7 Mar 2016

Church calls police over 'homophobic abuse'

12:09 pm on 7 March 2016

A central Auckland church known for being supportive of LGBTI rights had to call police after men with a loudspeaker shouted homophobic abuse at worshippers, it says.

St Matthew-in-the-City, Auckland

St Matthew-in-the-City Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Yesterday's 10am service at St Matthew-in-the-City was halfway through when the men, who the church said warned they would be back next Sunday, turned up wearing black shirts and dark sunglasses.

About 100 people were inside, and Reverend Helen Jacobi, who was taking the service, said the men intimidated church members who should be able to worship freely.

Helen Jacobi

Reverend Helen Jacobi Photo: Twitter / @RevHelenJacobi

"At first I couldn't quite hear what they were saying but then I picked up 'you are all an abomination' ... our greeters were quickly closing the doors to shut out the noise.

"A couple of our people went outside to engage with them and ask them to stop. They wouldn't, and so they called the police," she said.

The men also said the church would crumble and worshippers would be punished, which was "pretty horrible kind of stuff", Ms Jacobi said.

Ms Jacobi tweeted her outrage: "Worship @StMatthewsNZ this morning disrupted by hateful homophobic 'protesters' with microphones. Shame on them!" she wrote.

The men were moved to the footpath by the police, but stayed for the rest of the service and tried to engage again with worshippers as they left, she said.

Ms Jacobi could not recall such an incident at the church before, and said the church was preparing to trespass the men if they returned as they promised.

"We're very publicly in support of those in the gay and lesbian community ... that doesn't give them the right to come and tell us what we're doing.

"Unfortunately there are some churches which encourage this kind of behaviour in people and it's most unfortunate," she said.

Ms Jacobi said the church would talk to the police about what it could do, if needed.

"For your regular person coming in and out of church, it's not very nice to have people standing out there shouting at you," she said.

"If they do come back and it does continue we'll have to see what we're about to do about that."

St Matthew-in-the-City is known for its billboards that support the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) communities.

Some of these billboards have been attacked and defaced in previous incidents.