Category Archives: News
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.
Belfast Pride 2014
Just a quick post to wish everyone good luck for Belfast Pride tomorrow. Sorry we couldn’t be there. You will all be in our thoughts and prayers.
Equal Marriage Discussion in the Belfast Telegraph
I have had a letter on equal marriage published in the Belfast Telegraph. The letter was shortened a bit for publication. The original is below.
With reference to Cynthia Campbell’s letter about same-sex laws (Letters, February 12), I would simply like to say that, as a practising Christian who takes God seriously and so believes the Bible’s teaching and prophesies and guidelines, I have to adhere to what it says about homosexuality as much as to any other subject.
So, as marriage is ordained by God in the first place and as being not for procreation but for companionship (Genesis 2:18), then you might consider that anything suggested by man as being a marriage does actually make it one as long as it meets this criterion. Christians who believe that marriage is about procreation should take note that procreation is not mentioned until after the Fall.
As the founder of Faith and Pride, a non-denominational gay Christian organisation, I would like to invite all gay Christians and their friends to any of our meetings. Details are on our website, https://faithandpride.org/.
Andrew McFarland Campbell
Address at the Memorial Service for the Revd Mervyn Kingston
This was one of three adresses celebrating the life of the Reverend George Mervyn Kingston at a memorial service held at St George’s Church, Belfast on 8 February 2014. Mervyn was a wonderful priest, a loyal friend and an unlikely prophet, whose prophetic ministry was particularly concerned with reconciliation between Northern Ireland’s churches and communities. He co-founded Changing Attitude Ireland with his husband and partner, Dr Richard O’Leary.
I hadn’t been long back in Belfast in 2007 when I chanced across the website of Changing Attitude Ireland. Mervyn and Richard had set the organisation up a few months before, and it had yet to catch a fair wind. I sent them an e-mail and a cheque, a sign of my good wishes and a salve for a conscience that felt it could do little more. CAI was still very small – I think I was member number 6.
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Mervyn Kingston Memorial Service
There will be a memorial service for Mervyn Kingston, the co-counder of Changing Attitude Ireland, in St George’s, High Street, Belfast, at 11.30am-12.30pm on Saturday 8 February.
Mervyn, who died on 2 August 2013, was a pioneer of the gay Christian movement in Ireland. Faith and Pride merely builds on the work he started.
A Change to The Gathering
During the week I got a message from The Gathering, a gay men’s spiritual group.
The Gathering was formed in 2005 and since this time we have contributed widely to the LGBT Community and in particular the faith and spiritual aspects of the Community. Since The Gathering formed, the range of opportunities for gay Christians to meet, discuss and explore has increased; there’s a number of events during the year, organized both by churches and by other groups… Following the recent consultation and after careful consideration it has been decided to suspend the regular meetings of The Gathering.Many of the groups especially those within church’s did not exist when The Gathering first formed and it is most encouraging that a much wider and more mainstream selection now exists within the wider church community.
You can read the full announcement on The Gathering’s website.
The Gathering has been an important part of the LGBT fabric of Belfast over the past few years. The first LGBT Christian event I attended was their carol service in 2007, and I am very pleased to see that they still intend to hold their annual carol service.
For or with? Contract or relationship?
In tonight’s brief passage from the Gospel of St John, we heard the parable of the grain of wheat. Christ drew this parable about resurrection on the Kingdom of God from the everyday circumstances of life; it was quite easy for his rural audience to understand the principle of “resurrection produced by dead seeds sown into the earth: the image of the grain of wheat dying in the earth in order to grow and bear a harvest can be seen also as a metaphor of Jesus’ own death, burial in the tomb and Resurrection.
