Three of the main churches in Ireland were represented at Saturday’s Pride march in Dublin while the first-ever Pride ecumenical prayer service took place at two churches in Dublin.
St Teresa’s Catholic Church at Donore Avenue Dublin 8 in conjunction with Church of Ireland neighbours at St Catherine’s and St James held a prayer service on Thursday evening to mark the end of Pride month and to celebrate a statement by Pope Francis that members of the LGBTQ+ community were “always welcome and belong within our churches and faith communities”.
The service was hosted by St Teresa’s parish priest Fr David Corrigan and the Rev Mark Gardner rector at St Catherine’s and St James’s.
Colm Holmes of the Catholic We Are Church Ireland group said they had taken part in the Pride parade “to show support for LGBTQ+ people as, despite the successful 2015 same-sex marriage referendum, there is still a lot of homophobia out there”.
He and other members of the group were heartened to see so much support for the inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in recent reports from Catholic dioceses all over Ireland as part of a consultation process in the church prior to a synod in Rome next year.
“Top of the list was [equality for] women, followed by welcome for LGBTQ+ people. The language will have to go,” he said, referring to a 1986 Vatican document describing homosexuality as “intrinsically disordered” with a tendency towards evil.
As well as their group “there was a Methodist minister there in full clerical dress and a Presbyterian group”, he said.
Steven Smyrl said the Presbyterian group in the Pride parade, carrying the banner Presbyterians for inclusion and equality, were taking part in “open defiance” of their church’s “anti-gay policies which since 2018 have banned gay couples from membership and denied baptism to their children”.
Taking part were members from Dublin’s 10 Presbyterian congregations. They “were not going to be cowed by dogma from Assembly buildings [Presbyterian Church headquarters in Belfast]. Too many lives have been destroyed,” he said.
Mr Smyrl, who is in a same-sex marriage and was removed for that reason by church authorities from his position as elder at Church Sandymount in Dublin, also took issue with an address by the church’s outgoing Moderator the Rev Dr David Bruce at the Presbyterian General Assembly in Belfast last week.
“To suggest that gay people wanted to rewrite the Bible was shocking. All we ask them to do is listen to our lived experience,” he said. He also accused the Clerk of the General Assembly the Rev Trevor Gribben of “ordering people to toe the party line” on the 2018 decision banning gay people from the church.
In his address to the General Assembly, the Rev Dr Bruce said the church was being portrayed as “rigid, unchanging and even unloving. We have been described as a people who exclude rather than include” with views that were “incomprehensible, or even dangerous.”
He advised delegates “we need to state with loving clarity to the world around us that we are not minded to redefine our relationship with the Bible, which as our supreme standard we consider to be the word of God. We will not rewrite it, re-edit it or reframe it”.
They should “be confident in the calling we have received to be the church of God, and especially when to do so means swimming against the tide”, he said.
Clerk of the General Assembly the Rev Gribben warned against publicly undermining the church’s position. “In the church alone resides the right to interpret her standards under the word of God. So when the General Assembly of the church comes to a mind on a position, that is the position of the church, and those who’ve taken ordination vows on big issues shouldn’t be undermining that position in public and shouldn’t be ignoring and doing the opposite to what the assembly has decided,” he said.
It was “not legitimate for ministers who have promised to yield submission of the Lord to the courts of the church to deliberately and proactively, in an organised way, go out and seek to undermine that”, he said.