Belfast Telegraph

Woman who quit Presbyterian Church over same-sex ruling urges others to examine their support for institution

By Claire McNeilly

A high-profile businesswoman who quit the Presbyterian Church over its decision to deny people in same-sex relationships full membership has urged others to rethink their allegiance to the organisation.

The Irish General Assembly also controversially voted to deny the children of same-sex couples baptism last week.

Lifelong Presbyterian Lesley Macaulay stopped short of calling on fellow worshippers to follow her lead and resign from the church - but the Portstewart mother-of-two whose eldest daughter Beth (24) has been with her fiancee for three years has urged worshippers who share her faith to "examine" their support for the institution. "I would love members who, like myself, are uncomfortable with the vote to ask themselves if they can continue supporting the Presbyterian Church," she said.

"I would love church members to say enough is enough, we're not supporting this anymore ... because this is definitely the start of a more fundamental approach.

"I think they're going to target women next, meaning that women will not have a role within the church.

"Resignation is a big decision. I don't want to force anyone to do that but I do want them to examine themselves. Can they support an institution that's making these sort of decisions and causing this hurt and pain?"

Mrs Macaulay, a consultant and charity fundraiser, and her husband Tony, a well-known writer and peace-builder, are still reeling from the Presbyterian General Assembly's recent decisions aimed at gay couples and their children.

They believe "it is targeting our beautiful daughter Beth" who grew up in the Presbyterian Church "because of her God-given sexual orientation".

Mrs Macaulay revealed that she has received widespread messages of support following her public opposition and resignation over last week's ruling. "I don't know why they had to do this or why they had to make it so official; it seems to have come out of the blue," she said. "It's certainly a group of fundamentalists who really want a church that is like themselves, a group of clones to be honest."

In addition to private messages from "prominent members of the Presbyterian Church and church leaders" saying they are on her side - although their hands are tied - there has been "an overwhelming response from so many different people".

"Families, members of the LGBTQ community, ministers, and the Spectrum Centre, which has a group of LGBT Christian gay people, have all contacted me," she said.

"I'm getting positive feedback from people telling me that I am doing the right thing. I'm speaking up for people who can't speak up for themselves. My faith is a Christian faith. Even though it's been an upsetting experience, I feel stronger about my faith because I know what I am doing is the right thing.

"I know there are a lot of people who are feeling the same way as me - not just parents, but brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and other family members, because so many of them have been in contact with me today.

"So many families or family members have moved to England because they don't want the negativity and the bigoted attitude of the church in Northern Ireland."

She added: "I have stood up because of my daughter. This is too important not to say anything. I'm defending my lovely daughter."

Belfast Telegraph

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