Well today it appears to be official, I am no longer allowed to be a full member of the Church I grew up. The church that the majority of my ancestors have been members of since their families came to Ireland. The church that several of my forebears have had leadership roles in.
Today the Presbyterian Church in Ireland has ruled that anybody in a same-sex relationship cannot be a full member of the church and also that their children cannot be baptised. Even though my full communicant membership was denied when I was not in a relationship and haven't been in one since my return from Scotland it doesn't seem to make a difference. I'm that noise in the corner that causes a ruckus.
I get quoted the texts from the New Testament about temple prostitutes/bed mates, the Greek/Roman tradition of pederasty or puer delicates as being the same as homosexuality. Yes there are cultural references to the verses that are quoted from the New Testament which leads us to the Old.
Of course we have Leviticus and again some of these were ceremonial in a similar way as worship to Baal or other pagan gods. But of course in the New Testament Jesus said he had not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets but to fulfil them. By that he meant to provide the grace and forgiveness. Peter in his vision saw that all the unclean regulations from the Old Testament were not unclean under this fulfilment of grace. Even the Presbyterian Church doesn't come down hard on others who break the law in other ways. As one minister pointed out in this morning discussion they are picking out one group.
The church itself had set up Pastoral Guidelines which would have included a safe space for LGB members to discuss matters with the church. None of the recommendations at the end of that have ever been implemented. Very little, if any formal consultation has taken place with LGB Presbyterians ahead of this decision. Judging by my Twitter and Facebook feeds from many of the LGB Christian and indeed Presbyterian influencers none of us had any input apart from with individual ministers.
The Presbyterian Church itself has been a major contributor to the state of my mental well being. Its exclusion of me, its judgement of me are things that the Chaplin of Ulster University Rev. Cheryl Meban pointed out when raising the amendment to remove the policy. It is something I have talked about in the past, I don't want to go into it again here.
Just before the formal vote was taken, some light-hearted banter happened between the moderator and clerk about needing a resolution for a cup of coffee. Earlier in the debate someone had warned that the world was watching, by their insults at such a serious time in the live of some Presbyterians you shall know them. Making today even worse with how light heartedly they appear to take this decision.
Research released today has shown the shift in opinion in Northern Ireland since the Brexit referendum. Since the vote when 56% of the people voted to remain in the EU that figure has risen to 69%.
However, the research by Queen's University also shows that 61% of the population of Northern Ireland also favour the whole of the UK staying in the Customs Union and Single Market. The population of Northern Ireland who voted to remain in the EU see that as part of the Brexit that helps keep NI economically active, viable and progressing.
While 59% of people in Scotland feel that Brexit make the break up of the UK more likely this is only beaten by the 60% of Northern Ireland who think the same thing. This is worrying as this would be based on two different scenarios in these two locations both of which voted to remain. Here in Northern Ireland while 63% believe the union will exist in 10 years time only 28% believe it will survive 50 years.
Despite this research and that the people of Northern Ireland clearly favour a Customs Union and Single Market, today Karen Bradley the Secretary of State has said emphatically that Northern Ireland will leave the Customs Union. Ireland and the UK entered the EEC on the same day and before that had trade agreements in common. Leaving is breaking a long history, even though there was a border for security reasons that was economically open. Closing that to come to some new agreement affects businesses, workers, families, health and so much more.
The people of Northern Ireland do not forget how Northern Ireland's economy struggled most under the Tories in the 80s and 90s. The same party now is taking advise from the DUP who are short sighted about how Brexit will affect Northern Ireland. The failed to win the argument here but are using the same argument to convince the Conservatives in Westminster that the people of Northern Ireland will not suffer.
Sammy Wilson may as a substitute teacher have taken me for one term of A'Level economics but since then my degree looked at the EU and the costs and benefits of being in and out at the time with the newly economically emerging Eastern European Economies. Back then I said that by size Russia, Ukraine and possibly Belarus could survive outside of the EU on an economies of scale level but the others would probably over time all look to align with the EU. The same in reverse applies to the UK today, we don't have the economy of scale in much industry to be a world player that people will give favourable terms to.
Today was a day of warning to the Tories and DUP but they are ignoring those warnings. In light of this today my personal vote on any Irish border poll will be for unification.
So I see that this evening in Portadown a hall was full with people apparently to raise concern about the impact on the life of the owners of Ashers ahead of the Supreme Court ruling on this case.
This I will keep short and sweet. Have any of the 100s who were gathered ever taken a stand for any member of their church community who has come out as LGB or T? I know I am not the only Christian in Northern Ireland who has been condemned by their own church for their so called "lifestyle" and yes that was the word used to me. Something that I never brought up in the church environment in a public platform but always discussed on a one to one basis, when needed or asked. Something that was brought to an emergency Session meeting that took many elders, especially one my mother, totally by surprise.
