Church of Ireland traditionalists ‘disturbed’ by LGBTI+ event

An evangelical group has hit out at the Church of Ireland for promoting a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex-plus (LGBTI+) event, including a sermon by a strong critic of Anglican traditionalism.

Friday, 4th June 2021, 7:30 am
The Reverend Paul Robinson and political activist Stephen Spillane at Saint Anne’s Church, Cork; this picture accompanied the Church of Ireland's social media accounts about LGBTI+ Awareness Week

The controversy began last month when the church’s official Facebook and Twitter accounts advertised material about LGBTI+ Awareness Week in Co Cork, including a church service at St Anne’s in Shandon.

The service was addressed by Jayne Ozanne, described by the church as “a campaigner for LGBTI+ people within the church as well as being an advocate for the banning of conversion therapy”.

Christian organisations have voiced concern about increasingly prevalent calls for “conversion therapy” to be criminalised.

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Such “therapy” purports to help people overcome gay desires.

But there is no agreed definition of the term, and some have argued that prayer or reading from the Bible could become crimes under a far-reaching, catch-all ban.

Ms Ozanne herself has previously said: “Prayer isn’t prayer if it causes you to hate yourself for being LGBT!

“It is actually ‘hate prayer’.

“It is dangerous, damaging, and must be included in a bill to ban conversation therapy.”

The church’s social media posts included a quote from minister Paul Robinson, saying: “We are delighted to be able to play our part in Cork LGBTI+ Awareness week.

“Inclusion is a very important part of who we are in St Anne’s and we are reminded of this each week when we say ‘whoever you are, and wherever you are in your journey in faith, you are welcome here’.”

Alongside the text is a picture of Rev Robinson and political activist Stephen Spillane outside St Anne’s with a “progressive rainbow” flag (which, in addition to the existing rainbow stripes associated with gay pride, includes light blue / pink stripes for transgender people and black / brown stripes for ethnic minorities).

Ms Ozanne then begins preaching, telling how she recently quit a government LGBT advisory group because of what she saw as sluggishness in getting “conversion therapy” criminalised.

She harked back to “Martin Luther King and his fight for equality for those of colour,” telling worshippers: “When it’s been a really important point of justice the road has always been bumpy and hard, but we’ve always got there.

“Truth has always won out. Justice has always finally been done – not always in our lifetime, but the arc of history bends towards justice.

“God will see his kingdom built on Earth.

“The church will – maybe not the church as we know it – get to a place where it will embrace all and recognise the love of all. That may not be the institutional church. I actually personally think the days of institutions are coming to an end.”

She went on to talk about “the media, who are absolutely on our side, who get how awful this is and are determined to shout out on our behalf”.

GAFCON Ireland, an influential traditionalist Anglican organisation chaired by Belfast minister Rev Timothy Anderson, noted in a statement released in response to the event that there is currently pressure for clerics “to accept as members people who are gay and who wish to practise their sexuality”.

He continued: “Although our western culture and society might commend and approve this it is not the Christian position that has been held throughout the ages. Christians have always been counter cultural.

“Jesus is Lord and following him will always mean being at odds with the political and cultural setting around us, often at great cost.”

He added that “this campaign will deeply unsettle and disturb members of the Church of Ireland, and all believers, who have chosen, with the help of God, to embrace the battle against same sex temptation and sin”.

He added: “We remain steadfast by taking the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to all people regardless of sexual orientation or identity.

“We invite all to join us and to find a new identity in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The Church of Ireland press office said: “The story in relation to the service at St Anne’s, Shandon, was shared as an item of diocesan news from the Diocese of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, as has been the case in previous years, in the same way as news is shared from all dioceses on our social media channels.”

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Alistair Bushe