A CHURCH of Ireland minister has quit after growing frustrated at the “aggressive and proactive opposition” to the “full inclusion and equality” of LGBT+ people in the church.
Rev Andrew Rawding from County Tyrone has been a strong advocate of
LGBT+ rights and has regularly organised Pride events as a representative of the church.
He made headlines at one event by carrying a banner apologising over the church’s treatment of the LGBT+ community.
Rawding had served as rector at Brackaville, Donaghendry and Ballyclog, but has now stepped down after accusing the Church of Ireland of being “structurally, culturally and socially homophobic”.
He told the BBC:“There are some kind and compassionate individuals but corporately, at best there is indifference. At best there is hypocrisy.”
Rawding went on to accuse some in the church of continuing the practice of “weaponising Bible verses” against LGBT+ people and “using the language of condemnation and rejection”.
The departing minister reflected on the fact he had “made a stance in the past as a Church of Ireland rector to send a message to the LGBT+ community that it’s OK to be LGBT+ and to be a Christian”.
Despite this he believes many in the church remain “homophobic and discriminatory” and warned “there are still grandparents and relatives who will not accept LGBT children within their own families”.
Though he acknowledged a select committee on sexuality had previously been established by the church, this was little more than a “tick-box exercise”.
Paint a vivid picture of the reaction to his pro-LGBT+ work, Rawding said: "All I have had is blank looks and silence, or comments like, 'I'm not homophobic because I know gay people', or even, 'You need to be careful because people will think you're gay’.”