This is happening all the time and sadly happening to people who unlike me aren't as prepared for what will happen. People who don't have a network both of fellow Christians and others who will provide the support. People who haven't come to their own peace with their faith and sexuality.
The roadshow rolls on and tomorrow will be in my home town within site of a place I once considered taking my own life because of the condemnation of comments such as this from Christians. That is the impact that these people should be thinking of.
PS as far as I am aware none of the locations that are hosting these meetings this week are actually endorsing the message of the Christian Institute, the McArthur family and Ashers bakery they are just providing them with a means to express their view.
I seen a story today about 21 jobs in the UK Border Force to be based in Belfast. The advert for the jobs states that to apply you have to be a UK passport holder. Until recently this would not have been an issue for me as I held two passports, however when my British passport ran out I didn't immediately renew waiting to see the outcome of the Brexit referendum. As a result of that I haven't renewed my British one and only retain my Irish Passport.
I was born in the UK. Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement as someone born in Northern Ireland I am entitled to identify as British, or Irish or both. Also under the terms of that agreement I should not be discriminated against because of my choice. However, the above advert if I wanted to apply for the job I would currently be excluded.
However, this is not the first time I have seen a public service related job advertised here in Northern Ireland lately being advertised as must have a valid UK Passport.
In recent months I have been outraged that the UK Government has been ignoring its own 1971 Immigration Act in how it has behaved over the Windrush generation. It also seems that in it own advertising for jobs here in Northern Ireland it is also breaching the 1998 Northern Ireland Act in advertising positions for UK passport holders only. Since Brexit many in Northern Ireland have taken up the option, if they hadn't already, of getting a Irish passport to have the ease of access to the EU post-Brexit.
Today the Answers given to some of the Prime Minister's Questions did not seem to be logical however they do cast some idea of the shape that Brexit will take.
Basically Jeremy Corbyn, Ian Blackford, David Simpson, Michael Tomlinson Gregory Campbell, Kenneth Clarke and Simon Hoare asked her in various forms about Northern Ireland, Brexit and the Good Friday Agreement.
From the answers we received today we have learnt the following:
She is committed to the Good Friday Agreement
She is committed to devolution in all parts of the UK
She does not want to see a hard border on the island of Island
She does not want to see a customs and regulatory border down the Irish Sea
She does not want to undermine the UK common market
A lot of this was in relation to the draft proposal to keep Northern Ireland in the customs union and single market. If as Boris said yesterday it would be possible to control the NI border as easily as between Camden and Islington this would be that easy peasy lemon squeezy option. As there would therefore not be that much of a border on that land border and it could be dealt with in a electronic way.
The problem is that you have the Good Friday Agreement that almost 20 years ago was the settled will of the majority of people North and South in Ireland. A lot of that functionality was based on there not being anything different between the two parts. I mean we were both in the largest trading bloc in the world and surely we wouldn't be foolish enough to throw that into jeopardy for the uncertainly of negotiating with the rest of the world including the rest of the EU.
Now you are trying to make a frictionless border, but in the words used today the UK clearly wants to divert from the requirements of the customs union and single market as to apply this merely to NI would "undermine the UK common market and threaten the constitutional integrity of the UK".
But surely having devolved powers, which have also been recently promised to be increased post-Brexit, means there is already certain differences between the powers. Scotland has only recently used its tax varying power. The DUP are adamant that on certain areas Northern Ireland should be able to make their own decisions (if only someone was actually sitting in the Assembly able to do so). So how can something affecting one part of the UK therefore threaten the UK common market?
Maybe we have seen something about the post-Brexit situation. May's government wants to move away from the regulations that tie us into the customs union and single market. Some of those regulations are so that we produce compatible products that we can then sell to our largest and closest overseas (or in the case of Ireland down the road) markets. Can the plans really be that radical that it will undermine the UK market if NI remained.
Has the PM let the cat out of the bag. Will international business pick up on that. What about British business that exports a large proportion. This does not sound like a great economic promise to them of frictionless trade with the EU.
How is it going to be possible to meet all the objections that the PM has clearly outlined multiple times today? From what she has said today it seems impossible. The UK government clearly has no plan for how to deal with the Irish problem after 20 years of having an answer after centuries of not we look like we are being sacrificed once more.
Listening to Boris this morning I have come up with a business plan that will work with the comparability of Brexit with the congestion charge. It my own solution to the obvious issues of the Irish problem afterwards.
I shall set up four Boris Bike Hire Shops. A pair in Newry and Dundalk with the other pair in Derry and Muff. This will allow people to get the train from Belfast either North or South and get off at the station hire a bike and cycle across the border to avoid the congestion charge.
This will be a highly profitable outcome post Brexit and I need to get negotiations the two Foreign Secretaries in the International Trade Ministers soon to get the franchise.