Book review: Coming out of the Black Country by Stanley Underhill
We're delighted to tell you about a new book written by Stanley Underhill and bring you a review of his work by Ann Reddecliffe. Stanley's book is available from Zuleika and also availabel electronically.
This book is the autobiography of a gay Anglican clergyman. It is beautifully written. He has a good story to tell and he tells it well.
The autobiography is both very personal and it has an everyman quality to it. He tells personal stories of his parents, his difficult aunt, his brother and friends, but he also tells the journey of a man struggling to come to terms with his sexuality and his church. It is this journey that makes the book so engaging and so resonant for many of us – it is his story, but it is also our story too.
As a young man Stanley realised that he was homosexual and it was something that he struggled with, because he believed the church teaching that it was wrong. We see the great pain and sadness that this causes him. Like many young men he wants to have a loving partner and have children, so he goes through a failed exorcism that leads to a breakdown and hospitalisation. He goes through other treatments to try to change his sexuality, but all of these fail and we read the lifelong effects of these failed treatments. Throughout all of this his faith is the rock that he can rely on.
In later life Stanley joins a monastery and then goes forward for ordination in the church of England. His lived experience shows the cost of church policies that force people to stay secret about their sexualities. Ironically one cost was that he was the target of certain ladies with a view to marrying him. If only they knew the truth!
It is in retirement that he is able to be honest with other people about his sexuality and can move past some of the hurt and regret to find a joy and contentment in life. I think it is clear that the church needs to catch up with what is going on in lives of some of their clergy and books such as this are a valuable step on that journey.
Coming out of the Black Country
By Stanley Underhill
Published by Zuleika
ISBN 978 1 9996232 10