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Just Love -- a journey of self-acceptance

Just Love -- a journey of self-acceptance

by Jayne Ozanne

Book Review by Dr Peter May
June 30, 2018

Jayne Ozanne was formerly a member of the Archbishop's Council of the CofE and the Director of 'Accepting Evangelicals', a group which campaigns for acceptance of same-sex partnerships at every level of church life. Last summer, her Private Member's Motion persuaded General Synod to oppose therapeutic counselling for those who wanted help to move away from homosexual desires and behaviour, and to urge the Government to make such counselling illegal. Contrary to the most basic of human rights -- to have your beliefs and desires respected - those who are gay, on this view, must 'stay gay' whether they want to or not. Most recently, she has been appointed Director of the Ozanne Foundation, which aims to eliminate discrimination based on sexuality or gender.

Just Love is her story. It is lightweight, gossipy, disjointed but otherwise easy to read. One does not need to read far to become strangely uncomfortable. Her story is an extraordinary, emotional roller-coaster. She plunges into the depths of despair then rises to the heights of exhilaration -- again and again. Resolution, which I anticipated from the title, never comes.

Everything is described in dramatic terms. All her friendships are 'close' friendships and she basks in their fame and status. Her capacity to 'drop names' is shocking,(e.g. on page 244: "A close friend, Bishop James Jones KBE urged me to start writing." Being a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire makes all the difference to Jayne.) She boasts of her achievements. She excelled academically (Cambridge, of course), and climbed the ladder in a marketing career, moving from Pantyliners to the BBC. She doesn't appear to stay long in any job and moves from one intense relationship to another. There seems to have been no period in her life where she enjoyed anything resembling quiet stability.

Before becoming a lesbian, she enjoyed flirtatious relationships with a number of men, but her love was unrequited. In her early twenties, she had a relationship with an Anglican clergyman, with whom she argued constantly about whether sex was just for marriage or not. "I was crystal clear on this point -- it was the biblical expectation that a woman would give herself solely to her husband, and not until they were married." Her virginity she believed was the most precious gift she could ever think of giving. However, she writes: "I was keen to understand just 'how far you could go' without overstepping this important red line...and decided that anything apart from full-on penetration was probably okay."

"So my lines were clear. I trusted him...and he was a priest, wasn't he? But despite this, one night it all became just a bit too infuriating for him. He took what was not his to take, my most precious gift which I had not given." Jayne subsequently described this as 'rape', though I doubt that any UK Court would draw that conclusion. Male rape has, nonetheless, driven many a woman into lesbianism.

Later, with a boyfriend named Geoff, she was persuaded that a theological case for pre-marital intercourse could be made if you were "truly committed to each other. I immediately rang Geoff and asked if I could come over as I wanted to spend the night with him. He was stunned but delighted."

How are we to understand Jayne's behaviour? I think any experienced health professional will quickly conclude that Jayne has both a histrionic and a narcissistic personality disorder . (Good accounts of these closely related conditions - HPD & NPD - can be found easily on Wikipedia.) HPD is expressed in excessive attention-seeking and the need to be appreciated. These people are described as lively, dramatic, vivacious, enthusiastic and flirtatious. They are egocentric, craving attention, exaggerating their emotions and achieving their goals by manipulation. They make rash decisions and blame others for their failures. They also tend to suffer from psycho-somatic illnesses. The condition is diagnosed four times more often in women than men, affecting 2-3% of the population and 10-15% of mental health patients.

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is closely related. Characterised by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, these people spend a lot of time thinking about achieving power and success, taking advantage of the people around them. They have an inflated view of their own importance and a constant need to be admired. Their feelings of superiority lead them to seek to be associated with high-status individuals and institutions.

With all this in mind, we need to ask what kind of "love" this book is about. The title is "Just Love -- A journey of self-acceptance." The front cover has a large picture of Jayne on it and the content is relentlessly about Jayne. Even her new Foundation, set up to provide her with financial support, is launched in her name.

Jayne tells us that the year before she was appointed to the Archbishop's Council, she had a mental breakdown, causing her to be admitted to a private psychiatric Hospital, funded by the BBC, who had signed her off as sick and never to return (her choice or theirs?). Worrying about what to do next, she responded to a newspaper advertisement, recruiting candidates for the new Archbishop's Council. She admits she knew nothing about the Church of England. It was a "completely foreign world." She felt "horrendously ill-equipped to deal with anything to do with the Church, especially anything theological." Did she admit her recent medical history in her application? Did Philip Mawer, the Secretary General of Synod at that time seek a psychiatric report from the doctors who cared for her? And if not, why?

The commendation by Martyn Percy on the back of the book is I believe, profoundly wrong. He says it is "Spiritually wise and theologically acute." He must have been reading something else. She offers no theological grounds for abandoning her biblical view of marriage -- only frustrated emotions, impulsive behaviour and a stunning lack of insight. Ruth Gledhill worded her commendation for the book more carefully. She says it is "Essential reading for anyone seeking insight into the complex morality of the Church today." Quite.

Dr Peter May is a retired General Practitioner and former member of General Synod.

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