A pastor in Bermuda has spoken out about the recent gay cruise cancellation saying the church had missed a “great opportunity” to show what good Christians they are.

Reverend Wilbur Lowe, pastor of the Mount Zion AME church, felt the controversy over the Rosie O’Donnell gay family cruise was handled poorly by United by Faith, an organisation representing 80 churches in Bermuda.

O’Donnell’s company, R Family Vacations, cancelled the July 12 visit to Bermuda because of concerns about protests from the island’s churches.

It feared a repeat of an incident in Nassau, the Bahamas, in 2004 when children on board were upset at dockside anti-gay chants by religious groups.

United by Faith chairman Andre Curtis, who had offered to bus the cruise goers to church and “have the pastors pray for them” called the cancellation “victory for God”.

Revd Lowe said “I don’t think they (United by Faith) have represented the religious community well.

“I think there is an awful lot of support for the cruise even within the church,” he told the Royal Gazette.

Revd Lowe did not go the whole way in endorsing the cruise.

“I don’t support the homosexual lifestyle, but that does not give anyone cause to hate someone or treat someone differently,” he said.

It is still a big step for an island which according to International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association executive director John Tanzella has: “a reputation for being anti-gay and hence gay travellers avoid spending their vacation money there.”

Mark Anderson, a.k.a. drag queen Sybil Barrington, self-styled Queen of Bermuda said: “I think it’s wonderful.

“It’s a step in the right direction and it should have been this way from the beginning. This is a new millennium and people should be open minded and not so judgmental,” he told the Royal Gazette.

Rev. Lowe is concerned the Bermudian public blames the churches for the cruise not visiting the island and that Rosie O’Donnell’s people see the church as “a bunch of Christians that hate them.”

The responsibility, however, he believes falls on the churches to right the wrongs because “we are the people who claim to be on a higher spiritual vein.”

Gregg Kaminsky, chief executive of O’Donnell’s company, R Family Cruises, welcomed the comments.

Mr. Kaminsk told the Royal Gazette: “I would have loved to do that (meet with Rev. Lowe and the churches). I’m always available to talk to anyone. Especially if it’s a Church group I would like to speak to them.”

There is a feeling that things are changing in Bermuda with people believing United by Faith went too far.

Premier Ewart Brown defended the cruise’s visit to Bermuda (before it was cancelled) saying “If we discriminate against a cruise ship, then we would have to send a homosexual detection unit to the airport.”

Comedian Rosie O’Donnell has been arranging cruises for gay and lesbian families since 2004 and her success was documented in 2006 in the HBO show All Abroad Rosie’s Family Cruise.