Church’s failure to understand hurt of LGBT people

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor

I refer to the article published in your newspaper (‘God owns the rainbow, not gay pride, says pastor,’ August 15).

I am deeply troubled by this and other recent public comments directed towards the LGBT community from evangelical quarters.

There seems to be a failure or an outright denial on the part of the church to understand the considerable list of mental health issues LGBT people suffer as a result of being invalidated and marginalised.

Do we realise that gay men are three times more likely to suffer from an eating disorder, and one in four have actually attempted suicide?

Every Christian needs to ask…to what extent is the church responsible for driving LGBT people to feel (and be) so clearly undervalued?

And why is it determined to draw such clear lines of exclusion?

Getting an insight into what it might be like to be part of the LGBT community in NI has brought me ‘on a journey’, a phrase I’ll use reluctantly.

In my early twenties (not that long ago!) I would have known some of those holding placards in protest at Belfast Pride, and would have supported their cause.

But the LGBT community have let me in and they have shown me grace when my prejudices have come to the fore.

It has stirred a change that has been evolutionary in nature and radical in effect.

I’ve read, understand and appreciate the six scriptures that are in issue – I am not shying away from the theological difficulties most evangelicals may have.

However, I am asking for an open conversation within the church…and for a very public apology for its wrongdoing.

In the past few weeks several well-known evangelicals have publicly advanced a disappointing polarising attitude towards the LGBT community.

We have seen MLAs criticising the PSNI and the National Trust for taking part in Pride, whilst the NI Evangelical Alliance Director made an unhelpful swipe at the extent of the BBC’s coverage on the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

They seem to hold the view that Christians are in some sort of danger of losing equality. But Christ never asked the church to fight for earthly supremacy or equality, or to “take the rainbow back”… rather he demands that we turn the other cheek, be peacemakers, fight for the oppressed and love those on the fringes.

I have no intention of being controversial but I call upon all of my fellow believers to say sorry for the hurt we have caused and approach this with Christ-like grace.

My prayer is that we would fight to strip away the damage caused by all of us who have carried Jesus’ name but at times abandon his character.

Too many young people are scared and too many have taken their own lives because of who they are.

They need to understand that they are not “less”, rather they are valued and equal members of our society.

The church should be leading this cause, not opposing it or dismissing it.

Stuart Anderson, Bangor