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Gay pastoral resource to be launched this week

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William Crawley | 14:48 UK time, Sunday, 8 May 2011

On Friday, Changing Attitude Ireland's new pastoral resource will be published.

"I think my son or daughter is gay" is authored by Gerry Lynch and will be launched by Bishop Michael Burrows (pictured) during the Church of Ireland's General Synod.

You can read the guidelines in full here. On today's Sunday Sequence I talked to one parent about his daughter's experience of coming out, at the age of 16, within the church.

Changing Attitude Ireland is "a network of people, gay and heterosexual, lay and ordained, working for the full affirmation of lesbian and gay persons within the Churches in Ireland" and for the "blessing of same-sex relationships in church".


  • Comment number 1.

    It is an interesting document and seems to cover most of the necessary bases.

    I obviously have no truck with the religious bits in it, but is nice to see people within the church (one of if not the main sources of homophobia) using a real understanding of homosexuality based on research, evidence and facts to open this issue up rather than the hatred, bigotry and lies which have so characterised much of their approach.

    I hope it gets a fair wind.

    I was at a church on Saturday (first time in about 20 years) to see two friends have their union blessed. It was very like any other wedding I have ever been to except the minister went out of his way to welcome everyone regardless of their sexuality, belief or any other diversity. He explained that it was not only his pleasure but his duty as a christian minister to bless their union as in his belief we are all gods children and equal and that love is love whether the two people are of the same or opposite sexes.

    The other interesting thing was that the people who came to celebrate with my friends came from all walks of life, from the unemployed, to the religious (and ordained) and even a couple of MLA's. Times move on and for the better. Roll on equal marriage.

  • Comment number 2.

    I had a long post ready, but something is stopping it, so I'll split it up...

    Believe it or not, but I'm split on whether a religion should reach out to include gays as they are. I think it's good that the likes of the established church is moving along with the times, that it's able to adjust the thinking to adapt to the changing perceptions of a more liberal society. In ages past the church has been anything but willing to do so (and still isn't in some areas) and is perceived as the dictionary definition of conservatism. (part 1 of 3)

  • Comment number 3.

    However, when a religion alters how it views its own dogma and re-interprets its scriptures to move along with the times and recognise aspects of modern society that have evolved seperately (unlike in the past) then it hammers another nail into the coffin that religion can claim to be the source of some kind of absolute truth. If this 'truth' can change dependant on new inputs and influences then was it the truth before or not? And if it wasn't then, is it now? What if it changes again, is it truth then? Modern methodology has a huge advantage here, in that nothing is regarded as truth but merely the most probable based on observed evidence. As certain contributors to this blog have noted, this is hardly a draw to those seeking absolute truths and certainty in life and has its own instrinsic conundrums. (2 of 3)

  • Comment number 4.

    Part of me has a lot of respect for those religious factions that stick to their dogma in the face of social changes and refuse to accept that their religion has to change to accept gays or women or so on. They will die in time, as their position is flawed and bigoted, but at least their integrity is safe; their 'truth' has remained so against all influences. (done)

  • Comment number 5.


    I would broadly share your views but I am also a realist. Wishing religion would intellectualise itself away simply isn't going to work (it requires more intelligence than some of them exhibit) and if it is not going to happen then we have to deal with the negative aspects of their beliefs such as the prevalence of homophobia.

    I do not give a fig if churches don't want gay members or clergy or to perform same sex weddings, that is up to them. What I am keen for them to do is to understand their fellow humans from the basis of factual evidence not the nonsense they are fed (which in many cases is not religious dogma but hate inspired mistruths and lies such as it is a choice or a lifestyle and that it can be cured - none of which is inspired by scriptures). This paper is honest about homosexuality and is really saying

    "some people are gay, you are going to have to accept that and work with it, it may not be easy for you and their actions may conflict with your beliefs but these people exist, are your gods children and are fully equal to heterosexuals"

    If this was the message which the church actually pushed out then maybe we could reduce homophobia and the detrimental effects of it. The current message of "intrinsically evil/disordered/abominations/equal to paedophiles/sheep worriers" or any other derogatory and bigoted term church folk like to use to express their view that we are something they wished they hadn't stepped in does nothing to enrich the lives of homosexuals (or the discriminatory environment in which we live).

