A landmark ruling is expected within days in a row over whether a rainbow Pride flag can be occasionally displayed on the altar of a church in Leicester.
The Church of England’s Consistory Court, which governs what alterations can be made to parish church buildings, fixtures, and fittings, will make a decision on whether the flag can stay at St Nicholas Church or whether it needs to be removed.
The flag was placed on the altar last September after being gifted by a member of the congregation. The church had to remove it a month later after being told it hadn’t obtained planning permission, known as a faculty.
The church says the flag is a “profound invitation” for those who feel excluded over the Church of England’s policy on same sex marriage and sexuality. But there have been objections from hundreds of churchgoers who fear it will bring the church into disrepute. They fear that if the Court rules in favour of the flag staying, it could lead to other political insignia in churches and on altars.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Rev Dr Ian Paul, a member of General Synod and the Archbishops’ Council, explained why he objects to the flag being placed on the altar :
“The Communion table is the place where we gather together to meet with God, remember Jesus’ death and resurrection for us, and ‘receive all the benefits of his passion’.
“This is not a place for political protest. It is no more appropriate than putting up the flag of a political party. And with the Progress [Pride] flag, it is gender ideology.
“Worse than that, this flag is a sign of exclusion. People like me, who believe and teach the doctrine of the Church of England on marriage, could not come and receive Communion at this table, since the flag contradicts the teaching of the Church, which all clergy vow to uphold at their ordination.”
According to The Telegraph, Rev Canon Karen Rooms from St Nicholas Church has told the court that the Pride altar “is about pastoral care and a simple statement of welcome and safety”.