An evangelical religious leader in the Bahamas has apparently softened his stance on the LGBT community, criticizing peers for the type of anti-gay comments he himself used to espouse.
Bishop Simeon Hall, the former leader of the New Covenant Baptist Church and ex-president of the Bahamas Christian Council, accused church leaders of focusing negative attention on the LGBT community while ignoring other more important issues like gambling addiction, according to The Tribune.
"The demonization of homosexuals by some pastors is the greatest hindrance to any positive dialogue or efforts the church might establish with them," Hall said in a press statement. "The Bahamian public in general, as well as pastors in particular, must be careful of what we demonize and protest."
Hall added that pastors who focus wholly on the issue of homosexuality may have ulterior motivations.
"I also believe that of the 133 sins listed in the Bible," he said, "if a pastor can only preach on one of them it could very well be that he has that problem – if not in practice then perhaps dormantly."
Hall's comments might surprise people familiar with the pastor, who last year said gays and lesbians were engaging in a "non-productive and deadly practice," according to the Tribune.
Hall was speaking in the context of the rising rate HIV/AIDS in the island nation, but ThinkProgress pointed out that while the virus is prevalent in the Bahamas, it "occurs primarily among heterosexuals.”
In April, Hall blamed "drugs, gambling, alcoholism and the decay of the family structure" for the "crime crisis" in the country, the Nassau Guardian reported at the time.
As a recent Nassau Guardian article notes, Hall said evangelicals must maintain an attitude of inclusivity if they wish to truly reach out to the those in need.
“If the Christian church is to reach the un-church as our Lord commands, then, without changing our message we must change our methods and affirm our common humanity with all persons,” he said.
Gay Star News notes that while gays can serve openly in the Bahamas military, they cannot marry. Hall's Bahamas Christian Council has threatened to bring criminal charges against pastors who attempt to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, according to the report.
Watch a previous news report about Bishop Simeon Hall: