Rev Chris Hudson: ‘Most people are ahead of the churches on gay issues’

Rev Chris Hudson on a previous gay pride march in Belfast with other marchers. 
Picture by Kelvin Boyes / PressEye.com.
Rev Chris Hudson on a previous gay pride march in Belfast with other marchers. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / PressEye.com.

We are blessed in Northern Ireland that compared to many parts of the world we are an enlightened modern democracy.

Wisam Sankari, a young Syrian Refugee, working as a hospital cleaner, disappeared in Istanbul on the 25th July when he went to meet with another gay man.

Rev Chris Hudson at All Souls, Belfast

Rev Chris Hudson at All Souls, Belfast

Two days later his mutilated body was found, he had been beheaded. Turkey has a bad track record on its acceptance of gay people.

It is not alone, many Islamic countries and indeed some Christian African countries are accused of outrageous homophobic brutalities and have enshrined homophobic laws.

Thankfully, as we saw from last week’s Pride Parade in Belfast, Northern Ireland is a more inclusive society with regard to gay and lesbian people.

The LGBT community have the support of political parties, civil organisations and state agencies. Sadly however, the churches have some way to go in order to play catch-up.

In my view, formed from engagements with ordinary people, the impression I get is that they are for the most part ahead of the clergy on embracing gay rights, including marriage equality.

There is no universal agreement between churches on scriptural interpretation yet many of the mainstream and evangelical denominations still persist in demonising gay people of faith, who are sexually active in loving relationships, married or otherwise.

In the denomination in which I hold ministry, the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian church, there are now openly gay ministers accepted and supported by good and decent Christian communities.

The Presbyterian Church of Scotland has already decided to ordain ministers who are gay, a decision which has damaged relations with the Irish Presbyterian Church.We have to learn in Northern Ireland that although we may share a common Christian faith there is a multitude of understanding of how we engage with the gospels and live or lives accordingly.

Our legislators have to understand that they do not legislate only for opinions they share but for a diverse community. They could easily learn this from the other legislative assemblies within the United Kingdom, including the Westminster Parliament.

I have absolutely no doubt that same sex marriage will be introduced into Northern Ireland, within the next few years.

We recognise that within scripture there are cultural norms that would not be acceptable today.

Solomon had over a thousand wives. According to Kings 11:3, King Solomon had seven hundred wives, princesses and three hundred concubines.

Scripture states that God allowed Solomon such an array of partners but may not have approved. There are many other social norms in scripture that would not be acceptable today.

Church leaders are not the gatekeepers of people’s moral integrity, their contributions are no more valid than the humblest of Christian folk.

They don’t own God nor the Christian message and gay people don’t need their approval to share in God’s loving kindness.

They are affirmed in God’s light and they should be entitled, like others, to enjoy marriage equality. I sincerely appeal to our politicians in Stormont, please don’t deprive the LGBT community in Northern Ireland, of a civil and religious right they enjoy in the rest of the United Kingdom.

Put aside your differences, do the right thing and introduce marriage equality.

• Rev Hudson is minister of All Souls near Queen’s University