Play depicting Jesus as transgender woman ‘causing Christians distress’

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Concerned Christians have stressed their “disappointment” that a controversial play depicting Jesus as a transgender woman may go ahead.

The play - The Gospel According to Jesus Queen of Heaven - which has been written by transgender playwright Jo Clifford, is expected to be shown on Sunday as part of Belfast’s Outburst Queer Arts Festival.

The Outburst Queer Arts Festival website invites the public to “join us for a revolutionary queer ritual in which bread is shared, wine is drunk and familiar stories are re-imagined by a transgender Jesus”.

“Humane, mischievous and loving, the world is also re-imagined – as a far better, kinder and more tolerant place,” it adds.

The plot of the play, which involves Jesus returning to the world as a transgender woman, has previously sparked fury in Glasgow where hundreds of people turned out to protest.

However, William Press, Rector of Knockbreda Parish Church in Belfast, said he and fellow clerics were minded to write a public letter due to the “distress” over how the play has been perceived.

When asked if they were preparing to stage protests at the play venue, he said: “No, our protest was made in the form of the letter.

“But there are so many Christian people, churches and groups in the Province, I don’t honestly know if any other protests will be held.

“No one is to know how people will react. No one knows how it will be received.”

Rev Press said he believed the writer, Jo Clifford, “politicised the Gospel story” and that her analysis “doesn’t tie up with historic Christianity”, adding: “I think she is badly mistaken and unfortunately using the Gospel stories and narratives for her own agenda”.

He added: “Christian people feel distressed about the way the person they follow is portrayed.”

“There is a strongly held opinion within the Christian churches that there should not be a representation of Jesus in a public arena like this.”

Meanwhile, fellow signatory of the letter, Rev Trevor Johnston from All Saints on Univerity Road in Belfast, said he would be “disappointed if the play was allowed to go ahead”.

He said Jesus has “always been portrayed whatever the social interest is in a generation”.

He also added that Jesus “falls victim to the propensity and interest of the social issues of the day and gets reinterpreted to suit different agendas”.

Ms Clifford, who has described herself as a practicing Christian, said the play will not be performed in Belfast.

However, a recording of a previous performance will be shown and there will be a live question and answer session with Ms Clifford afterwards.

Jesus Queen of Heaven is part of the ninth Outburst Queer Arts Festival.

The Outburst Queer Arts Festival website also describes the play as “a gentle power to penetrate and heal the hearts of believers and non-believers alike”.

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