Belfast Telegraph

I’ll never forget day my daughter was targeted to be removed from her spiritual home by the Presbyterian Church

By Lesley Macaulay

Hurt, pain, rejection and disbelief was how I felt last Friday. I spent most of my life in the Presbyterian Church. I was baptised, became a communicant member and was married in the Presbyterian Church. I went to Sunday School, Bible Class and Youth Fellowship.

In fact, I became the youngest Sunday School teacher at the age of 15 years old, and then at 17 years old I was the youth leader and led the youth church services.

However, last Friday, after more than 50 years of being a Presbyterian, I resigned as a member of the Presbyterian Church.

The General Assembly took a vote, which was passed by a large majority, to exclude Christians in same-sex relationships from full communicant membership of the Presbyterian Church.

I know that the Ulster Presbyterian tradition considers homosexuality as wrong, even though Jesus said absolutely nothing about homosexuality. But this was a deliberate move to exclude LGBTQ Christians from membership of the Church.

The day my daughter Beth was born was one of the happiest days of my life. We've always been close. She was always a sweet and kind little girl and I'm so proud of the beautiful, thoughtful and honest young woman she has become.

I will never forget the day she told me and her dad that she was in a same-sex relationship. She was shaking. It took a while for the news to sink in but it never shook my love for her and it will never come between us.

Another day I'll never forget is the day she was targeted to be removed from her spiritual home by the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

Like me, 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. 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.

However, as a result of the vote last week she has been excommunicated from her church because of her God-given sexual orientation. I am deeply hurt that my daughter has been targeted in this way.

On Friday, I wrote to my minister, who is a good man, to resign and explained that I could not remain a member of a church where I could no longer share communion with my daughter.

I know the Presbyterian Church very well and so I know some clergy were heartbroken by this vote.

However, I also understand the church politics behind bringing this vote to the General Assembly. It's about a struggle for control by the more fundamentalist members who are now becoming the majority in the Presbyterian Church.

I know how they think. They see this as a great victory. There was lots of self-righteous back slapping on Friday. It's dressed up in fine words about theology and doctrine but ultimately this is about who is in control of the Church. Mark my words, now they've got the gays out, they will be coming after the women ministers and the women elders next.

Can you imagine the hurt this will cause to women in the Church?

This vote was driven and supported by members who are stuck in a theological bubble and divorced from the pastoral needs of congregations. They don't care at all about people like me leaving. This vote was a calculated move to purge the Presbyterian Church of people like me. They see it as a step towards a more pure and righteous church. May God forgive them, for they know not what they do.

While Jesus said nothing about homosexuality he had an awful lot to say about self-righteousness. But who is going to excommunicate them for their lack of a credible faith? I hope that God blesses these members with at least one gay child or grandchild. I hope they reconsider the hurt caused to so many Christian families.

Faith is more important to me than an institution, but church has always been important to me too. I have felt lost and detached without a spiritual home since last Friday.

I asked my Facebook friends if they had any recommendations of a church I could join where Beth would be welcomed, accepted and loved and where her faith in Jesus will be respected and nurtured.

To be honest I wasn't expecting much of a response, but to my surprise I now have a list of churches to consider, where I know I could once again share communion with my daughter.

So many people have contacted me. One which was suggested was All Souls, on Elmwood Avenue in Belfast so I attended on Sunday morning and found them most welcoming and like-minded.

This gives me hope.

Beth says: "I have been in a relationship with my fiancee now for three years and we live a very happy, normal life together. Day to day we often forget that we do not have the same rights as others, or that others may not agree with our relationship. This is mainly because we have a very supportive friends and family network.

"Unfortunately, on Friday it was brought to our attention the decision of the Presbyterian Church to no longer allow LGBT+ individuals to be members or baptise their children in the church. This was upsetting not just for myself and for my family but all the other families that this will affect.

"I feel sadness that the Presbyterian Church cannot find the strength to accept LGBT+ members of society and allow me to continue going to the church I have attended all my life.

"I believe the church will lose many members and support through this decision but we have found happiness in the fact that we can now find a new church that is willing to accept us and our family with open arms.

"The world is becoming more accepting every day and our rights are slowly changing. On Friday night my best friend texted me words of support, ending the message with the most important thing to remember: 'This decision is not a reflection of God'.

"This vote will not stop me from being who I am, nor will it stop me from having a relationship with God."

My beautiful daughter Beth is a blessing to me. She remains in the hands of God. She is loved by Christ and carries the light of Christ within. She continues in the presence of the Holy Spirit who will always bring her love.

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland can remove her from their institution but they can never separate her from the love of God.

Belfast Telegraph

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