The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Revd Ken Good, following his Presidential Address at the Derry and Raphoe Diocesan Synod in October, at which he made reference to the current debate in the Anglican Communion on the ordination or consecration of practicing homosexuals, was challenged by Sean Morrin of the Rainbow Project in Derry to meet with its members to discuss his views directly with them.
The bishop first had lunch with three staff members of the organisation and then visited the Rainbow Project’s premises on Clarendon Street to meet with young people who use the Centre regularly. The members spoke openly about their experiences of rejection and hostility in the community, which they attributed to society’s inability to come to terms with their sexual identity.
Following the meeting, the bishop issued the following statement:
‘I appreciated very much the opportunity to meet with staff members of the Rainbow Project and with some of the local young people who the Project seeks to support. The welcome I received was very genuine and the hospitality very warm.
‘Our discussions were constructive and honest, a genuine attempt by all concerned to listen attentively and to understand better our respective views. While we agreed to differ on some points, the important benefit of the meeting was that we now have a clearer grasp of the others’ point of view, and we respect each other as people.
‘As a bishop, as well as speaking what I believe to be the truth, I am also committed to listening with grace to the experience of homosexual persons and to learning from them of the ways in which they may perceive the church to be hostile or unloving.
‘I deplore the fact that homophobic attitudes are still evident in society and that young people of a homosexual orientation feel under attack physically or verbally in this community.’
Welcoming Bishop Good’s Statement the Rainbow Project said:
‘In light of the current controversy and the negativity surrounding it within the Anglican Church, we did have some trepidation when approaching the meeting, but we found the meeting to be both constructive and informative as well as exceptionally honest.
‘It became quite clear early within the meeting that Bishop Good was very willing to listen to the experience of the gay community and was indeed approaching the meeting in the spirit in which it had been offered where he called for honest reflection and engagement in a ‘listening process’ as well as ‘a debate in a spirit of grace and truth’.
‘In light of the meeting we just had, we believe that we have made a genuine start to that listening process and we welcome the Bishop’s condemnation of homophobia in our society’.