Thinking Anglicans

Church of Ireland sexuality row rumbles on

The Belfast Newsletter reports: CoE bishop at gay clergy row meeting.

A CONSERVATIVE Church of England bishop has attended a meeting of Church of Ireland clergy increasingly unhappy at their church’s response to a minister’s same-sex partnership.

There are few details about where Monday night’s meeting, which was first revealed by this newspaper last Thursday, was held, or how many were present.

However, the News Letter understands that the meeting included an address by Bishop Wallace Benn, a leading figure on the right of the Church of England…

The Newsletter also quotes an editorial in the forthcoming edition of the Church of Ireland Gazette. Full text of editorial below the fold.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that, as a result of this whole scenario, the Church of Ireland’s very unity is imperilled,” the editorial says.

“For that reason, it is somewhat concerning that the bishops refer to a need for yet further study and research on related biblical, theological and legal issues, because such could be a charter for years-long argumentation. We need to study such matters, but we also need to do so expeditiously.”

The editorial adds that in other Anglican churches the gay debate had seemed “interminable”. It says that the Windsor Report, which in an attempt to ease tensions led to the Anglican Covenant, had bought more time “but more time turns out to have been precisely not what was needed”.

“Now, the communion has reached breaking point and we have two primates’ meetings and a whole new Anglican church in north America. The dragging on has been because, of course, the Anglican Communion cannot legislate for the communion as a whole.

“However, the Church of Ireland can legislate for the Church of Ireland, and so a clear regulation of the issue before us is needed urgently if we are not to find ourselves in a situation resembling that of the Anglican Communion in all its woes.

“The Church of Ireland probably can contain itself for the process which the bishops have outlined, but it will be difficult.”

The Archbishop of Armagh, Alan Harper has commented further on the recent pastoral letter from the Irish bishops in his diocesan synod presidential address. See detailed report here. Text also available here.

Church of Ireland Gazette EDITORIAL 14 October 2011
now online here (scroll down)

A WAY FORWARD

The statement which the Bishops issued following their residential meeting last week and their subsequent Pastoral Letter together point a way forward in the quite alarming circumstances in which the Church of Ireland finds itself at this time (full texts, page 9; letters, page 8; report, page 16).

There has indeed been considerable disquiet in the Church, to use the Bishops’ term, following Dean Tom Gordon’s entering into a civil partnership, a decision which he has said was with his Bishop’s knowledge even before he was appointed last year to the position of Dean of Leighlin. It is not an exaggeration to say that, as a result of this whole scenario, the Church of Ireland’s very unity is imperilled. For that reason, it is somewhat concerning that the Bishops refer to a need for yet further study and research on related biblical, theological and legal issues, because such could be a charter for years-long argumentation. We need to study such matters, but we also need to do so expeditiously.

We can learn from the experience at Anglican Communion level – but will we? There, the issue has been debated, seemingly interminably, for well over a decade. The Windsor Report’s big idea, the Anglican Covenant, seems to be drifting into the mists of obscurity and irrelevance. The ‘Windsor process’ bought more time, but more time turns out to have been precisely not what was needed. Now, the Communion has reached breaking point and we have two Primates’ Meetings and a whole new Anglican Church in North America. The dragging on has been because, of course, the Anglican Communion cannot legislate for the Communion as a whole. However, the Church of Ireland can legislate for the Church of Ireland, and so a clear regulation of the issue before us is needed urgently if we are not to find ourselves in a situation resembling that of the Anglican Communion in all its woes.

The Church of Ireland probably can contain itself for the process which the Bishops have outlined, but it will be difficult. The conference which has been proposed will not be held until the spring, but this does allow time for proper preparation for the gathering which, assuming the matter proceeds to the General Synod, will in turn inform the mind of the Synod with its power to legislate on Church matters, including matters of doctrine. Given the circumstances, the best path for all concerned is to enter into this process with grace and with the clear aim of discerning, as we stressed in our 16th September editorial, the right way forward to guard the Church of Ireland in unity, truth and holiness. [ENDS]

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rjb
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rjb

“Expeditiously”? We’ve been here for two thousand years, and – admitting that the Parousia could be upon us at any moment like a thief in the night – we must consider the possibility that we might be in it for the long-haul. Bearing this in mind, I fail to see why the Belfast Newsletter demands such unprecedented alacrity. Indeed, I rather envy the Church of Rome, where addressing an issue “expeditiously” means resolving a problem in decades rather than centuries. If there is a split, there is a split. Using the threat of schism to provoke rash and hasty actions,… Read more »

Richard Ashby
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Richard Ashby

So Wallace Benn is putting his sticky fingers into Irish affairs too. Hasn’t he got enough to do in Chichester Diocese or is he setting himself up for a new role when he retires in August next year?

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

I found archbishop Harper’s views on both civil partnerships and gay marriage offensive.

He seems to not know that an increasing number of same sex couples have an increasing number of children and in my experience are frequently based around extended family groups caring for an elderly parent …..

