It’s not every day that we see clerical collars in the LGBT Centre in Belfast. But the Centre was host to a group of clergy and church workers during Anti-Homophobia and Transphobia week.
The purpose was to explain the work of the LGBT sector organizations to ministers, youth workers and pastoral workers, and to suggest ways in which the services provided could be useful to members of their congregations. It was attended by people from a number of denominations who heard presentations from TRP, Cara-Friend and HEReNI and took literature about the services. There was no shortage of discussion (or sandwiches) afterwards.
The event was organized by a small group of people who co-ordinated a faith strand to the week, including a prayer resource which was circulated widely among the churches. So many LGB&/T people have had negative experiences of churches: the group therefore wanted to encourage and inform a growing number of church representatives who are welcoming and inclusive of LGB&/T people and our relationships.”
Malachai O’Hara, Health, Well-being and Services Manager at The Rainbow Project, commented:
‘Today was a privilege to be engaging with faith leaders on the issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. Often, these issues are presented as diametrically opposite, and the discussion of these issues is often relegated to sound bites and easily digestible opposite views of issues. However, this rarely serves to meet the need of people of faith who identify as LGB&/T or the families of LGB&/T people who may be struggling to reconcile both their faith and their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
We thank those that organised this event and the other faith strands throughout the IDAHOT week, and we look forward to building on this work and further engaging with faith leaders and communities on how we can have a more mutually respectful dialogue on these issues. Despite our different positions on some of these difficult issues, we can work together to support those LGB&/T people of faith and their families.’