Author Archives: Faith and Pride

Belfast’s Annual LGBT Community Carol Service

Belfast’s annual carol service for the LGBT community, will be held on Wednesday 14 December at 7.30pm. It’s organized by “The Gathering” and friends, in conjunction with All Souls’ Church. The speaker is Revd Dr Lesley Carroll. There is a Facebook event page.
Annual LGBT Community Carol Service - 7:30 PM, 14 December, All Souls Church, Elmwood Avenue, Belfast

NI leaders ought to condemn anti-LGBT mass murder in Orlando

Reacting to the mass murder of LGBT people in Orlando, Florida, Andrew McFarland Campbell, Founder of Faith and Pride called on the political and religious leaders of Northern Ireland to lead the condemnation of the atrocity. Speaking earlier, Andrew said:

“Perhaps more than most, the people of Northern Ireland know how it feels when mass shootings happen.

“I call upon all politicians and religious leaders in Northern Ireland to lead the people of Northern Ireland in the condemnation the anti-LGBT mass murder in Orlando, Florida.

“I call upon all Christians who oppose equality for LGBT people, including same-sex marriage, to prayerfully consider whether or not your opposition to our freedom helped dehumanize us, and to prayerfully consider whether that dehumanization contributed to the environment that allowed the mass murder in Orlando, Florida to take place.

“And I call upon all Christians to think about the mass murder in Orlando and pray most fervently the words that Jesus taught us: thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

“Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

Public talk: “The Faithful Underground: 40 years of Christian and Gay witness in Northern Ireland”

Dr Richard O’Leary, a former Chair of Changing Attitude Ireland, and a former QUB academic, is giving a talk entitled “The Faithful Underground – 40 Years of Christian and Gay Witness in Northern Ireland” on Wednesday 10 February at 7.30pm in Queen’s University’s School of Politics, Room 01/005, 22 University Square, Belfast.

Richard said about the talk:

It recalls four decades of pioneering activism by Christian individuals and organisations, gay and straight, who I describe as the faithful underground. Our story begins in 1976 with the setting up of the Northern Ireland Council for Religion and Homosexuality and continues through to 2016 and Faith in Marriage Equality.  We hear how the faithful underground have endured marginalisation and discrimination and have challenged homophobic behaviour, especially from the leadership of the Churches in Ireland. The talk is largely based on eye-witness accounts, LGBT archives and Church documents. This hidden history serves as a reminder that the call for LGBT inclusion in the Churches is not a recent one but part of a decades long, courageous struggle for inclusion and equality.

Faith and Pride’s Response to the Conscience Clause Consultation

We have submitted our response to the DUP’s consultation on the Northern Ireland Freedom of Conscience Amendment Bill. Our response was based on responses we had to our own consultation.

Overall, based on the responses we have had, and an analysis of the proposed legislation compared to the teaching of the New Testament, Faith and Pride is opposed to the proposed legislation.

Read our response in full here.

The previous version of the response had a number of errors. Please see Conscience Clause response errata.

Faith and Pride Consultation on the Northern Ireland Freedom of Conscience Amendment Bill

DUP MLA Paul Givan has proposed a Private Member’s Bill for the Northern Ireland Assembly. This bill, which proposes introducing a conscience clause to the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006, will allow people to use religious belief to legally discriminate against people based on sexual orientation. The DUP recently launched a consultation on the bill. You can read the proposed bill and consultation paper on the DUP website.

Faith and Pride will be responding to this consultation. We would like to hear about what other people in Northern Ireland (and beyond) think about this bill, and so we are running our own consultation before submitting our response to the DUP. We particularly want to hear from people who would be uncomfortable with contacting the DUP directly.

If you would like to respond to our consultation, please read the DUP’s consultation document and then fill out the form below. All fields are optional. No personally identifying information will be shared with any third party unless your explicit consent is given. Most of the fields below are questions taken from the DUP’s consultation document.

Update Our consultation has now closed. Our response will be submitted to the DUP and published on this website in due course. You can respond directly to the DUP via their website.

Community Carols by Candlelight

The Gathering, the gay men’s spiritual group, is holding its annual Community Christmas Carols by Candlelight on Thursday 11th December 2014, in All Soul’s Church, Elmwood Avenue, Belfast, BT9 at 7:30pm. Refreshments will be served afterwards.

This year the speaker is Pádraig Ó Tuama. He is a the Corrymeela Community leader, a poet, and a theologian.

The collection this year will be for the DEC Ebola appeal.

Jeff Dudgeon MBE on the 30th Anniversary of Decriminalisation of Same-Sex Relations

On Sunday 28th October, Jeff Dudgeon MBE gave the address at the service to mark 30 years since the decriminalisation of same-sex relationships in Northern Ireland. We are grateful to him for allowing us to publish the text of his address here.

Thank you for the invitation to talk about the 30th anniversary of decriminalisation this very week, a moment to celebrate freedom and emancipation. A week where the most drastic of criminal penalties were lifted from a small but numerous minority.

It is worth remembering that in law books and in parliamentary debates, homosexual behaviour used to be referred to by the Latin formula “peccatum illud horribile” – that horrible crime – “inter Christianos non nominandum” not to be named among Christians. Men in early Victorian times when convicted of sodomy were hanged, something enthusiastically applauded.

A victory was won with the vote in the House of Commons but the response from the establishment here, and in London, was, and to an important degree remains grudging and hesitant. There were to be no reparations for the past as also was the case after the slaves were freed in the US – but not in the case of Germany at Versailles.