His views on the extension of civil partnership to support close family groupings from severe distress at a death are more easily handled in tax law.

Geoff
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“So Wallace Benn is putting his sticky fingers into Irish affairs too.” – Richard Ashby

I was under the impression that Bishop Benn was in fact Irish? I could be completely off base. That’s to say nothing about the stickiness or otherwise of his fingers, merely that (if I’m correct in that understanding) they’re no more misplaced in Ireland than anywhere else.

Fr John
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Fr John

Cross border invasion is now clearly reached the UK. Not now limited to the African/American continents.

Benn is not even a member of the Celtic Bishops conference.

Like the Roman and Free Church in Scotland , Benn cannot delay in spouting his spurious, outdated, unloving ‘theology’, if thats what he calls it!!

I agree with Martin and Richard.

john
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john

I don’t agree with Martin and Richard. I believe Harper to be a person of great integrity. I believe also that he is here trying to tread an extremely difficult line. Within the C of E, there will be lots of ignorant bigots (look at me, I’m one, this is the church I was brought up in). There will be others (what is the proportion? who knows?) who are decent and liberal. The pace has been forced by various factors. Harper is trying to keep his church together, trying simultaneously to do justice to gay people. I salute him. Who… Read more »

Jakian Thomist
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The person I feel for the most in all this is Dean Tom Gordon himself. Why should he be placed on the pedestal while this debate – which should have been resolved years ago – is ongoing? From what I can tell, he acted perfectly in accordance with the rules of the CofI. Why must he and his partner live in the eye of the storm like this? Why don’t unhappy evangelicals form a Northern Irish CofI if they do not accept the validity of Dean Tom’s ministry?

John Bunyan
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John Bunyan

As a liberal Anglican far away but in a country where these matters are also being considered (and one who agrees with civil unions but not “gay marriage”) I think the Church of Ireland is blessed with the eirenic leadership of the Archbishop of Armagh illustrated in this courteous and helpful message. We all need to show the same courtesy as, “forbearing one another in love”, we endeavour to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”. (Ephesians 4.2-3)

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

I am sorry john but I am not sure what you find in the telling of how I felt hurt by what Harper said – not to agree with. This is how I felt – honestly! I believe his speech to his synod went against the very principle laid out in the pastoral letter he was party to only a few days before, it said this: “We urge people of all shades of opinion within the Church of Ireland to refrain from any actions or the use of emotive or careless language which may further exacerbate the situation within the… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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From an earlier ‘News Letter’ report on the Meeting, it would seem that Archbishop Harper was against any interference from Bishops outside of Ireland. That gives evidence of his innate integrity on this issue. However, Bishop Wally Benn’s interference is symptomatic of the GAFCON agenda – to further distance as many people as possible in the Communion from the prospect of recognising the human rights of the LGBT community to be part of the Church – and part of the Human Race. He may be Irish-born, but he is there as a representative of the English Bishops. The sooner this… Read more »

Robert ian Williams
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Robert ian Williams

It’s a sad day when you demonize people you disagree with.

RPNewark
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RPNewark

Father Ron wrote, “He may be Irish-born, but he is there as a representative of the English Bishops.” Are you sure, Father Ron? What body of the English bishops appointed and authorised him to attend this meeting and to represent them? I suspect that +Wallace Lewes was invited by the group who organised the meeting because they wanted to purport to the Irish (and especially Northern Irish) media that their point of view had the support of the House of Bishops of the Church of England. In all probability +Wallace represented no-one but himself and his own views which are… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

We Anglicans, Robert, do not as a general rule condemn people – even those we disagree with – to Hell. We leave that to other religonists. Our task is to welcome them – all and sundry – into the hospitality of a loving, redeeming God.

Gerry Lynch
Guest

This meeting somehow was heralded on the Church of Ireland rumour-mill as something significant – and instead it’s just Wallace Benn, acting entirely on his own initiative, jetting in again. He must have shares in EasyJet.

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

Now, what David Chillingworth has to say on the thread above in answer to the hysteria from some Scottish quarters – that’s eirenic!

john
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john

Martin, I register your hurt, I acknowledge it, I am sorry that I didn’t do so before. I still think Harper is ‘straight’ (joke). Of course, you (and others) once thought that of Rowan Williams. Were you wrong? On one level, yes, certainly. On another level, it’s not so clear. In any case, I do not think that Harper is as subtle and complex as Williams. That’s a minus, but also a plus. One does good by stealth, by compromising a bit, by trying to keep the show on the road, etc. My heart is with you. I have plenty… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

Not quite what I took issue with john. I was reading his speech to the synod and thought it rather bad and said so here and also to him. Now that was as a family man trying to bring up his kids and care for the older ones with the support of our Church. If I wanted to read his speech with other hats on then I might want to talk about his difficult political position – how he has to seem to his conservative constituents etc etc But as a family man his speech ignored our existence and (once… Read more »