Presbyterians must welcome everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, to worship a former moderator has told the church’s general assembly in Belfast.
Rev Dr John Dunlop called for greater understanding of the LGBT community that has suffered as a result of persecution.
Addressing delegates yesterday afternoon, Dr Dunlop said he was “partially left-handed” and that “there is nothing I can do about it”.
He said: “I am heterosexual, I don’t know what it’s like to be anything other than heterosexual. That is how I am. And I ask you to consider the possibility, that people with a sexual orientation, have an orientation about which they can do nothing. It is a part of who they are.”
Dr Dunlop said it must be made clear that they are welcome to worship with the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI).
“They are a minority amongst us but they are part of us. I have come to understand that human sexuality is a good deal more complex than I thought it was. People like me are on a learning curve,” he added.
He also cautioned that, in the fallout from the Ashers ‘gay cake’ case, there was a danger people would become “switched off” from the Equality Commission and the Human Rights Commission.
“This church in its history often could have done with the protection of equality and human rights legislation The danger of the Ashers dispute is that it has widened the rift between many of us in the Christian churches and people of a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender orientation,” Dr Dunlop added.
Another former moderator, Rev Dr Rob Craig from Londonderry called on the current church authorities to show solidarity with Ashers Baking Company.
“Think seriously, at the coming of the Ashers appeal, to call our church to a day of prayer – not just for Christians oppressed in this land, but also for Christians who are persecuted across the world,” he said.
Rev Alan Boal from Dublin complained there was a “lack of leadership from the PCI” on the referendum and that the PCI must make “greater strides towards meaningful engagement with homosexual people who are members in our congregations”.
Rev Boal told delegates that when resolutions had to be debated and voted on later this week, including issues arising from the referendum outcome, it should happen behind closed doors “since the lack of full rapport together is deep, and varied emotions play out badly and prematurely in the church and in the press.
“I remain convinced that God’s design for bearing his image to creation is that of male/female complementarity,” but, he added: “We must pay attention to the impact of legislative change...the social revolution is making its way north”.