St Bride’s at­ti­tude is so re­fresh­ing

Rutherglen Reformer - - News from the Pews - Ger­ard Killen

Like so many LGBT peo­ple of faith, my re­la­tion­ship with re­li­gion hasn’t al­ways been an easy one.

From child­hood, I al­ways tried to live life by the morals and val­ues of Chris­tian­ity that were in­stilled in me from an early age at home, church and in school.

It wasn’t un­til I started to un­der­stand my sex­u­al­ity that I be­gan to feel that net­work was frac­tured.

I was sup­ported at home but, like too many oth­ers, couldn’t say the same about church and school.

In 2012, I de­cided to write to the then head of the Catholic Church in Scot­land, Car­di­nal Keith O’Brien, chal­leng­ing him on the shame­fully anti-LGBTI com­ments he had been mak­ing in the me­dia.

I asked him di­rectly if I was wel­come in church as a Catholic and a gay man.

In his re­sponse, Car­di­nal O’Brien said that I was wel­come but went on to dis­cuss “very vo­cal peo­ple who are ho­mo­sex­ual” and the dis­crim­i­na­tion that he and the church faced for up­hold­ing Chris­tian val­ues.

It didn’t feel like much of a warm em­brace.

It’s dif­fi­cult to con­jure up sym­pa­thy for a cen­turies old in­sti­tu­tion steeped in power and in­flu­ence like the Catholic Church over iso­lated young peo­ple strug­gling ev­ery day to be ac­cepted just for be­ing them­selves.

That is why it is such a re­lief to hear about the re­fresh­ingly in­clu­sive at­ti­tude of Father Mor­ton and St Bride’s Church in Cam­bus­lang.

This week, they posted a public an­nounce­ment on Face­book re-em­pha­sis­ing that gay peo­ple are wel­come in St Bride’s parish.

Hav­ing dis­cussed the is­sue with Father Mor­ton, I know he sin­cerely be­lieves that gay peo­ple should feel ac­cepted and wel­come with­out prej­u­dice and it can­not be over­stated what an im­por­tant and wel­come step this is, es­pe­cially for LGBTI peo­ple of faith and their fam­i­lies in the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

With churches across the coun­try be­gin­ning to em­brace same sex mar­riage and the first same sex cer­e­mony in­volv­ing a Mus­lim man tak­ing place in the UK, it fi­nally feels like real progress is be­ing made for LGBTI peo­ple who want re­li­gion to be part of their lives.

It is an­other step to­wards LGBTI equal­ity but, there is al­ways more work to be done, par­tic­u­larly at school.

The shadow of sec­tion 28, scrapped by the last Labour gov­ern­ment, still looms over our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

Re­search car­ried out by the Time for In­clu­sive Ed­u­ca­tion (TIE) cam­paign has shown that 90 per cent of LGBTI peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence ho­mo­pho­bia, bi­pho­bia and trans­pho­bia at school, 27 per cent have at­tempted sui­cide as a re­sult of bul­ly­ing and 80 per cent of teach­ers do not feel ad­e­quately trained in how to tackle this bul­ly­ing.

Thanks to the hard work of the TIE cam­paign, the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment has now agreed to set up a work­ing group on ho­mo­pho­bic bul­ly­ing in schools. But if we are to get it right for ev­ery child, we need that work­ing group to lead to ac­tion for the young peo­ple we are cur­rently fail­ing and a cru­cial part of that will in­volve all schools, in­clud­ing faith schools, get­ting be­hind that ac­tion.

I asked him di­rectly if I was wel­come as a Catholic and a gay man

Crit­i­cism Car­di­nal Keith O’Brien, who Mr Killen wrote to five years ago, was of­ten crit­i­cised for his views on gay peo­ple

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