Activist hits out at Church for 'penalising' the children of gay members
A leading gay rights activist has criticised the Presbyterian Church for voting to maintain its policy of not allowing same-sex partners to have communion, and denying baptism to their children.
Belfast Ulster Unionist councillor Jeff Dudgeon said the decision - which means anyone in a same-sex relationship cannot be a full member of the Church - was disgraceful.
Yesterday's move came after the Church cut ceremonial ties with the Church of Scotland over its more liberal attitude to same-sex relationships.
Shortly after the decision was confirmed by the General Assembly, Mr Dudgeon said: "I am not a theologian but I think that this situation is amazing. It penalises the children, who are the innocent party, and that is disgraceful."
"Does this policy mean that everyone who wants to take communion has to admit to other sins like adultery or the rest of the Ten Commandments? I think that it is unwarranted to pick out the gay group in this way.
"The result is that LGBT Presbyterians will feel very defeated by this and they may find it next to impossible to maintain links with their Church.
"A Church diminishing in numbers is heading into oblivion with that sort of behaviour."
The General Assembly accepted a report from the Doctrine Committee that ruled out the possibility of same-sex partners having communicant membership and their children being baptised.
The committee said "homosexual activity is not consistent with Christian discipleship since it does not accord with the will of God expressed in His moral law".
"In light of our understanding of Scripture, and the Church's understanding of a credible profession of faith, it is clear that same-sex couples are not eligible for communion nor are they qualified to receive baptism for their children."
A motion to shelve the report was defeated.
Clerk of the General Assembly the Rev Trevor Gribben said the report was there for guidance when dealing with same-sex issues at a local level.
A spokesman for the Church said: "What was before the Assembly was the acceptance of a paper that posed a theological question of what represents a "credible profession of faith" in our Church and the outworking of that in a person's life.
"The Church provides guidance to our ministers and elders, and we wanted to consider what a credible profession of faith means for same sex couples who want to become communicant members.
"The same applies to everyone, regardless of background or circumstance, and those who want to baptise their children."
Last night former Moderator Rt Rev Frank Sellar said: "Like every other issue there will be a variety of perspectives, and of course people have to vote one way or another.
"People are not unmindful of nuances. Every pastor knows that there are teachings that you want to proclaim, but you are also dealing with real people in real pastoral situations. That is often the challenge for Christian leaders - and we have to take that seriously."
The doctrine committee's report is now the formal position of the Church on these issues.