Free Presbyterians last night protested outside a Cookstown hotel while inside the Mid Ulster Pride committee officially launched its parade and associated events.
Eighty Protestors with placards stood outside the Royal Hotel while inside a conference entitled ‘Blessed are the Queer’ was unveiled for April 1.
It will feature two high-profile speakers from the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Prof Laurence Kirkpatrick, a former lecturer at the church’s theological training college in Belfast, and Rev Cheryl Meban from Ulster University.
Prof Kirkpatrick was sacked from Union Theological College Belfast last year over media comments on same-sex relationships, and his participation in the forthcoming conference is likely to cause debate within the church.
Free Presbyterian minister Rev Marcus Lecky from Coalisland had called for opposition to the Mid Ulster Pride parade “first by prayer, and then by all other lawful and peaceful methods”.
“Our placards are carrying scriptures about homosexuality, the true meaning of love, and the gospel message and the love of God towards sinners,” he said.
Earlier this week he said that “a sad, stark and significant choice has been forced upon the people of Mid-Ulster - will they accept and perhaps even support the reported forthcoming Rural Pride’ event, or will they follow the teachings of Jesus Christ?”
The letter was signed by Rev Marcus Lecky from Cookstown, Rev John Armstrong from Dungannon, Rev Peter McIntyre from Clogher Valley, Rev Colin Mercer from Omagh and Rev Timothy Omerod from Sixmilecross.
“For almost two millennia”, they said, “the entirety of Christendom accepted that Jesus Christ - and all the Scriptures - taught that homosexuality was sinful” and despite “much misinformation... the truth of God’s Word remains unchanged”.
The “very last thing” the area needs is more Pride, they countered, saying Christ commands “true humility” and repentance from homosexuality, stealing, adultery, envy, vengeance and all other sins.
Motivated by “concern and love for our Saviour, our society and the souls of others” they say the parade will “be burned into the memories of the young and impressionable” but that future generations “deserve the same traditional family upbringing that most of us have enjoyed”.
In closing, they urged every Christian to oppose the parade “first by prayer, and then by all other lawful and peaceful methods”.
But Coalisland Rector Rev Andrew Rawding, who is vice chair of the Mid Ulster Pride Committee, took an opposite view.
“We all want to be loving, but with humility we need to accept that even with our best intentions, LGBT+ people have felt hated by the language of sin, and some are filled with such self hatred and rejection that they have taken their lives,” he said.