A Northern Ireland based cleric has spoken out against the Church of Ireland for their “homophobic, discriminate and prejudiced stance” on same-sex marriages.
Following the amendment allowing same-sex couples in Northern Ireland to have a religious wedding ceremony, Reverend Andrew Rawding denounced the Church of Ireland for preventing him from officiating these marriages. Speaking to Tyrone Courier, he said, “As a Church of Ireland rector, I should have a choice and be able to exercise my religious freedom.”
Rev Andrew Rawding further shared, “I would love to conduct same-sex marriages in Brackaville, Donaghenry or Ballyclog churches. It would be a joyful celebration of the unconditional love of God. As it is written in the Bible: ‘The commandments are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law’.
“Currently I am not legally permitted to conduct a same-sex marriage or even allowed to officially pray a prayer of blessing for a same-sex couple, or use language or liturgy which recognises their love to be what it is, a wonderful gift of God,” Rev. Rawding continued.
On September 1 2020, same-sex couples in Northern Ireland were entitled to register to marry in a religious setting. Under the new changes, religious bodies could choose to opt in to provide same-sex weddings.
Campaigners praised these changes to the law while also calling on the Government to allow the conversion of the 1,200 same-sex civil partnerships to marriages in Northern Ireland. Minister of All Souls Church in Belfast Rev Chris Hudson welcomed the amendments, “This is great news for couples who wish to celebrate their marriage in church, embraced by family, friends and the love of God.”
Speaking about the changes, Rev Rawding further expressed, “I wholeheartedly welcome this news that same-sex couples can now officially register to get married in a church, but I remain disheartened and disappointed that the Church of Ireland, and the main denominations continue to adopt a homophobic, discriminate and prejudiced stance against same-sex people who want to get married in the church of their baptism.”
A spokesperson from the Church of Ireland told Independent.ie that it’s wedding services would remain unchanged, “Marriage may be solemnised only between a man and a woman; no liturgy or authorised service is provided therefore for any other situation.”
In January 2020, Rev Rawding also spoke out against Free Presbyterian ministers opposing a rural pride parade in Northern Ireland. He responded to their open letter by stating:
“We all want to be loving, but with humility we need to accept that even with our best intentions, LGBT+ people have felt hated by the language of sin, and some are filled with such self-hatred and rejection that they have taken their lives.”
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