A lot to celebrate but more to do: Changing Attitude Ireland leads first Pride Service in Christ Cathedral Dublin as new patron is introduced

The welcoming entrance at Christ Church Dublin.

Report by Lynn Glanville

There is a reluctance within the Church community to hear from the LGBTQ+ community because listening opens the possibility of change and change demands taking a risk, according to the newly introduced patron of Changing Attitude Ireland, the Right Revd Trevor Williams. The retired Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe was speaking at the first Pride service in Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin on Sunday 25 June 2023. [Read the Sermon/Download as PDF]

But, he asked, why should people who are vulnerable or who experience discrimination have to fight for their right to exist, to be safe or be free? He pointed out that Jesus encouraged his followers to widen their hospitality to the outsider and the vulnerable.

The program at Pride 2023

The special Service of Choral Evensong was celebrated by Dean Dermot Dunne and sung by the Cathedral Choir. Welcoming the congregation, the Dean said that the initiative for the service came from Changing Attitude Ireland, an organisation which promotes the inclusion of LGBTQ+ people into the life of the Church. He said that Sunday’s service was historic as it was the first Pride service in the cathedral and they were proud to celebrate Pride with the LGBTQ+ community.

L-R: Dean Dermot Dunne, Bishop Trevor Williams, and Changing Attitude Ireland Chair Mark Bowyer.

During the service the readings were read by CAI committee members Kris McCaffrey and Karen Godfrey. The prayers were led by the organisation’s chairperson Mark Bowyer.

Changing Attitude Chair Mark Bowyers (R) welcomes Bishop Trevor Williams as Changing Attitude Patron

Having been introduced as patron of Changing Attitude Ireland during the service, Bishop Williams preached the sermon. “It is indeed a privilege and an honour to work alongside you for the full inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community in the Church,” he said thanking Changing Attitude Ireland for inviting him to be patron.

Bishop Trevor Williams

Bishop Trevor Williams

He observed that the Gospel reading [Luke 14:12–24] was about hospitality. “Here Jesus smashes the ‘us and them’ mentality, prevalent in all societies at all times, then and now. Your rich, influential and privileged lives will be blessed when you share company with those who have nothing to give you but themselves, their experience and their story… Jesus invites the powerful to be transformed by inviting the vulnerable, the outsiders, the powerless to eat at the same table. Jesus’s mission is to subvert the power of oppression by the power of love. Jesus still subverts human power dynamics by inviting one and all to eat at the same eucharistic table,” Bishop Williams said.

Bishop Trevor Williams delivering the sermon at Pride 2023

Bishop Trevor Williams delivering the sermon at Pride 2023, Christ Church, Dublin, 25 June 2023.

He talked about the importance of listening to others and said that he was impressed, 40 years after the first Dublin Pride March in 1983, that members of the LGBTQ+ community were sharing their stories in Irish newspapers. He said those stories commanded honour and respect and the previous day’s Pride March was something that could be celebrated by everyone. He added that Ireland had come a long way since 1983.

However, Bishop Williams pointed out that there was still much to protest about noting that Uganda had introduced the death penalty for what it termed aggravated homosexuality and across the United States 70 new anti–LGBTQ+ laws had been introduced this year.

He recalled a story told by John Bell of the Iona Community who spoke of a 14 year old Christian girl called Lizzie who took her own life. Before her death she sent a message to a friend saying she didn’t believe that God could love her the way she was. “Somehow, the way the Church is and the attitudes it holds, communicated to Lizzie that being a lesbian meant that she was alienated from God’s love. And for Lizzie it was unbearable to accept that God didn’t love her. How did it happen? All too easily I’m afraid. It was a normal ‘caring’ Church. They didn’t notice that the message they were giving to Lizzie, that she heard so loud and clear, was ‘it is not OK to be gay’. How many other stories of rejection and discrimination are to be found in the experience of gay Christians?” he wondered.

To those within the Church who were reluctant to hear from the LGBTQ+ community because the issue is contentious in the Anglican Communion and because they fear that if the Church here opens the topic again members will be “at each other’s throats” he said: “What about Lizzie?”

L-R: CAI Chair Mark Bowyer, CAI Secretary Karen Godfrey, and Kris McCaffrey, CAI’s Opening and Welcoming Church Liaison.

He thanked members of the LGBTQ+ community who had stuck with the Church despite everything. “We need you. We don’t deserve your love and care but we still have so far to travel, to be a community that represents the unity that is God’s desire. We need to listen to your story. To really listen, not just with the head but with the heart,” he concluded.

Following the service pride themed refreshments were served in the south transept. On behalf of Changing Attitude Ireland we thank the Dean and Chapter, the choir and cathedral staff for their fabulous pride themed hospitality.

Members of the Changing Attitude Ireland committee with their newly commissioned Patron. L-R: Canon Ginnie Kennerley, Bishop Trevor Williams, Mark Bowyer, Kris McCaffrey and the Very Revd David Godfrey.

Additional editing by Mark Bowyer.

[Read Bishop Trevor Williams’ Sermon at Pride 2023/Download as a PDF]

Bishop Trevor William – Sermon for Pride 2023