Church of Ireland cleric rejects claim it is homophobic from Rev Andrew Rawding

A former editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette has rejected claims from a resigning cleric that the denomination is “structurally, culturally and socially homophobic”.

Wednesday, 7th July 2021, 6:30 am
Updated Wednesday, 7th July 2021, 11:52 pm
Canon Ian M Ellis, who is a former editor of The Church of Ireland Gazette.
Canon Ian M Ellis, who is a former editor of The Church of Ireland Gazette.

Canon Ian Ellis defended his church after Co Tyrone cleric Rev Andrew Rawding, who campaigns on LGBT issues, announced his resignation. The rector of Brackaville, Donaghendry and Ballyclog, broke the news to parishioners on Sunday morning.

He told the BBC that the his church was “structurally, culturally and socially homophobic”. He added: “There are some kind and compassionate individuals but corporately, at best there is indifference, at worst there is hypocrisy.”

He also claimed that there was “an aggressive and proactive opposition to full inclusion and equality for LGBT+ people, with some people still weaponising Bible verses and using the language of condemnation and rejection”.

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Rev Andrew Rawding, Church of Ireland rector for Coalisland & Stewartstown, travelled to Derry to support the Foyle Pride parade, which was met with a protest from by religious group at the Duke Street Roundabout. DER3519-113KM

“I have made a public 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 and to show my full support for same-sex marriages within the Church of Ireland,” he said.

In 2012 the church’s general synod affirmed its teaching on marriage but acknowledged that members have “hurt and wounded people” over sexuality. In 2017 it rejected a motion to accept same-sex marriage. Yesterday it declined to comment.

Rev Rawding said the church’s listening process for LGBT+ people has been “a tick-box exercise” and that there is a very serious issue of “suicidal ideation” within the LGBT community. He now plans to start a degree in social work.

But speaking in a personal capacity, Canon Ellis, said he regretted Rev Rawding’s decision and appealed to him to reconsider.

“His characterisation of the Church of Ireland as structurally, culturally and socially homophobic raises the question of what is meant by ‘homophobia’ as a term,” he told the News Letter.

“How it is understood varies from negative feelings about homosexual people, to fear of them, to actual hatred. I don’t think the Church of Ireland falls into any of those categories.”

Individual members of the church who don’t demonstrate care are not characteristic of the church as a whole, he said. The Church of Ireland has acknowledged that members have at times “hurt and wounded” people in relation to sexuality, which is “clearly wrong”  he said, but he rejected the claim his church’s listening to LGBT people was “a tick-box exercise”.

“The Church of Ireland has tried very sincerely to engage on the subject and I know that great efforts have been made in that exercise.”

The matter concerns tensions in differing interpretations of scripture, he added.

Presbyterian minister Rev Ian Carton resigned in June over his church’s decision to deny same-sex couples full membership.

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