The Church of Ireland met in General Synod last week. Last year, Dean Tom Gordon entered into a civil partnership with his long time partner and in so doing created a crisis in the Irish Anglican church. After attempts by the bishops to reiterate the traditional opposition to marriage equality in the church as part of a temporizing compromise, a push by the progressive voices to oppose that plan has highlighted the disagreement within the church.
“In a public display of the disagreements within the Church of Ireland’s leadership on the issue of homosexuality, Bishops Michael Burrows and Paul Colton voted against the motion at the church’s general synod in Dublin, while the 10 other bishops supported it.
Saturday’s debate was the first time that the church had openly debated homosexuality since the News Letter revealed last September that the first serving Church of Ireland cleric had entered a civil partnership.
Yesterday a liberal Dublin minister blamed conservatives from Northern Ireland for having ‘suddenly appeared’ on Saturday to vote through the motion.
But the leading evangelical bishop, Harold Miller – who seconded Saturday’s motion – dismissed that and said: ‘Anyone who wanted to be there could be there.’”
The motion, which states “faithfulness within marriage is the only normative context for sexual intercourse” and is therefore a rejection of either civil partnerships or “gay marriage”, is feared by liberal voices in the Church of Ireland to intended for use in a “witch hunt” against gay clergy. There are no plans as yet to use the resolution as the basis for a disciplinary action against Dean Gordon.
Two of the bishops who voted for the motion stated they were doing so in an attempt to maintain unity within the Anglican Communion. Their speeches were given “loud applause”.
The motion does contain language which calls upon the Church of Ireland to “continuing commitment to love our neighbour, and opposition to all unbiblical and uncharitable actions and attitudes in respect of human sexuality from whatever perspective, including bigotry, hurtful words or actions, and demeaning or damaging language.”