The Revd Andrew Rawding, Rector of Brackaville, Donaghendry, & Ballyclog Parish in the Diocese of Armagh, has announced his resignation from his position. He made the announcement to his congregations on 4 July.
Mr Rawding told the BBC: “the Church of Ireland was structurally, culturally, and socially homophobic. There are some kind and compassionate individuals but corporately, at best there is indifference, at worst there is hypocrisy,” he said.
He also claimed that there was “an aggressive and proactive opposition to full inclusion and equality for LGBT+ people, with some people still weaponising Bible verses and using the language of condemnation and rejection”.
“I have made a public stance in the past as a Church of Ireland rector to send a message to the LGBT+ community that it’s OK to be LGBT+ and to be a Christian and to show my full support for same-sex marriages within the Church of Ireland”. He continued, ”Currently, the stance is homophobic and discriminatory”.
Mr Rawding’s announcement received widespread coverage in the first two days following the announcement at his parish. The Belfast Telegraph, the BBC, and News Letter all featured the story.
Neither the Diocese of Armagh or the Church of Ireland made a statement in response to the cleric’s announcement. The Revd Ian Ellis, former Editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette newspaper did dispute Mr Rawding’s characterisations about the church being homophobic.
The General Synod of the Church of Ireland has voted clearly against changing church canons (church law) to approve of same-sex marriages each time the matter has been put to a vote.
The general perception is that the Church of Ireland grows more theologically liberal and revisionist the further south one travels. The Church of Ireland has about 400,000 members spread across 12 dioceses with about 70% of its members living in Northern Ireland and the remainder in the Republic of Ireland.
Mr Rawding told various news outlets he intends to start a career as a social worker once he finishes a degree course in that field.