Churches call for respect this weekend
Church leaders said yesterday Bermuda's first gay Pride celebration should be held in a culture of respect, despite individual religious beliefs.
One pastor admitted his Seventh-day Adventist faith was opposed to same-sex relationships, but that he expected members of the church to “treat people right”.
Kenneth Manders, the president of the Bermuda Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, said: “God loves everybody and we are all God's property and, therefore, we need to respect each other.”
He was speaking before the Pride event was due to be held in Victoria Park, Hamilton, with a parade through city streets.
Pastor Manders explained: “At the core of our beliefs we don't believe this is a good thing.
“Equally so, and [perhaps] even more so, we want people to know that the Seventh-day Adventist Church believe that we need to love everybody.
“We may not celebrate everything that everybody is doing, but respect people. We are going to do our best to treat people right. Hopefully, by our example people will see Christ.”
The 2010 census showed that 4,273 people in Bermuda were Seventh-day Adventists.
It was the island's fourth largest denomination after the Anglicans with 10,138 followers, Roman Catholic at 9,340 and African Methodist Episcopal, with 5,497.
The survey also showed 5,309 people belonged to non-denominational groups and 11,466 were recorded as belonging to no religion.
The Most Reverend Wesley Spiewak, the island's Catholic Bishop of Hamilton, said the church had taken a “neutral” stance on the Pride.
He explained: “As the institution of church, we do not support neither this or that side of the discussion.
“Obviously, we have our beliefs, which are determined by the general teaching of the Catholic Church.”
Bishop Spiewak said: “I would say, that I would not be happy to see a confessional state.
“I don't believe that religious beliefs, and the beliefs of the religions, should interfere with the legislation of the state.”
Bishop Spiewak added: “Personally, I believe that history is teaching us that when religion took over and imposed itself in any form, it was never a good thing for the people.
“Religion, obviously it is to call people to a certain behaviour, but it has, also, to have respect for those who are non-believers.”
The Reverend Nicholas Genevieve Tweed, the pastor at St Paul AME Church in Hamilton, said that the church “has not taken a position on the gay Pride parade”.
He added that his own opinion was that “under the Constitution, people have a right to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and I recognise and respect that. It's not subject to my approval or agreement.”
Mr Tweed insisted that the church had no views on homosexuality.
He added: “The only position we have, is that we do not perform same-sex marriages, and we do not ordain persons who are not heterosexual.”
The Right Reverend Nicholas Dill, the Anglican Bishop of Bermuda, did not respond to a request for comment.