Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Archbishop Harper issues statement on civil partnerships

Updated again Monday

The Church of Ireland has issued this press release: Statement To The Standing Committee Of The Church Of Ireland By The Archbishop Of Armagh On The Civil Partnership Situation.

The fact that the Very Reverend Thomas Gordon, Dean of Leighlin, entered a Civil Partnership on 29th July last has created a new situation for the Church of Ireland. In many parts of the Church, the matter is seen as controversial. In such a situation it is important that great care be taken in anything that may be said.

The Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of Ireland had planned to devote a significant amount of time in residential consultation on matters to do with same gender relationships in the autumn of 2011. This decision was taken in the light of changes in the membership of the House of Bishops since the bishops last discussed these matters in 2002/03, the introduction of Equality legislation and Civil Partnership legislation in both jurisdictions in Ireland, and the progress on the discussion of these issues within the Anglican Communion which led to the Anglican Covenant which the General Synod agreed to subscribe at the May session 2011. The new situation and reactions to that situation have added urgency to the work that the bishops are taking in hand. I am, therefore, requesting that general discussion of these matters in the Standing Committee should be curtailed to enable the bishops to begin their discussions and suggest a framework for future discussion at representative level.

I wish to reiterate what I have said publicly in these past days, that the Church of Ireland does not regard a civil partnership as matrimony and that there are no proposals for the provision of rites of blessing for same gender relationships. I also wish to say that, as fellow human beings, homosexual people are entitled to be accorded the same respect and dignity as others. Many are “members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of their relationships” (Lambeth 1.10) in exactly the same way as are all other members of the Church of God.

+Alan Armagh

News reports of this:

Belfast Telegraph Primate wants gay debate to be shelved

Belfast Newsletter Harper moves to end CoI split talk

Saturday update
Belfast Newsletter Archbishop plea fails to silence unhappy clergy

TWO Church of Ireland rectors have broken ranks to reject Archbishop Alan Harper’s appeal for an end to discussion of the church’s first same-sex union involving a minister.

Amid growing impatience in sections of the church which has not yet made clear whether it accepts the controversial civil partnership, three weeks after the News Letter revealed the move, there are emerging warnings that if the church does not act evangelicals may find their own bishops.

In separate statements, the Rev Neville Hughes from the rural parishes of Mullabrack and Kilcluney near Markethill and the Rev Alan McCann of the urban parish of Woodburn in Carrickfergus rejected the primate of all Ireland’s call to halt discussion about the Rev Tom Gordon’s civil partnership…

Monday update
Church of England Newspaper Broken communion for the Church of Ireland

The outcry over the Bishop of Cashel & Ossory’s support for an Irish dean’s gay civil union has forced the bishop to skip the consecration of the Bishop of Tuam, Killala and Achonry.

Church leaders in Northern Ireland told The Church of England Newspaper that the Rt. Rev. Michael Burrows had been advised to stay away from the Sept 8 consecration of Bishop Patrick Rooke at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh. The bishop had been told his support for clergy gay civil unions had broken the collegiality of the church and his presence would cause some participants in the ceremony to refrain from receiving the Eucharist with him…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 21 September 2011 at 6:48pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of Ireland

It appears to me that history and circumstances are way ahead of the Church once again, and are forcing the Archbishop's hand whether or not he wishes to shelve the whole issue.

Posted by: Counterlight on Wednesday, 21 September 2011 at 7:03pm BST

I'm confused.

Is the problem that the Dean is in a longstanding relationship, in which case why was this not a problem for the last 20 years? Or is the problem that the Dean and his partner have availed themselves of their legal rights to obtain the benefits provided under the terms of Civil Partnership?

If the latter, are there any other civil rights that clergy should be prohibited from exercising? Perhaps, in the interest of equality and fairness, clergy in heterosexual relationships should be prohibited from availing themselves of the civil benefits of marriage.

God bless them both.

