Presbyterian Church same sex row woman says next goal is to support others
A high-profile businesswoman who quit the Presbyterian Church last week over its decision not to accept people in same-sex relationships as full members has said the messages of support she's received have brought a tear to her eye.
Lesley Macaulay said the past week had been heartbreaking for her and her family, but that a groundswell of support is behind her family's decision to quit the church.
"The next step is to co-ordinate support for families who have been left hurt and isolated by the Church," she said.
"There are many families struggling with what's been going on and we need to be there to support them in what they need to do. This issue is simply not going to go away."
Ms Macaulay, a consultant and charity fundraiser for Guide Dogs NI who stood for the Ulster Unionist and Conservative Party in the 2010 general election, and her husband, management consultant Tony, went public with their decision to leave the Presbyterian Church last week.
Their daughter Beth (24) has been in a same-sex relationship with her fiancee for three years.
The family live in Portstewart and had been attending their local church, but will now be seeking a new church in Belfast where they will feel welcomed.
The Presbyterian Church's decision, made by its ruling body, the General Assembly, also prevents children of same-sex relationships from being baptised.
"Over the past week I have been inundated with messages of support from across the community," said Lesley. It's clear there is a silent majority out there who are not comfortable with the church position and who haven't been comfortable for some time.
"The last week has brought all those feelings to the fore and I'd encourage people who are struggling with the Church stance on this not to be frightened.
"We will make sure there is support out there for them, no matter how hurt they are feeling.
"I've seen that groundswell of opinion for myself in the past few days. There is no need for people to suffer in silence as they wrestle with their conscience.
"I've found support from church members and clergy across the country, the Christian LGBT community and the LGBT community in general.
"I've been heartened by that support and many of the messages have brought a tear to my eye. It's heartbreaking to see the church I've been part of all of my life in this position. It has to accept it's now at a crossroads and there's a real need to help Presbyterian families.
"I urge people not to be frightened, look at your conscience and ask yourself, 'Can I fully support the Presbyterian Church on this policy?'
"Some might say yes they can, but many more are saying no they can't.
"This decision is not a reflection of God's universal love which I have been brought up to believe in, I want my church to be seen as all inclusive.
"Like me, my daughter Beth grew up in the Presbyterian Church. She went to Sunday School, to the Girls' Brigade and to Bible class.
"As a teenager she professed faith and became a communicant member of the Church and I was delighted when, as a young woman, she lived out her faith by volunteering in Church summer schemes, children's clubs, Christian conferences and camps. Now she has been excommunicated from her Church because of her God-given sexual orientation and I know my family is not alone in suffering like this.
"The Presbyterian Church need to realise the hurt they have caused families.
"And when you see people like Lord Alderdice, whose father was a Presbyterian Minister, feeling they must also resign from the church, surely there must be a reconsideration of the decision?
"In the meantime I'm aiming to make sure, with others, that there is support there for families who need it."