Faith at London Pride, 2010

London Pride, 2010

As expected. faith groups were out in force yesterday at London Pride. You wouldn’t think it from the mainstream gay press though – Pink News’ major story on Pride was of the small band of protesters who are there every year, just where the route leaves Lower Regent Street.  They were badly outnumbered, though (by a factor of something like five or ten to one) by those in the march clearly identifying as members of a faith group:

Over a hundred Christians marched together wearing T-shirts declaring “Christian and Proud” and singing hymns. In addition, about thirty people marched in a Quaker group, while other Christians joined in the contingents representing bisexuals, trade unionists and other groups.

The visible Christian presence had been planned by Christians at Pride, a coalition of several groups, including the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM), Changing Attitude, Courage UK and the Evangelical Fellowship of Lesbian and Gay Christians.

Many wore stickers quoting 1 John 4,18: “No fear in love”. Passers-by and other Pride participants were given flyers declaring “Proud to be LGBT. Proud to be Christian”. Hymns heard during the march included “We are marching in the light of God” and “We want to see Jesus lifted high”.

Large banners publicised LGBT Catholics and the Metropolitan Community Church. Quakers marched with a banner announcing “Quakers affirm same-sex marriage”. They were greeted with cheers by the many people aware that Quakers last year decided to carry out same-sex marriages on the same basis as mixed-sex ones.

The level of enthusiasm shown by Pride participants towards the Christian marchers took many of them by surprise “It was amazing,” said Kate from Wrexham, “I felt like a celebrity”.

(Read the full report on the gay Christian presence at Ekklesia)

I too was impressed by the cheers. This was the first year that I was carrying the right hand side of our banner, so I could free my right hand. From time to time I acknowledged that cheers with a little wave. (Afterwards, I realized I should have made a sign of the cross, papal style, instead.) This crowd support is always an inspiring feature of marching with a Catholic banner, but this year the cheers were louder and stronger. This may have been because our group was headed by a priest in formal clerical dress, complete with clerical collar Fr Bernard Lynch was with us again, and at his side (much of the time) was his husband, Billy. (I saw one woman in the crowd visibly drop her jaw in open astonishment that such a thing was possible.) I also say many other priests in mufti watching from the sidelines. How long will we have to wait before more will be able and willing to  march openly alongside Fr Bernard? Nearly three decades ago, he was one four priests marching together in a Pride parade, as seen in this archive picture from the New York Times:

Robert Carter, right, with Dan McCarthy, left, Bernard Lynch and John McNeill at a gay pride march in the early 1980s

News reports were that one pedestrian, not sure what the vast crowds were about, asked if “the queen” was passing. Not quite, although Fr Bernard did remark to me that he hoped to be the first Irish queen of England.

I also liked the colourful Jewish presence, with a rainbow Star of David much in evidence. In the Pink News piece, one of the protestors was asked about the inconsistency of using the Bible to rant against homoerotic relationships, while ignoring Levitical restrictions on diet. These, he said, were just “local” to Jews. He would do well to consider that precisely the same argument applies also to the sexual proscriptions: the “abominations” of the King James mistranslation are better construed as “taboo” for Jews. They are no more relevant to Christians than circumcision. Even for Jews, the context is limited. In context, they would have interpreted as applying  primarily to idolatry and the associated temple prostitution, to incest, and to male rape rather than to loving, mutual partnerships. Today, mainstream Judaism is far less hung up  about male homosexuality than most Christian groups – and there is no reference at all in the Hebrew Bible to lesbianism.

At a personal level, I was also pleased to have seen the bulk of the parade myself for the first time. Every year, the faith groups are positioned near the back of the parade. Every year, I have logically approached the assembly point early, from the nearest station – nearest to the back.  This year, I deliberately approached by the longer route, from the front, which I reached just as the parade was starting. So it was that for the first time ever, I got to see the giant rainbow flag heading the parade, followed by the three squads of the armed services, marching in uniform, and a group of uniformed police officers. By this time, I was already just about choking with emotion and pride at the flag and “our” out armed forces, (even though I’m not even British).

 

British Navy Pride, London 2010

The weather was glorious, and a great time was had. Not all was sunshine, though – there was also a strong strand of anti-Catholic feeling prompted by the papal visit, which got me interviewed, very briefly,  by BBC television. This post, however, is intended as celebration. I shall write separately about this more negative theme later.

 

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