once as a ‘private appointment with guilt’. It could be a description of the other encounter too. Nothing is ever said about these meetings afterwards. If one should happen to recognize the other in the street, there is no acknowledgment. The secret is well kept. You certainly never refer to the detail of what happened or what was said and done. Lips are sealed.

Jim saw destructiveness in both behaviours but also pointed to something life-affirming in recent developments where the sacrament of reconciliation is now usually a face to face encounter. Similarly, cottaging isn’t as prevalent, perhaps because of the internet.

When this book was written, in 1988, the heavy hand of ecclesiastical law was used to evict the Gay Christian movement from its office in a London church. The assailant was an archdeacon who later became a bishop and is now retired and living in Bristol. He shows no signs of remorse and, 26 years later, the ‘gay issue’ hasn’t gone away. Doubtless, the offending bishop will have claimed the bible as his authority but his reputation, since that event, is that he is not prepared to listen to anyone who disagrees with him. Leaders like him must be challenged. The debate isn’t between two equal sides. The establishment isn’t wounded by its condemning gay people. However, those whom it condemns suffer its pontifications, some going as far as to commit suicide. The recent Pilling Report hasn’t heeded what Jim wrote all those years ago: When there is very little room, when there are no circumstances in which any kind of same-sex relationship ran be openly acknowledged and recognized, then it is hardly surprising that it should prove difficult to establish and sustain such a relationship. The remarkable fact in the circumstances is that so many couples do survive through the years.

There are still those who believe in a ‘cure’ for homosexuality. One chapter of this book is about an organisation called ‘Pilot’ and its telephone ‘counsellor’ Jeff. All Jeff does is shout bible verses down the phone. He isn’t willing to listen, so how can this be ‘counselling’

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