    If Theophane and mccamleyc actually cared about human life as opposed to dogma and obedience then maybe they would spend as much effort in berating their church for not standing up to the vicious religious attacks on homosexuals in Uganda. Maybe their pope would like to step in and oppose the law which will bring in the death penalty for being gay and prison sentence for those who do not report gays. I realise that it is mad USA evangelicals responsible for this pogrom but nearly all the churches have been less than vocal in this matter. It would almost seem that they are jealous that the Ugandans are getting what they secretly agree with.

    Sorry for the ramble, but I am trying to say that this is important to gay people (whether religious or not) as it has the ability to effect the environment in which we live. I do not see it as a reaching out to convert but more of a treating homosexuals as human beings after all homosexual acts are no worse that fornication or divorce and they are not singled out as intrinsically evil or disordered and a danger to humanity.

  • Comment number 6.

    The fundamental ideology of the document means that, despite its Anglican sounding broad church approach, it requires an acceptance that being gay and gay sex are good things. If that's your view, fine. But if it's not this document has nothing for you. As for my Church, homosexuality was prevalent when it was set up 2000 years ago and it's still there like other forms of sinful behaviour - that's the nature of life this side of heaven. For those wanting the Church to change its teaching - don't be holding your breath.

  • Comment number 7.


    So you're saying the Church hasn't changed its teachings in 2000 years? That everything that was clung to in the past by the Church is just as it's taught today? Even on matters that are soley faith based (ie ignoring things like Gallileo and Copernicus)?

    Do you really want to go down that road?

    Or do you want to admit that, yes, Church teaching do change over time and according to social and moralistic pressures.

    Be careful there with such absolute statements.

  • Comment number 8.

    Well we now have flush toilets and psychology and things do change, we can build on previous knowledge but always with the hermeneutic of continuity - that's the approach Blessed John Newman took. But to deal with the specific issue of same-sex attraction and sexual conduct, I don't see any change in the fundamental teaching. Jesus himself knew that his teaching was difficult, but he was clear that sex was for marriage, and marriage was for a man and a woman for life.

  • Comment number 9.

    I might be wrong, but didn't the Presbyterian Church put forward pastoral guidlines for relating to gay and lesbian people a couple of years ago?! I realise both documents aren't identical, but there is a sort of common purpose inherent in them.

  • Comment number 10.


    You are quite right and the documents have quite a bit of common ground particularly with treating people with sensitivity and respect. It is the acceptance of these documents in the wider church community or someone willing to champion them which has left them in the backwater.


    This is not about changing your beliefs, you have a right to them as I have a right to mine. Yours have no authority over me and mine have none over you. (Unless of course you do not believe in human rights such as the right to freedom of religion). This is about equality and treating fellow human beings with dignity and respect. There is no respect (or indeed any scriptural basis) in the statement that homosexuality is intrinsically evil, a disorder or that it will damage the sanctity of church weddings. These are simply prejudiced and bigoted rantings and in fact as full marriage exists in 10 countries and CP's in many more and the world has not ended coupled with the fact that we have known for a considerable time that homosexuality is not a disorder they are simply untrue.

    So you believe that same sex acts are sinful, no probs - don't engage in them. I do not believe in that so I am not bound by that rule. You believe that same sex marriage is wrong, no probs - don't marry someone of the same sex or preside over the marriage of two people of the same sex. I do not believe in that so am not bound by that rule (and as marriage is a civil construct it should be equal for everybody). I am not asking to be allowed to marry in your church just to be able to avail myself of the same rights and privileges as other couples (like fornicators, adulterers and divorcees which I assume you would not allow to marry in your church but can have a civil marriage without a problem or indeed your permission). In short what your Jesus thought is irrelevant in assigning rights and privileges equally to citizens in a secular society.

