BBC News: Church holds landmark gay service

It is the oldest church in Belfast but it broke new ground at the weekend with its defence of gay people.

A service to mark International Day Against Homophobia was held at St George’s Church of Ireland Church.

The theme was “Don’t Throw Stones” and organisers said it was an important step in protecting the interests of Northern Ireland’s gay community.

Colin McCormick said it was evidence of how attitudes have changed in his native city.

He grew up in east Belfast and struggled with his sexuality in a very different Northern Ireland.

He no longer lives here, but is happy to return.

“I think the fact that this service is being held is a testament to how attitudes have changed,” he said.

“People are trying, they are in more listening mode. People are prepared to accept diversities that exist not just in a religious capacity but in sexual and in social capacities as well.”

Rector of St George’s, Brian Stewart, said people were supportive of the service.

“To protest against homophobia which is the irrational hatred of gay people is no less or no more significant than a protest against anti-semitism,” he said.

“If we can, as a church, stand up and say that hatred of Jewish people is wrong, we must stand up and say that hatred of gay and lesbian people is wrong as well.”

Charles Kenny, a member of Changing Attitude Ireland, which works for a welcome to all sorts of people including gay people in the Church, was also present.

“I participated in the first ordination of a woman into the Church of Ireland,” he said.

“When I was a little boy, I wouldn’t have expected to live long enough for that. There is evolution all the time. This is another bulwark that has to be won.”