Using the example of a wheat seed Jesus tells the disciples that he must die. A wheat seed by itself is just one seed. However, this same seed planted in the ground dies to itself and becomes something much greater. Jesus says the time has come. His time to be glorified is approaching. He will die and through his death there will come an abundance of fruit. In the Gospel there is already evidence of the possible fruit. Who has heard this parable of the wheat seed? There are the disciples. There are some leaders of the Hebrew people. Also, among them there are some Greeks. They have come to see and speak to Jesus. People are coming to see him. Not just the Jewish people, but also the Gentiles. Jesus will die not for the few, but for the many. Jesus will die for the generation to whom he speaks and Jesus will die for the generations to come. Jesus dies for you and Jesus dies for me.
But we hear a lot of “for”. During this last week we have been spending time with Christ – so what of the “with”?
Around Good Friday in 1373, an Englishwoman was stricken by the plague, and facing what she thought would be her own death. Much of her life is a mystery. Her baptismal name is not recorded, but we know her better by her adopted name. She is remembered as one of the greatest of all English mystics. We know her as Julian of Norwich
In her long-ago fevered haze, Julian received a series of visions of Jesus, which she wrote down in a book entitled Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love.
The Eighth Revelation, the heart of the book, concerns the Passion and the Cross, focusing on Jesus’ pain and suffering. “Is any pain like this?” she wondered, “…Of all pains that lead to salvation this is the most pain, to see thy Love suffer. How might any pain be more to me than to see Him that is all my life, all my bliss, and all my joy, suffer?”
Recounting the vision, she ruminated on Jesus’ mother Mary’s suffering, the one who suffered more than any other in his death; then expanding the circle to include “all His disciples and all His true lovers suffer pain” at this death. In this community of pain, forged by the suffering of Jesus, Julian articulated one of her great theological insights: “Here saw I a great ONEING betwixt Christ and us: for when He was in pain, we were in pain.” To Julian, the Cross was about ONEING—the complete unity of God with us and us with God; and not only us as humans, but as she relates from the vision, the ONEING of “all creatures that suffer pain, suffer with Him…and the firmament, the earth, failed in sorrow” and the planets, all the elements, and even the stars despaired at Christ’s dying. The cosmic circle of grief, emanating from Jesus’ Passion, reveals that Jesus not only suffered for us; but he suffered with us—his death occurred for the sake of “Kinship and Love” with all this was, is, and will be.
Did Our Lord suffer for us or with us?
On many a Good Friday, I have sat in a darkened church, listening to readings and music, all focused on the first preposition of the Passion’s equation: Jesus suffered for us, for sinners, for the world, for me. But only rarely have I heard spiritual reflection on the second preposition: Jesus suffered with us, with sinners, with the world, with me.
Some of us here are writers. They choose prepositions carefully. There is a huge difference between for and with. For is a preposition of distance, a word that indicates exchange or favour, it implies function or purpose. I do something for you; you do something for me. Notice: someone does something on behalf of or in another’s place. For is a contract. Jesus suffered for us—means that Jesus did something on our behalf; he acted on behalf of a purpose, in place of someone else. “For” always separates the actor and recipient, distancing a sacrificial Jesus from those for whom he died. At the Cross, Jesus is the subject; we are objects.
For or with? Contract or relationship? Exchange or participation? Quid pro quo or friendship?
If we are honest, with is a hard preposition in the world of today. Are you only with those who share your party or cause. We judge others on what they can do for us. Indeed, we are for many things. But we are sceptical of with—indeed; much of what we do in the world makes us ridicule, doubt, and even fear with. It is often safer to remain at a distance, to stay away from with.
When we come to Christ, we see the for. We understand the exchange, that God died for me, so I get baptized or confirmed or serve the church. Jesus sacrificed his life so that I might exchange Hell for Heaven. People sacrifice and die for something nearly every day, and it is particularly sobering–as in the case of soldiers—when someone sacrifices or dies for my freedom or safety. Indeed, thinking that Jesus died for salvation may give pause, cause us to raise a prayer of thanks, feel sadness or relief; but ultimately, the idea that someone dies for something is theologically and spiritually uncomplicated.
