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Church of Ireland debates sex and Christian belief: The Church of England Newspaper, March 15, 2012 March 15, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Ireland, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Marriage.
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The Archbishops of Dublin and Armagh. Photo: Church of Ireland Press Office

The Church of Ireland has reaffirmed its belief in traditional marriage.  In a statement released at the conclusion of a two-day meeting in Ballyconnell, the Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin stated the “church’s position on marriage as being the union of one man and one woman remains constant”.

Approximately 450 members of the Church of Ireland’s General Synod met from 9-10 March 2012 at the Slieve Russell Hotel in Co Cavan at a special meeting of synod called to discuss human sexuality “in the context of Christian belief”.

The meeting had been organized by the Irish House of Bishops in response to the controversy surrounding the revelation that the Dean of Leighlin in July 2011 registered a same-sex civil union with his partner, with the tacit approval of his bishop.

The special two day meeting was not designed to achieve a resolution to the disputes over human sexuality, organizers of the conference told The Church of England Newspaper, but to further debate.  The gathering was also closed to the press in order to facilitate the free flow of discussion.

The conference opened with address from Dr. Alan Harper, the Archbishop of Armagh and Dr. Michael Jackson, the Archbishop of Dublin and was followed by round table discussion of the scripture and human sexuality led by Bishop Richard Clarke of Meath and Kildare.  After a break for dinner the conference reassembled to hear “storytellers” offer “their personal experiences from gay perspectives.”

A series of seminars were offered on Friday evening and Saturday morning.  The Rev Doug Baker, a consultant to the Church of Ireland’s Hard Gospel Committee and instructor at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, spoke on the topic of handling conflicts within the church, while Mrs. Ethne Harkness and Judge Catherine McGuinness gave an overview of the state of legislation in Northern Ireland and the Republic on civil partnerships and the proposals being put forward by the coalition government on gay marriage.

Two ecumenical participants, Bishop Jana Jeruma-Gringberga of the Lutheran Church in Great Britain and Dr Andrew Goddard of the Church of England led a seminar on the science and psychology of same-sex attraction and gender determination, while Dr. William Olhausen, rector of Killiney Parish, Ballybrack, and Dr Stephen White, Dean of Killaloe in Co Clare spoke to the theological issues at play.

Dr. Bryan Follis, rector of All Saints’ Church, Belfast and the Rev Brian O’Rourke, rector of St Anne’s Church, Shandon in Cork offered differing views on the pastoral care of gay people in congregations.  Dr Follis affirmed the church’s traditional teaching on the morality of homosexual behavior, but discussed ways of providing pastoral support to those with a homosexual orientation that reflected the love of Christ while being faithful to his word.  Mr. O’Rourke, rector of parish self-described “inclusive church” argued the church should provide the same level of support to gay people that it did to all others, including offering them the opportunity to marry.

Two sets of parents spoke of their experiences with gay children, while the chairperson of Changing Attitude Ireland, Canon Virginia Kennerley and the chaplain at Queen’s University Belfast, the Rev. Barry Forde, spoke on the question whether it was possible to agree to disagree.

On the second day, the Bishop of Down & Dromore, the Rt. Rev. Harold Miller led a study for the conference on the Gospel texts surrounding human sexuality (Matt 5:17-48; Matt 19:3-12; Matt 25:31-46; John 4:1-54), while the Bishop of Kilmore, Elphin & Ardagh, the Rt. Rev. Ken Clarke, discussed Rom 1:8-32 and 1 Cor 1:1-20.

In their statement the archbishops affirmed the conference had seen “substantial conversation reflecting strongly held convictions characterised by clarity of expression without judgmentalism.”

It had been held in a climate of “respectful dialogue” and it was “clear that there is a breadth of opinion in the Church of Ireland on these matters but also a strong sense of the cohesiveness of the church.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

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