Sexualty fight heats up as Irish Archbishop announces his retirement: Church of England Newspaper, June 17, 2012 June 18, 2012Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Ireland, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
Tags: Alan Harper, Diocese of Armagh, Harold Miller, Paul Colton
The Primate of All Ireland, Dr. Alan Harper, has announced that he will step down by 1 October 2012, leaving his successor the task of moderating the church’s spirited debate over homosexuality.
In a statement released last week the Church of Ireland Press Office said Dr. Harper “will continue to carry out all the duties and responsibilities of the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland as normal until 30 September 2012.”
“The Church of Ireland House of Bishops will consider in due course the selection of a successor,” the press office said.
The Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, said: ‘In responding to the Archbishop of Armagh’s announcement of his forthcoming retirement, I wish to pay tribute to his strong commitment to fairness and steadfastness in office.”
“Across the Church of Ireland, Archbishop Harper has sought to enable a wide range of voices to be heard on a broad spectrum of topics,” Dr. Jackson said. “Together with all my fellow–bishops, and the Church of Ireland at large, I wish Archbishop Harper and Mrs Harper everything that is best in retirement.”.
Born in Tamworth, Staffordshire in 1944, Dr. Harper was educated at Leeds University and worked for the Archeological Survey of Northern Ireland before he entered Trinity College Dublin to train for the ministry.
Ordained deacon in 1978 and priest in 1979, Dr. Harper began his ministry in Northern Ireland in Connor diocese from 1978-1980. In 1980 he moved to Derry diocese to be incumbent of Moville and then became incumbent of Christ Church Londonderry from 1982-1986. Returning to Connor diocese Dr. Harper served as incumbent of Malone from 1986-2002.
On 17 December 2001 Dr. Harper was elected Bishop of Connor and on 9 January 2007 he was elected Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland by the House of Bishops.
Tensions over homosexuality and church have dominated the deliberations of the Church of Ireland during the last few years of Dr. Harper’s tenure as primate. The outgoing archbishop has sought to engender conversation over this issue, while maintaining the current church teachings on human sexuality.
At its May meeting of General Synod, the church adopted Motion 8 which reaffirmed its traditional teaching on marriage and rejected gay marriage and gay clergy. In the wake of the Motion 8 vote evangelical and liberal bishops indicated the fight was far from over.
Speaking to the Belfast News Letter, Bishop Harold Miller of Down & Dromore, a leading Evangelical bishop, said he would like the Church of Ireland to adopt a policy like that of the Church of England which requires clergy who enter into civil unions to give assurances to their bishop that their private conduct is in conformance with the church’s standards of clergy conduct.
The recent vote by synod had made clear that “sexual intercourse is only properly within marriage, that marriage can only be defined as between one man and one woman for the Church of Ireland, so same-sex marriage is out and that outside marriage what is asked of people is that they live chaste lives,” the bishop said.
Permitting the Dean of Leithlin to enter into a civil union was a “serious situation,” the bishop said, and “it would be very helpful to hear some clarification about the situation.
One of the two bishops who voted against Motion 8, Bishop Paul Colton of Cork told his diocesan synod that he would not back away from his commitment to “diversity”.
“Are we not instead called to live uncomfortably and prophetically in a place where the edges of belonging are fuzzy rather than defined; attracting people in rather than pushing them out; breaking down barriers; taking down walls of division; including rather than excluding,” he asked on 9 June 2012.
“I believe and hope that in this part of the Church of Ireland, the response to lesbian and gay fellow Christians will be marked by continued welcome and inclusion and, indeed, there is, to my mind, a sound Christian charter and path in those words I saw over the door of Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver: ‘Open doors; Open Hearts; Open Minds’,” the bishop said.
First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.