Friday, 16 March 2012

Church of Ireland conference on human sexuality

Updated Sunday

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.)

Conference Statement By Archbishop Of Armagh And Archbishop Of Dublin

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:

Irish Times Archbishop upbeat on same-sex forum
Gay Christians (editorial)

Belfast Telegraph
Respect key in gay ‘marriage’ debate (editorial)
Church of Ireland bishops back ‘traditional marriage’

Belfast Newsletter
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, 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.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 16 March 2012 at 1:00am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of Ireland

"Respect key in gay ‘marriage’ debate"

SIX uses of scare-quote 'marriage'. Really feeling the 'respect', Belfast Telegraph! >:-/

Posted by: JCF on Friday, 16 March 2012 at 6:50am GMT

The group's secretary Canon Charles Kenny said: “While I welcome the special conference to discuss homosexuality, I am concerned at the insufficient contribution by gay and lesbian people.

“Over two days only one 45-minute session was allocated to gay speakers.”

Well not much change there then!

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Friday, 16 March 2012 at 9:28am GMT

" Some argue that there are, perhaps, new insights and new understandings in the area of human sexuality which require the Church to respond in ways that depart from what has been long established tradition. That is the context of today’s conference." - Archbishop Alan Harper, Armagh. -

The sheer fact that the Church of ireland is willing to listen to people who have practical experience of Same-Sex relationships is, in itself, a step further than many other Church of the Anglican Communion are willing to go - despite the recommendation of the 'Listening Process' in the original Windsor Report.

While the Church of England is still tippy-toeing about the Listening Process; the Church of Ireland has actually done something about it.
Good on 'em!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 16 March 2012 at 10:13am GMT

Ugh. As a Canadian I'm lucky enough that I live in a fair and equal country where all this was settled yonks ago, a country that demands equality for all, regardless of their differences. Never thought I'd say I was lucky to be Canadian, we're so boring always felt we were bottom of the heap, but now it would take a herd of wild donkeys to drag me out!!

So, could we have a different topic for just a few days? Maybe best Anglican squares/tray bake recipes from around the globe? I've got a killer Apricot Bars with dusted confectioner's sugar recipe that will make your teeth ache and mouth water just reading it :} So longing to getting back to the business of just being Anglican and accusing other people of having stolen my recipes :}

Posted by: Randal Oulton on Friday, 16 March 2012 at 10:30am GMT

It seems to me that Harper is handling this very well and in ways that seem to be commanding wide respect. He is a good person.

Posted by: John on Friday, 16 March 2012 at 10:36am GMT

It has done nothing of the sort, Ron. The only openly gay member of the Church of Ireland to be invited to address the conference was a conservative celibate. It was an overwhelmingly straight assembly. What was most striking was the number of moderate clergy who were so vocal in expressing their reluctance to attend 'that bloody conference', who returned having been co-opted in the cause of a unity that continues to be built on oppression. I haven't made myself popular for saying it elsewhere, but I'll say it again here: such meetings are always about control. The participants are beguiled because they are made to feel important. And they have come home convinced of their importance; and nothing has changed.

Posted by: Rupert Moreton on Friday, 16 March 2012 at 3:30pm GMT

I wonder how a group can convene for a weekend and spend their time focusing on same sex loving relationships in such a joyless and and unenthusiastic way. I applaud the efforts of the Irish bishops and the Synod to have this discussion in the context of the unity of the Church. No one can applaud them for making extremely little time for the voices of gay couples, their children, and their families. Not enough words from gay people about the need for ecclesial support for their relationships and the joy and caring they are finding in their families.

Posted by: karen macqueen+ on Friday, 16 March 2012 at 7:51pm GMT

I'll just remind people who aren't aware that in 24 hours of discussing LGBT people NOT A SINGLE LESBIAN, or at least not a single lesbian in a position to be open about her sexuality, addressed this Conference. If anyone thinks this is a side issue, I suggest they read Mary's of lesbian life in the northern C of I story at

Even Rupert overstates the number of C of I gay people addressed the conference. It was zero. The celibate gay was flown in from England. The self-accepting gay was brought up in the Church of Ireland but has lived abroad for many years. By all accounts he spoke very well and meeting him in the margins I found him an extraordinarily decent and able man. But there's a bit of a difference between being gay in Gay Paree than in Portglenone.