    The problem that you have is that what you think is a sin is irrelevant outside your religion and those who chose to follow it and as the recent court cases have shown, secular law is intolerant of your pleadings for you to be allowed to discriminate. This is why marriage equality will happen because the current system is discriminatory.

    The document under discussion does not even ask you to park your beliefs, it actually acknowledges that you may have difficulties and may not be able to reconcile them, but it does ask you to park the nasty, bigoted and judgemental attitudes and to use facts rather than mistruths to address the subject.

  • Comment number 11.


    "Jesus himself... was clear that sex was for marriage, and marriage was for a man and a woman for life."

    Citation required.

  • Comment number 12.

    Plus, why is it okay to alter church teachings in some aspects but not others? Why is sex and marriage so much more important than any other issue? What people get upto in their own bedrooms is no one else's business, funny how the church gets so uppity about that and is happy for more fundamental issues of the universe and nature to be adapted at will.

    Could it be social control?

  • Comment number 13.

    Speaking of Presbyterians, here's a pertinent line or two:

    "In 1991 a special committee [of the PCUSA] on Human Sexuality released a two-hundred page report that called for a radical change in Presbyterian sexual behaviour. It recommended the endorsement of any sexual relationship, including extra-martial and homosexual, where "justice-love" was present.

    Exasperated conservatives in the church found an unlikely spokesperson for their frustration in Camille Pagila, a radical feminist who savaged the authors of the report in the pages of the New Republic for their liberal sentimentality and oppressive unwillingness to claim full responsibility for their sexual behaviour;

    The report is so eager to ignore away the inconvenient facts of Christian morality about sex that one has to ask the committee members, why remain Christian at all?...As a lapsed Catholic of wavering sexual orientation, I have never understood the pressure for ordination of gay clergy or approval, an inability to take personal responsibility for one's own identity. The institutional religions, Catholic and Protestant, carry with them the majesty of history. Their theology is impressive and coherent. Efforts to revise or dilute that theology for present convenience seems to me misguided.

    Pagila, a pagan, could see what many Presbyterian's failed to grasp, that the report was a desperate effort to main the church's credibility by abandoning its creeds. Far from prophetic witness, this accommodation renders the church indistinguishable from culture."

    Seeking a better country: 300 years of American Presbyterianism pg 249, D.G. Hart and John R. Muether
  • Comment number 14.

    Re post 1 "that love is love whether the two people are of the same or opposite sexes"

    -It's as simple as that.

    The CAI website is a healthy step in the right direction & will be an invaluable source of info for some

    It's a difficult course to navigate- on the one hand, the extreme hypocrisy of some in the established Churches -the homosexuality in the Catholic Church & notable Evangelists such as Eddie Long et al extoling views which lead to homophobia in a wider context. On the other hand, Athiests who seek to apply a different set of impositions, by mocking the right of people to have faith/spirituality, can also push people away from exploring the spiritual part of who they are

    A loving relationship between 2 people should be promoted in an impartial way & can have meaning in a spiritual context. Plenty of folk are in loving , monagamous relationships of all orientations and backgrounds, and yes, there are plenty who aren't, but love doesn't segregate along lines of gender or orientation. Marriage isn't just about biological reproduction. It's a union between 2 people- not a law that you have to reproduce. Some hetersexual couples can't reproduce, but the dignity of their love isn't called into question.It's accepted because on the outside they fit what is deemed acceptable in the eyes of others, regardless of what biologically makes them unable to have kids

    Although Im sure it feels like intertia to some, this tug of war- subject to the extremes - has slowly brought society forward. The battle between those who are hidden/hypocritical & those who celebrate it loudly as an act of defiance against suffocating conservatism, has created an ever increasing pool of people in the middle- who aren't party to either extreme.They just want to be allowed to live with quiet,honest dignity

  • Comment number 15.

