The Rev. Dr Colton, the Church of Ireland’s Bishop for Cork, Cloyne and Ross, was Guest of Honour at this year’s Cork LGBT Awareness Week, where he spoke eloquently at its launch at Cork City Hall about the diversity of views within the church towards LGBT issues, and the graciousness of being invited to speak at such an event.
“Not gracious in the sense of courteous and kind,” Dr Colton explained, “but more in the religious sense of grace – your invitation to me is undeserved; it is an unmerited favour.”
“It is gracious because, whatever about my personal views and solidarity as an individual to gay and lesbian people, it is undeniable that I am part of a religion, and indeed institution, that all too often, over the centuries, has caused deep hurt and tangible damage to gay and lesbian people.”
The Bishop of Cork, who has long been a supporter of the LGBT community, also said that there was a diversity within Christian churches when it came to LGBT issues, as well as noting that there is a diversity within the LGBT community in terms of religious belief.
“[It] is very fundamental to underscore the diversity of humanity among LGBT people,” Dr Colton added, “some are religious: others are not. Some wrestle with the things of faith: others do not. Equally, although it does not always seem so to the outsider hearing official church pronouncements, there is diversity of outlook within churches on LGBT issues.”
The Bishop also encouraged those LGBT people who are religious to become actively involved with the ongoing debate on LGBT issues in churches in Ireland, both Protestant and Catholic. Dr. Colton also asked LGBT people “not to give up on religion and religious institutions”.
“It is essential that your voices and experiences are heard and listened to.
More important, it is vital that you do not let people drive you away. The loving welcome and inclusion of you is not theirs to take away: that love, that inclusion, that welcome, that belonging are God’s gift – God’s grace – offered to you as much as to anyone else.”
The rainbow flag was also raised over Cork City Hall at the same event at which the Rev. Dr Colton spoke, a gift from Cork’s twin city of San Francisco:
— paul colton (@b2dac) May 12, 2014
Rev. Paul Colton’s speech can be read in full here.