My own reflections on the conference as an uninvited (and in some quarters, very much unwelcome) gay guest are at

My letter published in this Wednesday's Irish Times on the conference is at

Posted by: Gerry Lynch on Saturday, 17 March 2012 at 11:21am GMT

A further comment worth reading - political blogger Maman Poulet, probably the most prominent lesbian voice in the Irish blogosphere was, if anything, even less impressed than I was -

And a further aside, polls on both sides of the border on same-sex marriage were released over the past fortnight. An poll commissioned officially by the government in the Republic as part of the current review of the Irish constitution found 73% of respondents favoured changing the Irish constitution to permit same-sex marriage. A post election survey (a well conducted poll with rather some rather flawed question wording) in Northern Ireland found 44% definitely and 18% "probably" in favour of equal rights for LGBT people "such as" same sex marriage and equal adoption rights. I think we've had equal adoption rights in NI since about 2004 or 2005 anyway.

The writing is on the wall in the West, even on our placid, rainy, little island. In 30 years time arguing against gay equality will be seen in much the same terms as arguing for slavery.

Posted by: Gerry Lynch on Saturday, 17 March 2012 at 11:32am GMT


Your writings sadden me. I am glad at least St George's is a decent church. I am glad also of this:

'Although I found it incredibly wearing, not all was bad at the conference. There were also moments of extraordinary grace, the most exceptional of all I received at the hands of our Primate, Alan Harper. Many people criticise Alan, but he is a transparently decent, caring and honourable man and he did a lovely thing for me at a time when I was feeling very low and very hurt. He genuinely believes in servant leadership. We are fortunate to have such a good and genuinely kind man leading our Church at such a difficult time.'

I know this man. My parents attended his church in Belfast (St John's Malone) and he buried them both. I share your conviction that he is a decent and honourable man.

All best wishes.

Posted by: john on Saturday, 17 March 2012 at 7:06pm GMT

"In 30 years time arguing against gay equality will be seen in much the same terms as arguing for slavery."

Christians with orthodox views will certainly suffer persecution. I just wonder if it will take as long as 30 yrs. The rise of dogmatic liberalism is frightening.

Posted by: William on Saturday, 17 March 2012 at 9:50pm GMT

Someone who holds the 'orthodox biblical' position on slavery, although not breaking any laws, would be shunned by most decent people, including most conservative Christians, as a fairly unpleasant crackpot with little to offer the world. I do not think this amounts to persecution.

I reckon we're within about 2 years of 'reparative therapy' being effectively outlawed in the UK. Can't come soon enough for me. If quacks like Andrew Wakefield and Roy Meadows are forbidden from promoting crackpot medical theories that mess up people's lives, I don't see why quacks like CORE Issues or the True Freedom Trust should be allowed to promote crackpot medical theories that mess up people's lives just because they think God is telling them to do it.

Posted by: Gerry Lynch on Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 1:03am GMT

Why should any LGBT person want to have anything to do with these Orangemen?

Posted by: Glenda Lough on Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 2:04am GMT

I wouldn't have called the conclusions of biology and physics "dogmatic liberalism." The earth isn't the center of the universe, male and female aren't separate creations, and sexual orientation is a fact of life. Yes, some people today still explain homosexual behavior as thrill-seeking by depraved heterosexual people. That this seems to be the view of the writer of Leviticus and Paul in his letter to the Romans doesn't make it inspired. The tradition is in fact silent on sexual orientation -- and the tactic has been to maintain the silence in public and deal with it (as necessary) in private. Well, now it's gone public in a big way, and gender relationships are being explored anew, outside previous dogmas. As is said, facts have a Liberal bias -- dogma has nothing to do with it.

