As previously announced, a major conference was held last week at the Slieve Russell Hotel, Ballyconnell, Co Cavan.
There have been two official press releases about this event:
Update From Bishops’ Conference, ‘Human Sexuality In The Context Of Christian Belief’ (This includes summaries of the main presentations to conference seminars.)
The Church of Ireland Gazette this week carries this front page news article: Slieve Russell conference showed Church of Ireland’s ‘instinct for unity’, says Archbishop of Armagh and scroll down on that page for a separate editorial comment on the conference.
Other press reports:
Respect key in gay ‘marriage’ debate (editorial)
Church of Ireland bishops back ‘traditional marriage’
Archbishop Alan Harper Human sexuality in the context of Christian belief
Another Belfast Newsletter item: Church hails ‘relaxed’ talks on homosexuality
A letter to the editor of the Irish Times from Gerry Lynch Church of Ireland gay conference and a longer blog article by the same author: Reflections on the Church of Ireland homosexuality conference, and praise for Archbishop Harper.
A statement by Changing Attitude Ireland is reproduced below the fold.
CHANGING ATTITUDE IRELAND RESPONDS TO THE CHURCH OF IRELAND CONFERENCE ON HOMOSEXUALITY
Changing Attitude Ireland, the Church of Ireland pro-gay group, has responded to the Church of Ireland’s two day (March 9-10) conference on sexuality. This special conference of members of General Synod has been taking place in the Slieve Russell hotel in Co. Cavan. It was called following the controversy over the same sex civil partnership in 2011 of Dean Tom Gordon.
The Secretary of Changing Attitude Ireland, Canon Charles Kenny, said: “While I welcome the holding of the special conference to discuss homosexuality, I am concerned at the insufficient contribution by gay and lesbian people. Of the many conference sessions over two days only one 45 minute session was allocated to gay speakers.
“Changing Attitude Ireland has tried to make up for this deficit on the contribution of gay members of the Church by hosting a fringe gathering of gay, lesbian, bisexual persons and heterosexual members of the Church in the foyer of the hotel”.
At this unofficial ‘Listening Exercise” the Rev’d Mervyn Kingston a retired Church of Ireland clergyman with 34 years of ministry in the dioceses of Down, Connor and Armagh spoke. He is the editor of “Share your story: Gay and Lesbian Experiences of Church”. He told the gathering: “I entered into civil partnership in Northern Ireland in 2005, two years before my retirement from ministry in 2007”.
Mr Kingston also said that he was the terminally ill clergyman who had been refused ‘Permission to Officiate’ by the Bishop of Down, the Rt. Rev’d Harold Miller in 2007 and by the Bishop of Connor Rt. Rev’d Alan Abernethy in February 2012. He asked if this action by both Bishops was any less harsh than similar action taken against the conservative Rev’d Jim Packer by Bishop Michael Ingham in the liberal Diocese of New Westminster, Canada.
Mr Gerry Lynch, Committee member of Changing Attitude Ireland who attends St George’s church Belfast said: “As a faithful communicant member of the Church of Ireland and a gay person, once again the leadership of my Church has made sure my voice has been silenced at an event specifically aimed at discussing my position in the Church. Not a single gay person who worships in the Church of Ireland has been invited to speak at the Conference. Not a single gay woman, from the Church of Ireland or elsewhere, was invited to speak.
“The Bishops of the Church of Ireland have been promising since 1998 to begin a process of listening to the LGBT members of their flock. These promises have been honoured mainly in the breach. Further promises have been made to me personally by Bishops over this weekend, but given their past record, I will believe those promises when I see them fulfilled.”
Mr Lynch is the author of “I think my son or daughter is gay: Guidance for parents of gay children in the Church of Ireland”.
Dr Richard O’Leary, co-editor with Canon Ginnie Kennerley of the new book “Moving Forward Together: Homosexuality and the Church of Ireland” said, “As a gay member of the Church who was present at the past four meetings of General Synod, I have never heard a single Synod speaker speak in public as a gay person. Some gay, lesbian and bisexual members of the Church’s General Synod and at this special conference are afraid to speak up as gay. A problem of homophobic attitudes in the Church of Ireland needs to be acknowledged and changed.”
Canon Kenny added: “I regret that the conference has not been able to include any of the above speakers in its official programme (especially when we discover that two seminar slots had unexpectedly become free on Saturday morning). All members of General Synod would have benefitted from hearing their stories.”