'You can be gay and Christian', says Orlando church leader

For too long Christians have been taught that being gay is incompatible with being a Christian, a gay church pastor in Orlando has said.

Being a gay Christian is not 'oxymoronic', Rev Terri Steed Pierce said.Reuters

"For so long the message has been wrong out there that we can't be both gay and Christian, and you really can. It's not oxymoronic," said Rev Terri Steed Pierce, senior pastor of Joy Metropolitan Community Church (JMCC).

The church sits just a mile away from Pulse, the gay nightclub, where 49 people were killed and more than 50 wounded by a gunman on June 12. The mass shooting was the deadliest in America's history.

Many of the members of JMCC are gay. One individual told Reuters: "This is a time that we all need to get together and pray on this. It doesn't matter, gay, straight, it doesn't matter, it's just a terrible tragic [sic] that just happened".

"In the gay world, because I'm Christian I'm not really accepted because Christianity has rejected gay people, so I understand that, so they're not really sure what to do with me," Steed Pierce said.

"And then of course the Christian world, because I'm gay, they just totally reject me, so I stand in the middle of all that."

According to Reuters, Steed Pierce criticised organisers of an event last week after she was not invited to take part in a service attended by the area's senior elected officials.

"I'm a gay pastor of a gay church, and our people were the ones gunned down, and yet we haven't been invited to the table," she said.

"We continue to be relegated to the margins, even in the faith community."

Organisers said she was not excluded deliberately.

During a vigil to mark one week since the massacre yesterday, Steed Pierce urged her congregation to rally around those who survived the shooting. She said she'd heard of a man who had committed suicide after two of his friends were killed.

In the aftermath of the shooting, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Justin Welby and John Sentamu, said it was an "absolute call" on Christians to support persecuted gay people around the world.

Christians must "love without qualification", a statement from the pair said.

"The obligation to object to these acts of persecution, and to support those LGBTI people who are wickedly and cruelly killed and wounded, bereaved and traumatised, whether in Orlando or elsewhere, is an absolute call on our Christian discipleship.

"It arises from the unshakeable certainty of the gracious love of God for every human being."