West Hampstead church flags back up after second ‘homophobic attack’
PUBLISHED: 19:00 19 October 2016 | UPDATED: 15:15 20 October 2016
The vicar believes the flags were taken down on both occasions as part of a targeted ‘homophobic attack’ on his church’s open and inclusive values
Father Andrew Foreshew-Cain, vicar of St James’ in Sheriff Road, West Hampstead, and St Mary’s with All Souls, Kilburn, proudly put his rainbow flags back up on Friday after they were pulled down last week by two unknown men.
But the flags were ripped down once again on Saturday evening and Fr Foreshew-Cain had to climb up his West Hampstead church on a ladder to put them back up on Sunday.
Fr Foreshew-Cain, who was the second gay priest in the country to marry his partner at a ceremony in June 2014, believes the Church of England is “colluding” in negative attitudes towards gay people, although it does not directly condone any abuse.
He said: “I am fed up with the collusion of the Church hierarchy in these sort of attitudes.
“Whilst the Church still actively pursues the line that LGBTI+ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex] people are a problem and an ‘issue’ we will always be targets for those who are less sophisticated and nuanced in their attacks.
“Some use a particular brand of theology to demean us, some do it with verbal abuse and acts of violence.
“It all comes from the same place of fear at loss of privilege and hatred for difference.
“It is time the Church... showed true repentance by change of heart.”
Fr Foreshew-Cain says he has been the victim of four homophobic attacks this month, including the two flag attacks.
He received verbal abuse on the street in Liverpool, with people mimicking him and calling out after him, as he was wearing a Pride lapel pin.
There has also been “vile homophobic abuse” from a Christian through the post, which is being investigated by the police.
A Church of England spokesman said: “The Church of England has been clear for more than 20 years that LGBT people should be welcomed in our churches.”
He continued: “Following the conclusion of the shared conversations process, involving 13,000 people across the Church of England, discussions on issues of sexuality took place at the College of Bishops’ September meeting as part of a new process of episcopal discernment.
“This process of discernment will continue during the meetings of the House of Bishops in November and December of this year and in January next year at the next meeting of the College of Bishops. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have invited some bishops to take forward work on sexuality to assist the episcopal discernment process.”
Church of England member Nic Tall has set up a fundraising page for Inclusive Church, a pro-LGBT organisation, in response to the attacks on St James’ church.