    Dave - you believe that sex with children is wrong. No problem. Don't have sex with children "I do not believe in that so am not bound by that rule". You believe that killing Jews is wrong. So don't kill Jews. " I do not believe in that so am not bound by that rule "

    Doesn't exactly work as a moral theory, does it?

  • Comment number 16.


    Who mentioned killing jews or sex with children, you really have to stick to reality. We are discussing real people acting within the bounds of mutual consent. Please stick with it and stop the ridiculous arm waving.

  • Comment number 17.

    1. Dave wrote:

    "He explained that it was not only his pleasure but his duty as a christian minister to bless their union as in his belief we are all gods children and equal..."

    I think that's fantastic, and it is very gratifying to know that these views can be found among the clergy of local churches.

    All is not lost.

  • Comment number 18.

    Dave - merely pointing out that a moral yardstick which is just your opinion isn't a morality that's any use in society. Now you're expanding it by bringing in notions of mutual consent.

  • Comment number 19.


    It's always a favourite tactic of those opposed to equal rights for other people to begin to bring in comparisons to things like child abuse or anti-semetism. It's a heinous strawman and a strategy that does nothing but make those making the comparision seem ridiculous.

    You're right in that one person's morals are different to another's, however, no one is advocating an amoral lifestyle with no boundries; this is about how a small minority of people with views dictated by unfounded and culturally irrelevant biblical passages seem to have a problem with the choices of consenting adults that have nothing to do with them whatsoever.

    I bet those who condem homosexuality have no problems at all eating shellfish, but god hates shellfish just as much as gays.

  • Comment number 20.


    You are bringing in questions of right and wrong which lie outside the moral framework which we as a society have bounded in law (in terms of harm and consent) and comparing them to decisions of right or wrong which are purely a matter for the individual. The fact that you have abdicated your responsibility to make your own moral judgement to another source is your right and you are welcome to it but that does not mean that I do not have the right to make my own moral decisions based on my own opinion. My opinion is as valid a moral position as anyone else's within that framework. I am not setting moral yardsticks for society, that would be presumptuous and arrogant, I leave peoples moral decisions to themselves.

    I have not said that you need to change your beliefs nor your morality simply that when engaging with people whose morality you disagree with you respect their right to a different morality and if you feel the need to justify your morality (which again you are entitled to do) you do so on the basis of honesty and facts not rhetoric, obfuscation and mistruths.

    That is how humans should treat each other and what this pamphlet is laying out a frame work for. It is not saying you have to embrace homosexuality, my reading is that it is asking you to accept that homosexuals exist and have the right to equal treatment and rights and that they have the right to determine their own morals based on the bounds set by society and their own beliefs/opinions.

  • Comment number 21.

    Any view which claims to be Christian must of necessity be in accordance with what the Bible says.

    On the subject of homosexuality Scripture is very clear - same sex relationships are forbidden, since they are outside the bounds of marriage, which is a lifelong relationship between one man and one woman.

    The Bible teaches that all of us are sinners who need to come to a place of repentance and trust in Christ. Since homosexual behaviour is sinful, the best pastoral help I can give to such individuals is to show them the way to forgiveness and a new lifestyle by faith in Jesus Christ.

    The Christian Church is filled with forgiven sinners. 'Affirming' someone in a sinful lifestyle cuts them off from God's forgiveness - the very opposite of what a truly Christian pastor should do.

  • Comment number 22.

    Pastor Phillip,

    The bible also teaches that eating shellfish is forbidden, that you can't plant a field with two crops, mix fabrics or cut the hair at the edge of your head. To be more up to date (ie NT and not OT) women shouldn't speak or expose their heads and you should never eat meat that was consecrated for sacrifice.

    Your attitude that homosexuality is a sin that precludes proper salvation is based overwhelmingly on old testament Jewish laws and slightly on a specific interpretation and translation of some of the words of Paul, -not- Jesus. The big JC never mentioned sexuality and was remarkable reticent about the sanctity of marriage as well (even to the extent of forgiving an adultress).

