Norwich Pride march divides church opinions

NorwichPride420The staging of the Norwich Pride on July 27 has divided opinion in the Norwich Christian community. While many churches are not comfortable with the event, a handful are more supportive. Keith Morris reports.

The Quakers and some Anglican clergy will be joining the march, while other churches, as last year, will be watching and offering words of reconciliation. At the same time others are more strongly opposed as the controversy over the redefinition of marriage is in the headlines.
Norwich Pride is run by the local Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) community and includes a march on Saturday July 27.
Jo Smith, a Quaker who represents faith groups at Norwich Pride, said: “Quakers along with members of other faith and spiritual groups will be attending the parade and invite everyone to join us.  We invite those from Churches or religious organisations which recognise and support their gay members to bring a banner with the name of their church on it. We will meet in Chapelfield Gardens before the parade, by the gate nearest the theatre.”  
Rev Mark Taylor, from Carleton Rode Baptist Church, one of a number of church leaders who are not supportive of the march, said:  “The March is controversial and divisive within the Christian Church, and at a time when the Christian Church is wrestling over the major issue of the redefinition of marriage, it is not helpful to stir strong feelings when we are seeking to discern how we will respond to redefinition and remain true and faithful to the clear teachings of scripture.
“It is very tragic when the secular society pressurise the Church into agreeing to the lowering of the moral and spiritually righteous bar, in order that society can indulge without feeling guilty. Promotion of this controversial march will do nothing but highlight the weakness of the Church to take the spiritual and moral lead.”
On the other side of the debate, Norwich Anglican priest and Quaker, Rev Philip Young, said: “As a Christian I enjoy celebrating the colourful diversity of human beings and Pride is such a wonderfully colourful event. I think we should celebrate love wherever we see it and love crosses all boundaries and has the ability to bring us all together in joyful celebration,
“I think it is always a good thing to challenge our fixed and rigid ideas about other people and we should enjoy the diversity and approach all people with love and acceptance in our hearts, looking beyond appearances to the beauty of each human being,” said Philip.
Duane Elkins, leader of New Hope Christian Centre, said: “Last year I headed a group of five evangelists who went to the Pride celebrations to offer hope. The Scripture on our badge was: "Christ Jesus came to save sinners - I am the biggest one!" 1 Timothy 1:15
“It caught a number of celebrants off guard, but initiated conversations which ended with us offering prayer.  No one took our offer of prayer, but we believe the message we were trying to communicate was - although we don't condone the practice, we still care for the individual.”

A similar group may attend the march this year but no decision has yet been taken.


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