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Gay community hails unlikely hero from Presbyterian church

A Presbyterian minister seems an unlikely hero for any gay rights group in Northern Ireland but the Rev Chris Hudson is at the very heart of this week's Belfast Pride celebrations.

So much so that a large procession of gay men and women trooped into his church in leafy south Belfast on Sunday evening. Some confessed they hadn't been in church for over 20 years. But as the poster outside said: ‘It's ok to be gay and Christian'.

It was the first time such a public meeting had been held in All Souls Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church as part of the Belfast Pride Festival, which celebrates diversity.

Many said they would be back for a church service after the festival on Sunday.

With the annual Belfast Pride more famous for religious people protesting it, the Rev Hudson's voice of support in recent years has been important to the organisation. And in this, its 20th year, they decided to honour him with their Hero of the Year award at the recent Belfast Pride Awards.

The Belfast Pride Parade is targeted every year by demonstrators from Sandown Free Presbyterian Church and the Rev David McIlveen has been a vocal opponent.

But the Rev Hudson appears undeterred. And two years ago he walked for the first time in the Belfast parade — complete with dog collar.

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“I wanted at least one church in Belfast that gave complete affirmation to gay and lesbian people about their sexuality,” he said.

As a non-subscribing Presbyterian Church, All Souls is independent of any ruling body. The congregation have been very welcoming to gay and lesbian people who have decided to come to All Souls,” he explained. “We don't make a big thing about it.”

Among the topics up for discussion at Sunday's public meeting in the church included passages from the Bible interpreted as condemning homosexuality.

“Leviticus is quoted quite a lot, concerning ‘man lying down with another man', but Leviticus is a priestly code for Jewish priests,” Rev Hudson argued. “It's a list of behaviours, trying to set the priests of Israel apart. They were trying to outdo each other.”

Rev Hudson also believes the apostle Paul did not condemn homosexuality as is widely believed, but the “quite licentious Greeks” he found worshipping various gods and goddesses.

“There was no concept of homosexuality as we understand it today,” he said.

Brian Adams, from Belfast Pride, described Rev Hudson as their “greatest friend” in Northern Ireland. “He has been very brave and very vocal and so obstinate in his public support for us.”

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