But with is complicated, even frightening. Good Friday plunges us into with. Have you sacrificed with others? Have you walked the way of death with someone? Felt the power of the suffering love? Do you know, in every fibre of your being, the ONEING of God in Julian’s visions? Do you feel Jesus dying with his Mother, his friends, with us, with all creatures, with the firmament, with the planets and the elements? Can you embrace the truth that, at Calvary, Jesus’ Mother, friends, US, all creatures, the firmament, the planets and all elements died there with him, too?
The Cross isn’t a contract between God and sinners; the Cross is God’s definitive expression of kinship and love—that everything, everywhere, through all time, is connected in and through pain and suffering. We are with Jesus on the Cross, not at a distance from it, standing by, watching safely from afar; those are our hands and feet nailed, our blood dripping, our voices crying out “We thirst.” And Jesus on the Cross, naked and mocked, is with us all on every broken-heartened, betrayal-laden, blood-soaked day of human history. That is God’s Passion; that is Jesus’ Cross. And, in the tortured Christ, we find the hope to endure, a love for others and creation, the power to enact God’s dream of love and justice for the whole world. We are with God. God is with us.
We are often asked if we have time in our lives for Christ. As believers we do. But what is much better in terms of our relationship with him is that we do, as we have done during this last week, spend time with Him.
the simplicity of a child
The scene that we heard about in the reading earlier has been repeated many times throughout history. There are many instances which can be seen online of children approaching great teachers, some getting through the security, others being pushed away. But in today’s Gospel, the greatest teacher of them all tells his followers that they mustn’t get between the children and him.
Children coming to great teachers and holy men is nothing new, it is a practice from antiquity. In Genesis 48.13-20 we read of Joseph bringing Ephraim and Manasseh to Israel to be blessed.
Jesus didn’t just bless the children. He used them to illustrate his message as he is recorded to have done in many other places in the Gospels of St Luke and St Matthew as well as the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas. Jesus said,
“Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.”
The simplicity of a child. Quite a challenge to those of us who have passed into adulthood, have grown up, and had to leave our childish behaviour and thinking behind to survive in the world in which we live.
As I was reading this passage this morning, re-reading it, time and again, to see what I should say tonight, I realised something quite special. When a person becomes a member of the Church, when a person accepts Jesus as the Lord and Saviour of mankind, that person becomes a child of God. We are all children. Thinking in another way, Jesus lived on earth as a man around two-thousand years ago. By anyone’s reckoning those of us living today are like children compared to Him.
So what do we do now? What is this passage saying to us gathered here today in our time and place?
To me, it is a reinforcement of the central message of Jesus – a message of a God of Love. A God who does not push people away, but welcomes them in and blesses them. As members of the Church, it is our duty to share this Love to all that we meet.
Tomorrow, many people will be walking in the Belfast Pride Parade as it winds its way around the city centre and back to Custom House Square for a huge party. Some of us from Faith and Pride will be standing as a witness of God’s Love for all of his children just outside the gates of St George’s in High Street, just as we did at last year’s parade. Everyone on that parade and everyone in the whole world is worthy of our respect and our love, for as Blessed John XXIII – whose imminent canonisation was announced today – said,
“We were all made in God’s image, and thus, we are all Godly alike.”
Surely we must all work within the Church to ensure that all are welcomed, not pushed away. We’re all children, and like little children we will be welcomed, and blessed by Jesus, when we approach Him now, and when we reach the end of our life, we can safely ask Him,
“Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.”
This is the text of the meditation given at 15 minutes with Christ on Friday 5 July 2013.
Faith and Doubts?
Thomas hasn’t had a great press down the years, precisely because of the episode described in the Gospel reading for today.
From this, we get the term ‘doubting Thomas’, used to describe someone who is irrationally doubtful about an obvious truth. But maybe we are being a little too hard on Thomas. Holy Scripture alludes to this fact by telling us that Thomas was a twin.
Obviously he was used to being mistaken for his twin and it was logical to him that perhaps the disciples merely saw someone who looked like Jesus and was not actually him. Only the real Jesus would bear the marks of the crucifixion, and this was what Thomas demanded to see.
