Irish Times: Ban on church youth work for gay man criticised

THE BANNING of an openly gay man from volunteering for work with youth groups at Methodist and Church of Ireland churches in Ballinamallard, Co Fermanagh, has been criticised by the Church of Ireland pro-gay Changing Attitude Ireland group.

Frankie Dean (49), who has attended the Methodist church in Ballinamallard for 15 years, responded to an appeal to help a new youth minister working between the Methodist and local Church of Ireland churches.

He offered to provide a musical workshop to the youth group. His Minister, Rev Kenneth Lindsay, deemed him, as being openly gay, not suitable as a volunteer and stated: “I feel that such people are inappropriate role models.”

In the current Fermanagh Herald, Rev Lindsay said this was his decision and no one else’s: “I would make it again tomorrow, no matter what it’d cost me. I feel that such people are inappropriate role models and I stand by that.”

Mr Dean said he was told it was considered that, if he was involved in the project, there was a likelihood “young people will turn gay”. He rejected what he felt to be this misinformed view and told Rev Lindsay and the BBC Northern Ireland Sunday Sequence programme he has youth work qualifications and was vetted under relevant child protection procedures.

Changing Attitude Ireland spokesman Dr Richard O’Leary said: “If being known to be gay becomes accepted as a reason for being excluded from participation in lay voluntary activities in church, then choir stalls, organ benches and church organisations will be noticeably depleted.”

Church of Ireland primate Archbishop Alan Harper has requested that general discussion on same-sex matters at the church’s standing committee be curtailed to enable its bishops begin discussions this autumn on same-gender relationships “and suggest a framework for future discussion at representative level”.

This month it emerged that the Church of Ireland Dean of Leighlin (Carlow), Rev Thomas Gordon, entered a civil partnership in July with his same-sex partner of 20 years. Archbishop Harper said this “created a new situation for the Church of Ireland” and great care should be taken “in anything that may be said”.