There are growing fears religious ministers who support marriage equality will be forcibly removed from their congregations or ordered to not speak out on the issue.
Pastor Matt Glover from Melbourne’s Lilydale Baptist Church was last week forced to leave his church because of his support of the christians4equality campaign on the Australian Marriage Equality (AME) website.
And Pastor Mike Hercock from Sydney’s Surry Hills Baptist Church, also a vocal supporter of marriage equality, fears he too could be silenced.
The LGBTI community is rallying Glover, with two fundraising initiatives already set up to help the father of two.
PFLAG national spokeswoman Shelley Argent said the organisation has opened a bank account for donations to help Rev Glover until he finds a new position and a new home for his family.
“Church groups are the first to complain about discrimination when challenged on the issue of marriage equality, but sadly they discriminate against their own on this same issue,” Argent said. “These bully boy actions are hardly Christian.”AME spokesman Rodney Croome said the organisation would hold a benefit for Rev Glover at DT’s Hotel in Richmond on February 7 from 6.30pm.
“Matt Glover has stood by us and now we will stand by him,” Croome said.
Hercock said Glover’s dismissal was deeply concerning for all ministers that support marriage equality.
“How can we then say to our congregation they have a freedom of conscience in reflecting on their beliefs around same sex attraction and marriage equality? It is clearly a double standard,” he said.
“Some of the Christian Leaders I speak to are deeply concerned by the distress caused by the message and language of exclusion, disorder and defectiveness given about GLBT people by the church and have witnessed first-hand the detrimental results in the lives of GLBT Christians.”
Rev Glover – who has been with the church for two years – is not speaking to the media. He had previously been unofficially involved with Christian LGBTI support network Freedom2b.
Freedom2b Melbourne chapter leader Linda Cropley said the group was disappointed at the news.
“He’s been such a great support to us,” she said. “It reinforces the thought that gay and lesbian people aren’t welcome in the church in a sense, or not accepted fully as one would hope.”
Brisbane-based psychologist Paul Martin said Glover’s removal “sends a powerful message to any gay, bisexual or lesbian that not only are they not welcome in the House of God, but they are sinful, disordered and defective”.
“This lays the foundation of deeply held beliefs which cause psychological disorders, substance abuse and poor self esteem,” he said.
“It seems incongruous to me that those of us who are respectfully stating our beliefs about marriage equality are being accused by Fundamentalist Christian leaders of persecuting them, however the evidence strongly suggests that it is they who are persecuting their own who happen to not tow the party line.”
INFO: Donate to the PFLAG Matt Glover fund using BSB: 124001 A/C: 21724166 and tag Rev Matt.