God loves us all, regardless of sexual orientation

Rite&Reason: Imagine a sign on a church door saying ‘We reserve the right of admission’

Dublin Pride Parade: What we call God finds its best expression, in our humanity, in our willingness to accept and embrace the wonderful diversity that makes human life a rich tapestry. Photograph: Tom Honan

Dublin Pride Parade: What we call God finds its best expression, in our humanity, in our willingness to accept and embrace the wonderful diversity that makes human life a rich tapestry. Photograph: Tom Honan

 

This year, to mark the second year of my ordained ministry, I will do as I did to mark the first, lead my congregation as we march in this year’s Pride parade in Cork.

We will carry a banner, proclaiming who we are and what we stand for, the Unitarian Church, Cork, open, inclusive and unconditionally welcoming to all.

Over time our understanding of our universe, our world and ourselves has grown. We are still learning about human sexuality, for instance, about gender identity. It is an exciting journey of discovery and yet many churches have seen this as a threat or certainly a challenge.

Many, sadly, have chosen to bury their head in the sand. Others fight and haggle among themselves. In the end all they achieve is to tear themselves apart. Like all things in life, the truth when presented is usually quite simple.

Churches and their clergy must be representative of a God of people’s true, genuine and authentic lives. God must be the God of love, of all love, no ifs and no buts. It is not the job of church and clergy to restrict God, to shackle him.

It is not the job of church and clergy to restrict God, to shackle him

The spirit that is God must be open to all and so church must be a place of welcome for all. Most importantly the welcome must be unconditional, we must put our money where our mouth is.

We cannot have a welcome that invites but asks that you accept quietly. A sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach. This is neither honest nor authentic.

‘Jesus went out of his way to invite the marginalised of his society into his Kingdom. This Kingdom of God which he proclaimed was based on a vision of a new society based on equality, justice and love where everyone – irrespective of gender, economic status colour, ethnicity or sexual orientation – is welcomed as an equal.’ Photograph: Getty Images
"God is the God of love; the expression of God is most deeply felt in the expression of love. It is why in Cork along with our sister church on Dublin’s St Stephen’s Green, we offer same-sex marriage." Photograph: Getty Images

We cannot welcome people into our churches and expect them to hide who they really are, to hide all that makes them unique. In short, we must practise what we preach.

God of love

God is the God of love; the expression of God is most deeply felt in the expression of love. It is why in Cork along with our sister church on Dublin’s St Stephen’s Green, we offer same-sex marriage.

For us, marriage isn’t about gender, it’s about love.

As a Unitarian, I believe passionately in what I call genuine equality. It is that equality that goes beyond words on a piece of paper, that goes beyond condescending platitudes. It is an equality that gets up and does. It is an equality of action and as such reveals a God who is truly the God of love.

Perhaps it is time to look afresh at what we commonly refer to as faith. Is it not time to move outside the thinking that at the end of the day seems to be achieving nothing but exclusion? Can you imagine a sign on any church door saying, “We reserve the right of admission?” Horrifying thought isn’t it?

Perhaps it is time to look afresh at what we commonly refer to as faith. Is it not time to move outside the thinking that seems to be achieving nothing but exclusion?

We are not an agenda-driven church. I am not an agenda-driven minister. The majority of my congregation are “straight”, as am I, but on Sunday, August 5th, we will hold our banner and stand side by side with our LGBTI brothers and sisters.

Common humanity

We shall march with them, enjoying the colour, the atmosphere, the laughter and the carnival, because at the end of the day, whatever our faith or none, whatever the colour of our skin, the language we speak, no matter who we love, that is all we have, a shared and common humanity.

“Love one another as I have loved you.”

That is how I believe what we call God finds its best expression, in our humanity, in our willingness to accept and embrace the wonderful diversity that makes human life such a rich tapestry, a tapestry that at its brightest and most colourful is the very expression of all that is good about life and all that is good about what we call faith and God. Life is rarely black and white.

We can argue about theology and the very nature of God. We can argue all those things until the cows come home but at the end of the day the man called Jesus had a very simple and uncomplicated message, “Love one another as I have loved you.”

He didn’t add in any qualifications, any ifs and buts. It was a very simple truth.

Rev Mike O’Sullivan is minister of the Unitarian Church, Prince’s Street, Cork

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