No Northern Ireland MP voted for reform, indeed several who were or had been gay actually voted against. A staggering fact. Colossal hypocrisy. Only in Northern Ireland which also reminds me of later amazing events concerning the family Robinson.

And there was to be no inclusion of Northern Ireland in consequent reforms like the age of consent and civil partnership, without yet another wearying campaign.

I have prospered, but our opponents in the ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy’ campaign prospered mightily, becoming successive Northern Ireland First Ministers. Their campaign however failed, and it is they who are softening their now hard antagonism.

The lawyers for the UK government arguing against decriminalisation became respectively the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland (Lord Brian Kerr) and the President of the ECHR (Sir Nicolas Bratza).

Most younger people just can’t believe such criminalisation ever existed. Of course it was frightening, perhaps more in its potential than in its enforcement. But it could be, and was unexpectedly enforced in Belfast in 1976, when the authorities became agitated at what they took to be a conspiracy to change the law and of a new generation’s willingness to live openly outside it. Many were arrested.

Obviously we were able to look back thirty years on worse times – the German experience when many hundreds of gays were rounded up and the majority worked to death in concentration camps. But that had become history, just as the era of criminalisation is now history.

And younger LGBT people are now concerned about those inequalities and restrictions which might to me seem less onerous, but definitely not to them. I refer to the adoption issue, blood donations and, most controversially for churches, gay or equal marriage.

I have to say, I believe this last one will not come easily or quickly to England with the House of Lords likely to reject it, nor will it come to Northern Ireland via the Assembly. The courts will be the motor for change, as before.

And I have not mentioned disputes, particular to the Church of Ireland, like ordination. The Anglican church is, and will be, the front runner on many such issues but it would a great and unnecessary pity if they lead to splits and departures. I wouldn’t have said this in 1976 and rightly shouldn’t have, but there is a middle way and while acrimony should at all costs be avoided.

I was struck this morning, listening to former President Mary McAleese, in a Sunday Sequence interview with William Crawley, regarding her new book on canon law, by her words: “In charity and love the church must send a new message to our gay brothers and sisters.”

In addressing you now, I believe this Church, for one, has sent that message, and it is appreciated.

In return, we must avoid disrespecting religion and the Christian beliefs of many who are not advancing at the same speed.

I am of the view, in relation to some aspects of UK equality law, particularly employment discrimination, and in turn the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights – whose judgment in my case in 1981 obliged the government to decriminalise homosexuality in Northern Ireland and for which I am eternally grateful – that they need reviewed and refined.

As one lawyer wrote: “There does seem to be a good argument for a different approach to cases where religious belief clashes with discrimination law…Although the protection of the holding of a belief under Article 9(1) of the European convention is absolute, the protection of manifestations of belief under Article 9(2) is interpreted so narrowly as to have almost no impact at all.

…As the UK Government recently argued [and I would say wrongly argued] before Strasbourg the reading of Article 9(2) by the European Court in previous cases has the effect that if people find their religious beliefs conflict with their jobs, they should either ‘leave their beliefs at home or get another job’.

Article 9 protects a poor form of religious freedom indeed, if it does not extend to either the workplace or the marketplace. The current approach is in danger of forcing millions of people to be hypocrites; able to act in line with their beliefs in their own homes or at the church, mosque, synagogue or temple, but having to put on a different face at work or in business. That is unacceptable and unworkable.

The writer added “But the principle of non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation is also hugely important, and carving out exceptions would make it meaningless. Reconciling the two is difficult, but there must be a means of doing so that ensures religious freedom is more than just the freedom to believe what you want in private, and which celebrates and protects the fact that we live in a society which tolerates all kinds of different belief systems.”

I would however move in the other direction in relation to one aspect of Northern Ireland law (with its concomitant EU exemption), and that is the exception for schools from fair employment law when employing teachers. They can discriminate on grounds of religion, and do.

EU Council Directive 2000/78 reads deceitfully “In order to maintain a balance of opportunity in employment for teachers in Northern Ireland while furthering the reconciliation of historical divisions between the major religious communities there, the provisions on religion or belief in this Directive shall not apply to the recruitment of teachers in schools in Northern Ireland.”

In conclusion, may I pay tribute to Changing Attitude Ireland (CAI) whose efforts in the Church of Ireland have been illuminating and extensive?

We must also hope and pray that two of Northern Ireland gay society’s most assiduous reformers, PA MagLochlainn of NIGRA and Rev Mervyn Kingston of CAI who are going through the trial of accelerating illness are given respite, and can return to a degree of strength to continue their work.

Jeff Dudgeon MBE
28 October 2012

“Jonathan Loved David”: Andrew McFarland

As promised at our inaugural event on Sunday 24 July 2011 which was very well attended, here is the text of Andrew McFarland’s talk, Jonathan Loved David.

David Loved Jonathan in a Same-Sex Relationship – talk during Belfast Pride 2011

Faith and Pride’s inaugural event kicks off on July 24th with Andrew McFarland setting out to demonstrate that the language used in the Bible to describe the relationship between David and Jonathan is the same as the language used to describe the relationship between husband and wife.

Speaking before the event, Andrew said:

The evidence is compelling. David and Jonathan spoke about each other as if they were spouses, and aspects of their relationship only make sense if you see them as a couple.

The whole context of their relationship – they even had a formal covenant between them because of their love – suggest that they were more than just friends.

Members of the public are very welcome to come to the event which is being held in All Souls’ Church, Elmwood Avenue, Belfast, at 7pm. The second talk of the evening will be by Paula Rita Tabakin who will explore homosexuality from a Jewish reform perspective using texts and traditions.

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