New Moderator of Presbyterian Church condemns homophobia

The Republic of Ireland voted overwhelmingly in favour of same-sex marriage.Reuters

The new leader of Ireland's influential Presbyterian Church has criticised homophobia and spoken of his admiration for ministers he knows who are attracted to people of the same-sex.

The Rev Frank Sellar, minister of Bloomfield Presbyterian Church in east Belfast, was elected to succeed Rev Ian McNie as the next Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland when he received 18 out of a possible 19 votes from presbyteries across the country.

Sellar, aged 57, described himself as a Calvinist and a "gospel radical". He spoke up for gay people and for women in the church.

"Currently, about seven per cent of the clergy are female and it would be good to see that number increase. However, entering the clergy is not something to be forced on people, they have to hear the call and want to follow it," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

Rev Frank Sellar, the new moderator of the Presbyterian Church, IrelandPresbyterian Church, Ireland

"In my role I have come across many situations that people without a calling would find quite difficult. But for me, my faith in Jesus guides me, knowing that I am doing his work because I felt the call to do it."

He also said that he believed it was possible to be same-sex attracted and still to live by biblical precepts. He mentioned two well-known evangelicals, Ed Shaw and Vaugan Roberts. They are both part of the  "Living Out" project, which promotes the lifestyles of Christians who are same-sex attracted but abide by Church teaching.

Sellar said: "It might sound surprising, but some of the people in the clergy I admire, and indeed some of the people within Christian ministry that I respect most, are same-sex attracted and it's vital that people hear that.

"I believe there is no place in society for homophobia. In the cases of these two members, they have chosen to place their sexuality under the authority of the Lord and decided to live within the parameters the Bible sets."

On the Asher Bakery controversy, he said: "Certainly, a business should not discriminate against customers because of their ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation  that would be quite wrong. But it is a much wider issue.

"If a customer were to request a Muslim printer to print a cartoon of Mohammed, it would not be right, and there would be ramifications.

"But that's quite different to coercion to participate in political campaigning, which is what I think is happening at the moment."

Sellar has described his ministry as Gospel-driven, based on the Bible, passionate about people and centred in Christ.

He said: "Jesus is the antidote to all the bad news which is so prevalent in a broken society. Church is not for those who think that they are now 'good enough', but for people who know that they are not, but recognise their need of a Saviour who can make them whole."