LGBT organisations have responded to comments which described the opening of a local Pride event as “a desperately sad and tragic moment” and as “Perth’s shame”.
The comments were published in a blog by Rev. David Robertson, the minister of St Peters Free Church in Dundee, who was also quoting fellow clergyman, Rev. Paul Gibson of Knox Free Church in Perth.
The article titled “Perth’s Pride, Perth’s Shame” was published in response to the opening of the inaugural Perthshire Pride event at the weekend, in which another local minister made a public apology for the way the church has treated LGBT people. This move was seen by many as a step forward in building bridges between the church and the LGBT community.
Scott Burton was the first Church of Scotland minister to open a Pride event in Scotland and took the opportunity to make an unequivocal personal apology for abuse faced by LGBT people from Christians. Despite his apology receiving widespread support, others have not been so welcoming or forgiving. Over 1000 people are estimated to have attended the first Pride in the region at the weekend.
In his blog ‘The Wee Flea‘, David Robertson poses the question to his readers “Lets say that Scott (and the politicians and press) were right. What would it mean?” He goes on to criticise Scott Burton, calls for him to repent and says Christians should be “weeping for the city of Perth and the nation of Scotland”.
Perthshire Pride have responded to David Robertson’s blog, telling us:
“His article shows the exact reason that we still need Pride events. His hatred is claimed in the name of God yet any scripture denounces hate of anyone. There are definitely more bible verses on hypocrisy than anything relating to LGBT+”.
Tim Kelly, Co-Chair of Dundee Pride, due to hold their first event on 22nd September, said for many LGBT people of faith, this rejection can have an ongoing impact:
“Faith and religion can be central elements of a person’s identity – the very core of a person. This is true for many LGBT+ people and if they happen to be raised in a religious community that preaches intolerance, condemnation or hate, the negative emotional and psychological impact can be great. Reverend Burton’s opening comments at Perthshire Pride were an expression of compassion and welcome, and they were healing words for many LGBT+ people who have been rejected by their faith community. For those LGBT+ people who have a faith and want to participate in a religious community, there are churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship that are welcoming and accepting. Reverend Burton’s comments are testament to this.”
“The Pride celebrations aim to build bridges with all people and welcomes people of all faiths and people with none. We stand with all people who have experienced oppression and intolerance.”
LGBT Youth Scotland, who run youth groups in both Perth and Dundee, said it is important for young people of faith to feel welcome in their community, adding:
“LGBT Youth Scotland was delighted to participate in Perth’s first Pride event. It’s so important that LGBT young people growing up in rural areas of Scotland have the opportunity to express themselves safely without fear of prejudice and receive positive and affirming messages about who they are. That includes young people from different faith communities, which is why it was so welcome to hear the comments made by Rev Scott Burton, a Church of Scotland minister at Perthshire Pride.”
David Robertson is a Honorary Chaplain at the University of Dundee, which has been confirmed as a major sponsor of the first Dundee Pride. The University is a Stonewall Diversity Champion, has an active LGBT staff network and a dedicated LGBT student society.
The University have responded to criticism of the ministers blog, with a spokesperson saying:
“Reverend Robertson… is one of eleven Honorary Chaplains, who represent a range of religions and denominations with different beliefs, and who help deliver pastoral care and support to our very diverse community.”
“The University does promote an agenda of equality and diversity, and within that we look to provide a safe space where contrasting views and ideas can be debated and discussed.”
However a spokesperson for the Dundee University LGBT Society said:
“We’re unhappy with David Roberston for being blatantly homophobic, ‘sad and tragic’ is not how a culture should be described. Religion is no excuse, there are many examples of other religious persons & churches in the Dundee area who are more than supportive of one of the many things we stand for, love is love. We trust our University to do the right thing.”
Earlier in the summer, a Glasgow priest was removed from his chaplaincy role at Glasgow University after holding a service in which they described the Pride march in the city as a “gross offence to God”.
David Robertson has a track record of courting publicity with his anti-LGBT views, including his Scotsman column describing transgender education as “state sponsored child abuse”, his criticism of LGBT inclusive education reforms, and described the vote on equal marriage as a “sad day for Scotland“.
Writing in KaleidoScot in 2014 however, he had called for dialogue between the Kirk and Scotland’s LGBT community in the past, but some might argue that his latest blog does nothing to build an open conversation with the people of Dundee or Perthshire.