Posted by: Murdoch on Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 3:40am GMT

"The rise of dogmatic liberalism is frightening."
- William -

I've just watch a film of 50s McCarthyism. Would you rather that sort of thing in the Church, William?

Liberalism is one of the charisms of the Gospel. It is obdurate conservatism that really is frightening

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 18 March 2012 at 10:06am GMT

Gerry Lynch - TFT support people with same-sex issues who wish to remain celibate. They do so because it is their religious right to do so. We are not yet forced to have sex, or be in relations. TFT are not a reparative therapy organisation. HOwever if we choose to consider this as part of the struggle of a Christian life, part of the renewal of our minds that is between us and the Lord. The members are celibate - or try to be so out of religious conviction. They walk as they feel led to walk by the Lord. I do not doubt the Lord loves you, but we have a different understanding what it means to love the Lord. TFT do not have a medical line , though they do have a biblical line. Accord them the respect to do so.

Just because God told them so? I am certain that we will stand before the Lord one day, and what He really places on my heart is walk in the light and actually live.

Posted by: David Wilson on Monday, 19 March 2012 at 6:04pm GMT

David Wilson - I don't know anyone who is advocating people being forced to have sex (something more commonly known as rape), with the exception of Stephen Green of Christian Voice who thinks that wives have a duty to submit to their husbands' demand for sex, so let's bin that non sequitur here and now.

TFT has every right to advocate that people remain celibate, just as I have every right to advocate that this is an unncessary burden. And if that's what conservative ministries on homosexuality did, I would have a lot less problem with them. What no-one has a right to do is advocate counselling or psychotherapy universally held to be damaging by medical professionals. If TFT has genuinely moved out of that business, then I am very glad to hear it.

I appreciate that large parts of the ex-gay movement are on a journey away from reparative therapy. I am delighted that is the case. A bit of courage and outspokenness towards others working in this field who still do advocate sexual orientation change would do wonders for their credibility.

I also think TFT still have difficult questions to answer. Obviously, many people who have been on TFT programmes have later got married to heterosexual opposite sex partners. The more I look at this issue, the more I realise that straight people married to gay people (so-called Mixed Orientation Marriages) are perhaps the people most damaged by the 'orthodox Christian view' of homosexuality. And TFT is still telling gay people that if they find the right opposite sex partner, everything might just be alright. There's a blindness to the collateral damage of their policy that I find myself, in Christ, bound to challenge. For example on the TFT website, it says:

"if marriage is in God’s plan for us, there are many within TfT who can testify that He is able to create a faithful and loving covenant commitment including the sexual element for us towards our spouse, without the need for a general sexual attraction to the opposite sex."

I spent 5 minutes on the TFT website. OK, I was looking for things to have a problem with, but I only took 5 minutes to find plenty, including some real horrors: "the deep stronghold of homosexuality was broken over my life. I was later to learn that the demonic powers over it were very powerful" So, me and my partner love each other because we're possessed by demons? Oh, dear! If you want to have a respectful debate, I suggest you start by looking at some of your own language.

Posted by: Gerry Lynch on Tuesday, 20 March 2012 at 8:32pm GMT

"Christians with orthodox views will certainly suffer persecution. I just wonder if it will take as long as 30 yrs. The rise of dogmatic liberalism is frightening."

I'm getting fairly sick of the casual use of "gay" and "orthodox" as opposite poles. Some of us support marriage equality precisely because we take the Chalcedonian definition seriously and shy away from formal Church sanction of a para-marital category of relationship, which hardly sounds "liberal" to me. The canard that SSM is inevitable only if one accepts a "secular human rights" agenda is well past its sell-by date (leaving aside why such an "agenda" should be at all controversial in light of the Gospel).

Posted by: Geoff on Wednesday, 21 March 2012 at 3:28am GMT

I'm not sure about the term 'dogmatic liberalism'. But I have suffered from the effects of 'rampant conservatism'. Maybe the Holy Spirit gets more of a look in on liberals than ever she does with conservatives. Liberality implies openness, whereas it takes a lot to crack endemic conservatism!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 21 March 2012 at 8:25am GMT
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