Rev Timothy Anderson was reacting to denouncements of his church from Rev Andrew Rawding, who in recent years has been among the Province’s most prominent activists for the acceptance of transgenderism and gay people.
Rev Rawding was known for being photographed with a rainbow-coloured sign saying “We are sorry for how the church still mistreats LGBTQI+ people” (standing for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and more).
On Sunday July 4, Rev Rawding – rector of Brackaville, Donaghendry and Ballyclog in Tyrone – announced he was quitting the church.
He said 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,” adding that “sadly there are still grandparents and relatives who will not accept LGBT children”.
Rev Anderson is chairman of GAFCON Ireland (the Global Anglican Future Conference), which promotes a traditionalist approach to Scripture.
Writing to the News Letter in what he stressed was a personal capacity (rather than on behalf of the whole GAFCON movement) he said: “There have always been examples of unkind attitudes, bullying, and discrimination towards homosexuals and this should grieve us and cause us to search our heart.
“But to simply dismiss those within the church who disagree with a cultural consensus by using a ‘shut-down’ word like ‘homophobic’ is itself abusive and intolerant.
“The traditional Christian belief towards homosexual practice, marriage, and sex is not irrational, nor unloving, nor ignorant...
“The Christian position affirms that we all sin, that God loves, that the Bible is His word and that he summons us both to belief and repentance for the
forgiveness of sins.
“This is not homophobic. This is a message of hope, grace and newness of life and a message that the Church of Ireland continues to affirm in its Constitution and Canons.”
(His full comments willbe available in the News Letter’s opinion section shortly)
Despite Rev Rawding’s claims of institutional anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes in the church, there is in fact a wide split within the Irish Anglican movement, with many seeking acceptance of new outlooks on gender and sexuality.
For instance, the Church of Ireland’s Church and Society Commission last year penned a paper which said that “for many people gender is a spectrum” and called for people to recognise the existence of “non-binary” gender identities.
And last month the News Letter reported that in Co Cork, a church had hosted a talk by an LGBTQ+ campaigner in which she called for praying to be criminalised “if it causes you to hate yourself” (read more here).
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