Church of Ireland bishop Paul Colton has apologized for the hurt Christian churches have caused LGBT people but noted that many Christians “who believe that God’s justice, God’s love. and the inclusiveness of God must bear fruit in unqualified equality for gay and lesbian people too.”
Speaking Monday in the city of Cork to launch Cork LGBT Awareness Week, the 64-year-old Colton encouraged LGBT people to stick with their faith and enter into dialogue with those who are opposed to gay rights.
“I want, therefore, to encourage especially those gay and lesbian people who are involved in church life, or who once were, to engage with the debates many churches are having at the current time,” he said. “I ask you not to give up on religion and religious institutions.”
He encouraged gay and lesbian people not to leave the church.
“It is essential that your voices and experiences are heard and listened to. More important, it is vital that you do not let people drive you away. The loving welcome and inclusion of you is not theirs to take away: that love, that inclusion, that welcome, that belonging are God’s gift – God’s grace – offered to you as much as to anyone else,” he said.
Colton presided over the wedding of footballer David Beckham and Victoria Adams in 1999 at Luttrellstown Castle outside Dublin.
The Church of Ireland is a member of the Anglican Communion. It has just under 400,000 members, mostly in Northern Ireland.
According to the Church of Ireland’s website, Cork LGBT Awareness Week is held “to acknowledge and demonstrate that LGBT individuals are family members, community residents, constituents, citizens, visitors, service users and service providers.”
Read Colton’s full speech here.
Follow Michael O’Loughlin on Twitter at @mikeoloughlin.