Posted by: Alan T Perry on Wednesday, 21 September 2011 at 9:20pm BST

It is worth bearing in mind that the Church of Ireland (as also the Church of England, Church in Wales and Scottish Episcopal Church) is in full communion with the Church of Sweden, which allows for same-sex marriage in church. Also in full communion is the Church of Denmark: the incoming Danish Government has just announced it will be proceeding swiftly to bring in a law permitting same-sex civil and church marriage

The message to the C of I (and the C of E) is that this is on the way in the UK now too, so bishops need to decide now whether to fight a pointless losing battle over it (as the Spanish episcopate unwisely did - church attendance there has been plummeting in its wake), or whether to take a pragmatic line, in both islands.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Wednesday, 21 September 2011 at 9:28pm BST

Whilst I concur with the whole spirit and most of the facts of Fr Mark's comment, I know no evidence to connect the slow but steady decline in church attendance in Spain with the provision of civil marriage. 'Plummeting' attendance overstates the facts; and it is unproven and unprovable that this is a backlash to the conservatism of the Spanish episcopate in relation to a number of reforms made by the PSOE (Socialist) government. These include some extension in the permissible term for abortions, as well as voluntary participation in religious education classes in local authority schools. And, of course, civil but not religious marriage for same-sex couples.

If there is any realistic connective line to be drawn, it is that Spanish secular society, whilst privately fairly relaxed about same-sex relations, has become more publicly so; and that public expression of support has become more public and more vocal. A bit like most of the rest of continental Europe, and much of the UK.

Spanish RC church congregations are startlingly female in their composition; but Spanish women are also very chilled-out about things to do with freedom of choice, which they haven't had much of in the past. Older Spanish men keep their moral cards closer to their chests; but they have a long history of 'helping out when it's busy'.

Depending on where one stands, either the chickens have come home to roost or the circle has been squared. Certainly, the RC hierarchy in Spain has as much to do - to catch up or to pull harder on the brakes - as many another Christian denomination. Meanwhile, as in many other first-world, western places, people just do their own thing, and don't have much to say about what others are doing, or not!

Posted by: Peter Edwards on Thursday, 22 September 2011 at 12:57am BST

Archbishop Harper's remark that the Church has "no plans to provide a rite of Blessing for same gender relationships" does not mean that this may not happen in the future - but it does sound a wee bit proscriptive on that issue. One wonders what his fellow Bishops will decide at the autumn meetings?

No doubt, the bishops of the Church of England will be watching the actions of the C.of I., on this important development involving same-gender relationships - and considering the need of the Church to back up the statement of Lambeth 1:10, about the status of Gays as 'fellow human beings".

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 22 September 2011 at 1:37am BST

"I also wish to say that, as fellow human beings, homosexual people are entitled to be accorded the same respect and dignity as others."

Gay people may be entitled to the respect the Archbishop describes, but he has made it quite clear the church will not be honoring that entitlement when it comes to gay relationships, which, I'm afraid, leads me to conclude that the Archbishop's bland good will is not of much good.

Posted by: Scott on Thursday, 22 September 2011 at 2:25am BST

Yes, Alan, which rights would the Archbishop demand that married priests with different-sex spouses renounce in Ireland?

In the United State civil marriage gives couples at least 1138 rights and protections at the federal level and hundreds at the state level. New York State, for example, gives at least 1324 rights to married couples, both same-sex and different-sex.

The same archbishop who says gays deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect as other-sexers implies they should renounce their rights as citizens in order to be priests in the Church of Ireland.

His position is diplomatic and merely describes the current discrimination against LGBT priests in the Church of Ireland but its implications are totally unacceptable. This wall of apartheid should be torn down now.

