Belfast Telegraph: We have not barred gays from conference on sexuality: Church

By Alf McCreary

THE Church of Ireland has denied claims that a conference this weekend on human sexuality has deliberately excluded gays from its list of speakers.

The two-day conference, which began in the Slieve Russell Hotel in Co Cavan last night, is for members of the General Synod. Some 450 of the 600-strong body are attending.

Gerry Lynch, who is a member of the pro-gay lobby group Changing Attitude Ireland, is not a member of the General Synod but said: “I will be going to the conference to mingle in the margins but as far as I am aware there will be only one gay speaker at the formal sessions. People are expecting that the conference will be more open than it will turn out to be.”

Mr Lynch, who is gay and who worships at St George’s in High Street, Belfast, said: “I am not sure what to expect because I believe that an attempt has been made to keep gay people invisible at the conference. In my opinion gays have been deliberately excluded from speaking.”

Canon Charles Kenny, secretary of Changing Attitude Ireland, will also be attending, but not as a member of the General Synod.

He said: “This is a conference about homosexuality which is long overdue. It will challenge the prevalent culture in the Church of careful avoidance of this issue.”

A Church of Ireland spokesman denied that the conference is deliberately excluding gay speakers.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: “Changing Attitude Ireland were asked to identify a speaker and the group chose Canon Ginnie Kennerly to do so. It is a conference for General Synod members, and people invited to attend were not asked about their sexuality.

“The conference will involve people who will speak about their gay experience and there will also be contributions from the parents of gay children.”

Dr Paul Rowlandson and his wife Margaret, from the liberal wing of the Church, will take part in a seminar. He said “I am not gay but I am pro-gay marriage, and I support the campaign of Changing Attitude Ireland.

“I am taking part because I want people to know that my child should not be discriminated against or prevented from being married because of belonging to a minority sexual orientation.”

The conference, closed to the media and public, will consider attitudes to human sexuality in the context of Christian belief.
No formal decisions will be taken this weekend.