Lesbian foot-washing gets Jamaica pastor in hot water

Christ Church in Vineyard Town, Kingston, Jamaica, where Father Sean Major-Campbell is pastor.

A Jamaican pastor has shocked some members of his congregation by washing the feet of two lesbian members of his congregation during a service.

According to The Jamaica Gleaner, Anglican priest Father Sean Major-Campbell took Christ Church in Vineyard Town by surprise with the action, believed to be a first. There was also a testimony by a transgender man who expressed gratitude for his acceptance by the church.

The Advent service was billed as a 'Celebration of Human Rights', but some in the congregation objected afterwards, the Gleaner said. One member said: "I don't believe you should beat anybody or anything because of their sexual orientation. However, I just think the minister was disingenuous to us, as members, because he told us he was having a human-rights service and at no time did he mention that he would be having these lesbians and whatever, having their feet washed by him. I think the service was more gay rights than human rights."

Another said: "I was shocked because it was never mentioned that you going have these things. You hear human rights, and human rights is broad, but I don't know how suddenly gay rights become human rights and human rights is now gay rights, and I have a problem with that."

While some have called for an end to Major-Campbell's support for gay people, another congregation member, Sonia King, said: "I was taken by surprise that those people were there... We didn't know what to expect, but it didn't offend me at all."

Major-Campbell told the Gleaner: "It is quite understandable that some persons will have some difficulty because human sexuality is a difficult subject and, generally speaking, in our country and culture, we really do not have enough safe spaces for people to explore the subject, without feeling safe or judged, and that is true even of the Church itself."

He continued: "The truth is the call to love is not just about your close friends and close family and those it is easy to love; the call transcends those we are not so comfortable with, as well."

Discrimination and violence towards gay people in Jamaica is widespread. Sexual acts between men are punishable with up to 10 years in prison. It also has one of the world's highest rates of sexual violence, with a third of women reporting they have been raped.