His singling out gay clergy for separate and unequal treatment mirrors the separate and unequal status of civil partnerships, which were set up to appease church leaders in the UK.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Thursday, 22 September 2011 at 6:19am BST

Peter Edwards: it was the Daily Telegraph's recent reporting of the decline in Spain that I had in mind
The NY Times linked this with same-sex marriage etc
as did the Washington Post

Posted by: Fr Mark on Thursday, 22 September 2011 at 9:11am BST

I must say that the way certain contributors here rush into a sweeping condemnation of any bishop who does not say exactly what they want to hear is rather unfortunate, because it doesn't suggest any willingness to listen and learn. Ireland is not Great Britain nor USA. The present "situation" has arisen precisely because the bishops have NOT tried to prevent LGBT clergy from exercising their civil rights, neither have they tried to impose a (foolish)condition of celibacy or to interfere with private life. Archbishop Harper is indeed being diplomatic, but while trying to calm conservative outrage he is also firmly stating the reality of LGBT Christians in the church. Bland it may be, as best suited to calm the peptic ulster, but the goodwill is there and deserves to be appreciated by those who want to see a more inclusive church. Sure, the issues of marriage equality and blessing rites won't be solved anytime soon, but creating a space where LGBT clergy and laity can be publicly acknowledged would be a major step forward. Because if Harper's "bland" goodwill doesn't win out, the alternative will not be radical free-thinking California but the worst that (say) Portadown can offer...

Posted by: David Oxley on Thursday, 22 September 2011 at 1:27pm BST

"Bland it may be, as best suited to calm the peptic ulster"

the peptic ulster: LOL, DavidO, that's a good one!

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 22 September 2011 at 7:37pm BST

This peptic ulcer points out that the pain is from history kicking the institution from behind to either move forward or to get out of the way.

Posted by: Counterlight on Friday, 23 September 2011 at 1:05pm BST

Is it a guy-thing? Seems to be, well mostly. Give it up, guys - who cares?

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Friday, 23 September 2011 at 7:14pm BST

Sara--uh, errr, ahem, are you questioning OUR manhood? I mean, we wear dresses to church, with secret rituals that if you have to ask, need not belong, give each other high exhalted names, have very important meetings that last well into the night in strange places (Ecuador seems to be latest craze)...I mean, WE GUYS GOT PRIORITIES!

Posted by: evensongjunkie on Friday, 23 September 2011 at 10:51pm BST

'Personally I cannot accept the oversight of a bishop who is not orthodox on this issue' - Revd. Alan McCann

Ah, so there may well be a range of other issues on which his bishop is unorthodox about which this priest is untroubled. Which raises the interesting theological and psychological question of why it is this issue which is so troubling to him.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Saturday, 24 September 2011 at 6:54pm BST

"Fr Mark" could not have chosen any better examples of what happens to formarly Christian denominations that embrace the utilitarian secular agenda(the lutharen state and semi-state "churches" in Denmark and Sweden - they become totally uninteresting and will vanish!
In Sweden (still nominally 60% membership in Church of Sweden) less than 1% worship on a Sunday (in Stockholm it is now such a low participation so the "bishop" has suggested that Sunday should not continue to be the main day for worship!!), and in Denmark the pattern is the same. In another generation these institutions will be empty but still pretty wealthy tombs and a true witness to the false prophesies of liberal protestantism!!

Posted by: Antony on Monday, 26 September 2011 at 5:28pm BST

Breathe, Antony. We liberal catholics will still be around (oh yes we will!) for you to toss scare-quotes at tomorrow...

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 27 September 2011 at 4:14am BST

Dear JCF, please define what's catholic in "liberal catholic"? I have asked this many times to AffCath-people and never really had an answer that in any kind upheld some sort of orthodox catholicity!

Posted by: Antony on Tuesday, 27 September 2011 at 10:44am BST

"never really had an answer that in any kind upheld some sort of orthodox catholicity!"

You mean "orthodox catholicity" in YOUR opinion Antony? [The opinions you share w/ one Josef Ratzinger?]

I'll tell you the same thing all the other liberal catholics told you (I bet): "See re the Nicene Creed".

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 27 September 2011 at 8:42pm BST

Really, Antony! 'Orthodox Catholicity' is surely that which attests to the Incarnation of Jesus Christ; his life, death, resurrection, ascension and glorification. You don't have to have fathered or mothered children in the biological sense to subscribe to the historic Creeds.

We 'Liberal Catholics' still have a great devotion to Christ in the Eucharist, and we believe, with Saint Paul that: "In Christ, there is neither male nor female". What more can you ask of us?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 27 September 2011 at 11:07pm BST
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