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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 October, 2003, 17:53 GMT
Banned service mirrors cathedral colour

By Smyth Harper
BBC News Online, Manchester

The Bishop of New Westminster and other church leaders
Bishop Michael Ingham preached at the gay service
As the sun reflected from the copper roof of the Urbis building in Manchester city centre, the bells of the cathedral called the faithful to worship.

Inside the cathedral, the first words spoken from the pulpit were to offer a "warm welcome" to the service.

But that welcome did not extend to the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM), which was banned from holding a service there.

They were forced to go elsewhere - where their service had marked similarities to the one at the cathedral.

Manchester Cathedral is a beautiful building, with the stained glass windows complemented by colourful banners hanging from each pillar.

Later, the gays and lesbians also enjoyed a service - which outdid the cathedral for colour.

Bishops from around the world assembled two miles away at St Chrysostom's Church in south Manchester - another wonderful neo-gothic building.

It seems like such an unchristian thing to do... It was almost an olive branch (the LGCM) were offering but what they got was like a slap in the face
Cathedral worshipper
The air was thick with incense which caught the beams of sun coming through the windows.

At the cathedral, no direct mention was made to the controversy surrounding the banned service.

But the Archdeacon of Manchester, The Venerable Alan Wolstencroft, did refer to the "recent problems facing the Anglican community".

He said the arguments should not be dictated by the agenda of the media, but rather should be recognised for what it is - a difference in the interpretation of scripture.

There were prayers for tolerance, and everyone was welcome to the altar to receive communion.

'Sensitive service'

The LGCM service was led by the Very Reverend Rowan Smith, dean of Cape Town Cathedral in South Africa.

Two days before the service, Mr Smith recalled how a former Bishop of Manchester was once banned from South Africa for his stance on apartheid.

"To find that one of his successors has said people aren't welcome here is painful," he said.

After the service, a mother and daughter who regularly attended the cathedral spoke of how this was their first trip back since the decision had been made.

Gay and lesbian Christians worship in Manchester
We worshipped and that was the important thing. If other people were frightened we didn't want to hurt them any more."
Gay Christian worshipper Rob
"Many of the cathedral staff have been very supportive of the LGCM and are very upset by what has happened," said the daughter, who asked not to be named.

"It seems like such an unchristian thing to do.

"The LGCM were not being political. It was almost an olive branch they were offering but what they got was like a slap in the face."

The sermon at St Chrysostom's was preached by the Bishop of New Westminster, the Right Reverend Michael Ingham.

He is not gay but has been at the forefront of homosexual rights in the Anglican Church in Canada.

He spoke of the hate mail he receives for his stance, as Canon Gene Robinson had spoken of the day before at the group's conference.

'Promised land'

He also echoed Mr Robinson's Martin Luther King-like reference to gay and lesbian Christians searching for the "Promised Land".

After the service, many in the congregation were willing to forgive the cathedral's decision.

One, called Rob, said: "We worshipped and that was the important thing.

"If other people were frightened we didn't want to hurt them any more."

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