Belfast Telegraph

Church of Ireland rector wants to raise suicide awareness at Belfast Pride

Hurt: Lesley Macaulay
Hurt: Lesley Macaulay
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

A Church of Ireland clergyman taking part in the Belfast Pride parade said he wants to make a stand as the suicide rate among those in the LGBT community is far too high.

Rev Andrew Rawding, the Rector of Coalisland, Stewartstown and Ballyclog, will be holding a placard at Saturday's parade saying: 'We are sorry for how the church mistreated LGBTQ+ people'.

Walking under the 'Christians At Pride' banner, along with members of his family, Rev Rawding will be joined by fellow Christians from across many denominations.

According to the group, their aims are to celebrate god-given diversity, to say sorry for the damage the church has done and to demonstrate that many Christians want a more inclusive church.

Speaking on his own dealings with those in the LGBT community, Rev Rawding said that those with suicidal thoughts must be offered pastoral care.

"From a pastoral point of view with responsibility to be sharing positive messages of God's love for everyone, I really feel very, very strongly that I need to stand up and make a stand as a clergy person," he said.

Meanwhile a family who quit the Presbyterian Church over its stance on same-sex relationships have said the church needs to be more welcoming to gay Christians.

Lesley Macaulay and her husband Tony, whose daughter Beth (25) is getting married to her partner next year, resigned from the church in June 2018 after it voted not to accept people in same-sex relationships as full members.

The Portstewart family now worship at All Souls, a non-subscribing Presbyterian Church on Belfast's Elmwood Avenue.

Ms Macauley said that the Presbyterian Church is nowhere near to welcoming same-sex couples.

"I have to say [last year's vote] had such a huge ripple effect on the whole of our society," she said.

"It's been a negative ripple effect for the Church because people still say to me that 'it's typical of the Church' and 'they call themselves Christians'.

"There are no signs of regret from the Church or no sign of care over the hurt they have caused."

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