The first mention of Thomas in John’s Gospel comes at the death of Lazarus, in John 11, when Jesus was about to go to Judaea. His first foray into Judaea had managed to upset the religious authorities to such an extent, that they now actively sought his life. To go back there was madness to the disciples, but Thomas simply says,
“Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Thomas clearly was a devoted disciple. He was prepared to put his own life on the line in following his master. This is not the action of someone who is not able to grasp the truth.
The next time we see Thomas is at the point where Jesus is explaining his departure to the disciples in John 14, in that very familiar reading which is often used at funerals, to remind us that death is not the end. Jesus tells the disciples that they know the way to the place where he is going.
Thomas pipes up,
“Lord we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Only Thomas is brave enough to verbalise what all the disciples must be thinking. Jesus is speaking in obscure terms, and Thomas for one, wants to be clear about his meaning. There is something very honest about Thomas here. He will not just pretend to understand or know something, he is going to understand for himself everything that is involved.
The next mention of Thomas is as related in the reading for today. Thomas clearly was a devoted disciple, perhaps one of the most devoted. However when it all hit the fan, Thomas broke and ran with the rest of the disciples and left Jesus to his fate.
Why was Thomas not with the disciples when Jesus first appeared to them? Maybe he was still running. Maybe he was so distraught at the death of Jesus and his own failure to act, that he needed to be alone for a while to grieve.
Then, as is the case with all of us, when someone close to us dies, he needed to be in the company of those who knew Jesus well, to share stories, to grieve together, to work out a way forward.
Only now he found them not grieving, but rejoicing, and telling him that they had seen Jesus alive.
This was too much for Thomas. The other disciples must have gone crazy being cooped up all by themselves. Thomas, called the twin, thought that there must be a logical explanation for what they were saying. Thomas who always sought clarification, needed the most extreme clarification now before he would believe.
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails, and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
Even though he thought they were mistaken, Thomas hung around with the disciples, and eventually the Risen Christ appeared to him as well. He didn’t scold him for not believing, but gave him usual Jewish greeting – “Shalom – peace be with you.”
Then he showed Thomas his wounds and invited him to touch them. Thomas’ response is instantaneous, “My Lord and my God.”
Jesus tells him that he has believed because he has seen, but blessed are those who have not seen, yet have believed.
I admire Thomas’ ability to question and just accept things at face value, because it opens the doors for us to do the same. The life of faith is not just about blindly accepting what others tell you. It is also about experience – experience of the living Christ, who doesn’t rebuke us for our doubts or our lack of faith.
Through his wounds he enters into our suffering because he has been there himself. He knows what it is to be abandoned, rejected and let down by those closest to him. But he has overcome all that and he will in us overcome all our doubts, fears and wounding.
I wonder what doubts or fears we have this evening as we gather in the presence of the Risen Christ. We are here because he has called us, and if he has called us then he wants us. Yet we come with feelings of inadequacy, rejection, personal hurt and low self esteem. We find it hard to believe that we could deserve the grace he offers. But Jesus Christ died and rose again so that the whole world in all its diversity could be reconciled to him. His grace is freely offered to all who would accept, so called deserving and undeserving. This is the Christ who gave Judas the traitor bread from the table of the last supper, who answered Thomas’ questions and doubts, who forgave Peter the denier. He will minister to you and I too and accept us exactly as we are, exactly as they way God made us.
The Risen Christ stands before us today with all his wounds showing and invites us to believe. There is nothing that he cannot achieve in us and through us if we believe in him. The derision, the rejection the hurt that we endure in this life is turned around and transformed in the presence of the living Christ, who comes to us and comforts us with the words “Peace be with you – do not doubt, but believe.”
May our doubts also be transformed in the presence of the living Christ to “My Lord and my God!”
This is the text of the meditation given at 15 minutes with Christ on Wednesday 3 July 2013.