As a society we didn’t do ourselves any favours last week.
BBC Radio Ulster’s Good Morning Ulster news programme featured a very moving interview with a young man from Glengormley who was a victim of an horrific homophobic assault. Then on Friday, Iris Robinson, a member of our legislative assembly (MLA) and wife of the First Minister caused a stir in an live interview with Stephen Nolan, which he then carried over into his national programme on Radio 5 Live, (see the bbc news story here).
The issue of sexual orientation has not been on the agenda of our churches here, I guess because of the influence of our sectarian division. With that out of the way, faith communities are struggling to make some sense and to catch up with the rest of the world in their understanding of the debate. Iris reminds us of how far we have to travel on issues of equality.
One really helpful piece of research however has just been published by the Centre for Contemporary Christianity in Ireland. It was conducted by Dr Fran Porter and the published report is titled ‘Faith in a Plural Society – the values, attitudes and practices of churches in protecting minority participation, which is available FREE from the Centre.
As part of the research a questionnaire was sent out to all clergy, ministers and pastors serving in local congregations in October 2007, and asked about relationships, attitudes and practices towards minority populations of ethnicity, religion and sexual identity. The response rate to this anonymous survey was an almost unprecedented 21.5%, or more than one in five of all serving clergy, making it one of the most comprehensive surveys around.
It makes revealing reading, and I urge you to get your free copy. It is planned to have the report available online soon.