Girls' Brigade Northern Ireland, GBNI

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GBNI refutes ‘distortion of facts’ by Belfast Telegraph

Posted 8th April 2015

GBNI strongly refutes the Belfast Telegraph’s allegation that in a GB 'youngsters were told during a spiritual course that homosexuality was as great a sin as murder.’ This is a distortion of the facts. No GB leader said that.

The newspaper has also made the allegation that ‘young girls were told during a recent spiritual course run by GB that homosexuality was as great a sin as deliberately taking someone’s life.’ This statement published in the Belfast Telegraph on 2nd April is completely untrue. No GB leader made that statement .

The Belfast Telegraph published the allegations made by one parent as facts. The journalist did not speak with the GB officers she accused of making these statements.

The Belfast Telegraph did not give the local GB volunteers an opportunity to reply.

The newspaper also published an online version of the article under the headline 'Girls' Brigade taught homsexuality is a sin - equal to murder'. This misleading headline was shared widely on social media resulting in angry, abusive and obscene comments directed at the Girls' Brigade.

We are currently taking legal advice about this newspaper article.

The objective of the learning activity was to stimulate discussion and to help girls to consider the Christian teaching that there is no ‘hierarchy of sins’ and that a loving God can forgive all sin. This activity was not intended to be about homosexuality but designed to demonstrate the love of God.

We are shocked that an exercise in a local Girls’ Brigade has been deliberately taken out of context, distorted and misrepresented in a newspaper in a way that is clearly intended to cause maximum offence to people in the LGBT community.

We do not understand the motivation of the Belfast Telegraph in misrepresenting three complaints out 23,000 members on its front page as a ‘Gay Sin Storm’ .

We believe that to be drawn into arguments in the media regarding homosexuality will have a negative impact on our youth work and the girls in our care and for this reason GBNI will not be making any further public comment on this matter.’

Girls’ Brigade Northern Ireland

Statement from GBNI Spiritual Team

‘Given the interdenominational nature of GBNI, we do not hold an ‘official position’ on homosexuality. There are a range of views and interpretations of Scripture within different churches and denominations and the organisation, leadership and Christian teaching of a GB company is entirely the responsibility of the local church. We provide the Scripture Course resources with the aim of providing leaders with tools to support and encourage girls to understand, consider and discuss what the Bible says and to explore their values and beliefs in their daily lives as part of their spiritual development. We believe it is important to include contemporary topics that affect girls and this can include issues such as sex, relationships, mental health, drugs and alcohol, human trafficking etc. However we want to do this in an age appropriate way (this lesson was designed for older girls in second level education) and with the support of parents. GBNI provides training to over 500 leaders each year and this includes support on how to handle sensitive issues. We already equip our leaders with resources and training days but we are planning other ways to equip and inspire our 3,000 dedicated voluntary leaders further.

The Scripture Course is developed by a team of volunteer members each year and the extent to which the resources are used and how it is taught is a matter for the volunteer GB leaders in the local churches. The objective of the learning activity that the parent complained about was to stimulate discussion and to help girls to consider the Christian teaching that there is no ‘hierarchy of sins’ and that a loving God can forgive all sin. This activity was not intended to be about homosexuality but designed to demonstrate the love of God. On reflection, given the way it has been misinterpreted, we have concluded that the learning could have been achieved more effectively in a different way.

From a membership of 23,000 we received many positive comments and 3 complaints regarding this year’s Scripture Course; 2 from parents and 1 from a member. Our Spiritual Team gave the concerns raised serious consideration and replied to each of the 3 complaints in detail. One parent warmly welcomed our response and one parent was dissatisfied with our explanation. We understand it is the one dissatisfied parent’s allegations that the Belfast Telegraph has decided to publish.

We will continue to listen to feedback from parents, young people and churches to help us to review how we develop and present our Scripture Course and to continually improve how we prepare volunteers for these sessions.’

Carolyn Pauley, Team Leader, GBNI Spiritual Team

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Girls' Brigade Northern Ireland
The Girls’ Brigade Northern Ireland is registered as a company limited by guarantee in Northern Ireland No. NI058531, registered with The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland NIC100405 and recognised as a charity for tax purposes by HMRC Reference No. XR34309. VAT Registration No. 254684143.

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