Benny Hazlehurst: a light that burned twice as bright
All of us at OneBodyOneFaith were saddened to hear of the death of Benny Hazlehurst, founder and former Director of Accepting Evangelicals, over Christmas. Benny had been living with cancer since August 2017, a diagnosis he bore with enormous fortitude, honesty and grace, and which he shared though his blog, even whilst he continued to minister in Salisbury diocese.
Benny was the very best kind of evangelical, one who was open to the movement of the Spirit and to reflecting and moving in the light of new understandings. Deeply rooted in scripture, Benny became convinced of the centrality of inclusion to the Gospel of Christ, and this drew him into gracious dialogue with others of a wide range of persuasions and perspectives. In many ways he was the right person in the right place at the right time - called by God to costly encounter, and to enabling others to epxlore and express new understandings of faith and sexuality. His courage and grace were remarkable, engaging with wisdom and always seeking common ground, long after others would have walked away.
In founding Accepting Evangelicals he was able to create a meeting place for others, to share and ponder and pray and connect. For many, their open membership of EA was an important way of signalling their support for diversity. AE heralded a new kind of evangelical identity, passionate about Jesus, and passionate about love. So much of what has been achieved over recent years has been built on the foundations Benny laid.
Benny worked with LGCM - as we then were - as a friend and ally, and his leadership of the LGBTI Angican Coalition was especially valued during a phase of rapid change in relation to CofE policy. Never precious, always with an eye to the wider cause, he was a creative and enthusiastic collaborator with other groups, notable Two23, and Diverse Church.
Benny's Blog is a powerful testimony to his writing and thinking - on faith, sexuality and ministry on the margins - and is to be commended. Over recent months it has become more reflective, with some wonderful posts about Benny's early life, his family and his later ministry. Other posts contain fascinating and timely reflections on his work with AE and represent an important record of a particular period in the unfolding story of the struggle we share for justice and inclusion.
His most recent post, shortly before the end of his life, is especially poignant; Benny asked that his friends remember his wife Mel, son Isaac and daughter Iona in our prayers.
He will be very greatly missed. We are all the richer for his extraordinary life, and work.
“Lord you now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation.”