Methodist president: Christian Church is an alien in a strange land
The new Methodist president has described the Christian Church as "an alien in a strange land" as he hit out at an attack on a gay man.
Speaking at his installation in east Belfast, the Rev Brian Anderson told the Methodist Conference: "We are in a very different land now, compared to past generations.
"Where once the Christian voice held significant weight, it has now lost its voice in setting values in a pluralistic society. It is now one voice among many."
Mr Anderson said the Ashers 'gay cake' court case raised questions for the Church.
In the landmark case, the Christian owners of a bakery were found guilty of discriminating against a gay man by refusing to make him a cake bearing a slogan promoting same-sex marriage.
Mr Anderson said: "How does a Christian business provide a public service in a way they can hold to their Christian beliefs, and not break the law?
"Or how in the light of the result of the equal marriage referendum is the voice of the Church to be heard, and how does it engage in further discussions, particularly around legislation? The Church has to bring a different set of responses to a society that sets its standards, ethics and values contrary to that of the Church."
Mr Anderson also condemned a recent homophobic attack in north Belfast. He said: "We have the safety of carrying out our differences in the comfort of ivory towers. Paul Finlay Dickson didn't have such a comfort.
"When his home was attacked in north Belfast by what has been described as a homophobic attack, it was no ivory tower, it was his home. A place he should be safe in to be himself.
"We Methodists want to say, 'We utterly condemn that attack and others like it'. As the Church of Christ we should be a healer and a brave unequivocal place to bring peace where there is an attack."