New Presbyterian Moderator sparks outrage with gay “celibacy” comments

February 10, 2014

The newly elected Presbyterian Moderator for Northern Ireland, Reverend Michael Barry stirred up controversy just a day after his election by publicly airing his view that gay men and women should remain celibate.

Dr Barry, who has been the minister of Newry’s Sandy Street church for the last 28 years, was elected as Presbyterian Moderator last Tuesday in a second round of voting after the first round had resulted in a three way tie between Dr Barry, Rev Liz Hughes and Rev Ian McNie.

The former school teacher and Daisy Hill Hospital’s current chaplain will take up office on the 2 June in succession to Dr Rob Craig who continues as moderator until that time.

Speaking shortly after his election, Dr. Barry said he was “very surprised but pleased that the Presbyterian Church has put its confidence in me and seen fit to give me the honour of serving as moderator.”

He said he looked forward to “encouraging the church and its people in their ministry as I have the opportunity to travel around Ireland and visit congregations and meet people engaged in ministry and mission.”

However, it was Reverend Barry’s comments just 24 hours later which caused anger amongst the gay community.

“We welcome all people into the Church,” said Dr Barry,

“but we would have a problem with those who are involved in a gay relationship because we believe the Bible teaches that is against the word of God,” he added.

“We would encourage people who are gay to live a celibate life.”

Rev Barry described advertised gay conversion courses as a “very difficult situation”.

“Personally, I am not convinced that that is possible,” he said.

“I think the whole origin of where gayness comes from is still up for debate and I would be a bit concerned at being dogmatic one way or the other.

“Certainly we’d want to help people who are having difficulties with their sexuality to live in such a way that is honouring to God.”

Director of the Rainbow Project John O’Doherty, expressed his disappointment at Rev Barry’s views.

“Once again we have senior religious figure in Northern Ireland refusing to accept the difference between sex and sexual orientation,” he said.

“While it may be easier for those people who oppose same-sex attracted people to view us simply as sexual beings, The Rainbow Project recognises the importance of the physical, emotional and sexual attractions that exist in relationships.

“We believe that understanding our sexuality and promoting openness in our relationships leads to better sex lives, better health and wellbeing and better relationships”.