Bonavista church under fire after open-air service criticized abortion, LGBT community

·3 min read
A video of a Grace Pentecostal Church service in August is gaining attention online after its minister publicly criticized reproductive rights and gay marriage.  (Grace Pentecostal Church/Facebook - image credit)
A video of a Grace Pentecostal Church service in August is gaining attention online after its minister publicly criticized reproductive rights and gay marriage. (Grace Pentecostal Church/Facebook - image credit)
Grace Pentecostal Church/Facebook
Grace Pentecostal Church/Facebook

A video of an open-air church service in Bonavista is getting attention on social media after the church's minister criticized abortion, the LGBT community and the use of alcohol.

The Grace Pentecostal Church service was held outside and broadcast over loudspeakers on Aug. 1.

"Abortion is promoted in the majority of our society today. Young children, babies — yes they're human beings — are being murdered and murdered by the millions. That's how sinful our society is," the minister yelled into the microphone.

"All of a sudden we're at the same place where same-sex marriage is promoted and endorsed, and it's all good to be married to someone who's of the same gender. And yes there's only two. There's male and female and God created them to be married both male and female, not male to male and female to female, but all of a sudden there's a promotion of that today."

Bonavista Mayor John Norman told CBC Radio's The St. John's Morning Show the comments made by the minister don't necessarily line up with what he sees in his community and what he lives with.

"I'm probably the only openly bisexual mayor that I know of, at least in one of the larger communities in the province. So, of course people look at me when they hear this type of open public discussion and I'm sure they want a response," Norman said.

"Of course it causes me to reflect on things and have some concerns."

Lindsay Bird/CBC
Lindsay Bird/CBC

Norman said the situation with the Grace Pentecostal Church began as a simple noise complaint from community residents, which made its way into a town council meeting. Not long after, a conversation arose about the content of the Aug. 1 service, he said.

Norman said he wasn't surprised by what was said.

"As a mayor of a community with various churches, various denominations, I understand very clearly people's beliefs and religious freedoms and how they are protected in Canada," said Norman.

"It's troubling, personally, for me. But, as mayor, as a municipal leader, really we could only simply consider the noise complaint because that would affect our municipal bylaw. Anything outside that purview is something altogether different and something that falls at a higher level than municipal government."

Norman said the town requested the volume of outdoor services from Grace Pentecostal be lowered, and since the Aug. 1 service the church has complied. He said at the municipal level the town felt the issue was resolved.

As for residents who may have been affected by what was said, Norman said once again that religious rights and freedoms are protected in Canada. However, he said, it demonstrates there's a wide and varying group of views in his community.

"I like to think that Bonavista is a very open and welcoming place," he said.

Norman is not seeking re-election as mayor, but is setting his sights on a councillor's seat. He said this recent incident, exhaustion, rumours and personal attacks are among his reasons to step down. He isn't ruling out running for mayor in the future.

CBC News made repeated requests for comment from both the Grace Pentecostal Church and the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador.

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