    If you don't like homosexuals, just say so, but don't pretend that your bible encourages that attitude as there's plenty in there that is prohibited but is apparently quite acceptable.

  • Comment number 23.


    The problem you have is that people disagree about what the bible says which leads to multiple religions based on the same book. The other problem you have is that the bible has no authority over the state or any individual who does not voluntarily accept that authority. That is the value of freedom of religion - all equal under the law without fear or favour to any religious doctrine.

    The rest of your post is irrelevant except to those of your particular sect. Talking about sin to people who have no belief in it is meaningless. I get that you think it is sinful for you what I don't get is the attempt to project that into a universal concept.

    I would ask you though what is this new lifestyle without sin - is it a life never thinking lustful thoughts or never having sexual activity alone or with another. Is it a life without accepting a lifelong partner with which to form a bond deeper, more physical and more intimate than friendship. A life of denial about who and what you intrinsically are?

    You seem to suggest that the people who take the approach outlined by the pamphlet are not 'truly' christian pastors, apart from you who is? Is the catholic church full of 'truly' christian pastors or the orthodox church or the anglican church. Just who are the true christians? Don't bother with a wooly "true christians believe ...." just name and shame the groups I am really interested to know how many 'true' christians there are.

    The great benefit to our society is that you can post what you like but people are free to add

    "This statement is religious and may or may not be true, other beliefs are available"

  • Comment number 24.

    The goalposts are shifting all over the place now. It started as morality as your opinion, then mutual consent was added, now boundaries we have agreed as a society.

    I agree with God on shell fish - never touch the stuff.

  • Comment number 25.

    No mccamleyc there are no goalposts shifting, you just don't wish to engage with the premise that people have the right to determine their own actions free of your religion and that they are due equal respect and treatment regardless of their sexuality.

    My morality is my opinion, nothing wrong with that. All sexual ethics are personal morality (or opinion if you prefer) within the boundaries of consent and harm. I believe that I do not need those boundaries as I already factor them into forming my opinion but they are necessary at the societal level to constrain and form a basis for censure of those who would abuse people without their consent - like the abusers in the catholic church.

    This is a fairly simple concept, I really am surprised you are having such a hard time with it. Try to think of it in terms of human rights and the freedoms it conveys. Freedom of religion is great because it actually gives some (but thankfully increasing) protection from religion too - a very necessary thing when it come to making your own moral judgements.

    Or is that the problem - you don't accept that people should be free to make their own moral judgement on sexual matters without referral to your religion and without any censure. Is this a sense of fear that you are not as important as you use to be, that people don't accept you as a moral authority.

    btw could you and PastorPhilip please have a chat and tell me which, if either, of you are the 'true' christians, it seems a waste of my time to converse with the wrong one or ones.

  • Comment number 26.

    Grand - I consider homosexual sex to be harmful to both participants and therefore in your scheme of things immoral. Glad we can agree.

  • Comment number 27.

    I see it is too difficult for you as we clearly do not agree.

    Your opinion only makes it immoral (or wrong) for you - not immoral in any universal sense. If within your personal morality you feel that homosexual sex is wrong that is fine and you are free not to engage in it - I am quite sure the gay community at large are breathing easier tonight.

    The fact that the basis for your opinion lacks any evidence is completely up to you, your personal morality requires no external affirmation.

    That's the beauty of personal morality - your ignorance only affects you.

  • Comment number 28.

    Mccamley,you seem to be confusing sex with promiscuity. The apparatus of the Catholic Church nurtures homosexual love. It should inculcate the faithful with an innate ability to empathise with homosexuality .Homosexual love, surely, is a daily part of life in such confines.By accepting the rights of Gays and women to be ordained & for those ordained to marry , the Catholic Church will more accurately represent those they seek to serve in the community. Far better to be open and honest than hidden and hypocritical. A loving, consensual relationship between 2 adults based on trust, monagamy and acceptance is something many people strive for, regardless of colour, gender, orientation or background


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