Church leaders in Liverpool release ‘groundbreaking’ condemnation of homophobia

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Leaders of the six main Christian churches in Liverpool have released a joint statement condemning homophobia in the city.

The message, released on the eve of a vigil earlier this month, affirmed their commitment to stamping out anti-gay violence.

Last year, gay teenager Michael Causer was killed in the city. Despite witness evidence that his assailants had shouted homophobic abuse, a judge ruled the attack was not motivated by homophobia.

Gay trainee policeman James Parkes was severely injured in an attack last month, while a 19-year-old student told the Liverpool Echo on Friday that he had been attacked by young boys last week.

The statement came from the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, United Reformed, Baptist and Society of Friends (Quakers) churches.

It said: “The church leaders condemn this latest homophobic attack and extend their sympathy to James Parkes’ family.

“We are concerned by the number of homophobic incidents on Merseyside.

“The leaders of the churches in Liverpool believe it is wrong for anyone in the community of which we are all part to be victimised, or threatened with victimisation, on account of their race, creed, colour or sexual orientation.

“We affirm our commitment to work with others to build a community where all can have their place of belonging, feel welcome and live in safety.

“As church leaders, we represent a rich variety of Christian traditions, with different perspectives on some issues, but we stand together in condemning the use of violence and other forms of intimidation against minority groups who are especially vulnerable.

“The city of Liverpool has a long tradition of welcoming people of difference. In the past we have discovered, sometimes painfully, the importance of learning to live peacefully together. This lesson we must never forget.”

The statement was apparently not covered by local media at the time of the vigil and was not released to until today.

In an email to local councillor Steve Radford, Liverpool Bishop James Jones said he regretted it had not been publicised.

Radford, who is gay, told the statement was “groundbreaking” and “a real breakthrough”.

He explained that Liverpool has the second highest proportion of pupils in faith schools after Wigan, with around half of all schools in the area attached to a religious denomination, and added that the churches are still powerful in the city.

He said: “I read the statement out at the march [on Saturday] and it got a fantastic response.

“If we’re really going to get change, we have to embrace those who are not our natural allies, such as churches who have been hostile in the past.

“The churches are very powerful in this city and for them to say they – all six of them – will work with us, it gives us a mandate to knock on the door of every school and government to say, ‘look, your leaders are with us, what are you going to do about homophobia?’

“I’ve been constantly lobbying church leaders and now we have to use and broadcast this. Times and changing and things in the city are now fundamentally different.”

The statement follows a mention of the recent attacks by Archbishop of Liverpool Patrick Kelly.

Addressing the Liverpool Remembrance Day Parade, Archbishop Kelly cited the thousands of people who “said no to hatred” on a march through the city after the attack on James Parkes.

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