Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Church of Ireland synod to discuss sexuality resolutions

Updated again Friday morning

The Church of Ireland General Synod 2012 which will take place in Christ Church Cathedral Dublin from Thursday 10th to Saturday 12th May. The official synod website is here.

One item of business is receiving a great deal of attention. The Archbishop of Dublin, Michael Jackson, and the Bishop of Down & Dromore, Harold Miller, have tabled three motions on the subject of Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief. The text of these motions can be found as a PDF file here.

Because these were submitted after the regular closing date for receipt of Motions, Tuesday 10 April, the synod has to agree by a two-thirds majority to accept them for debate. However, if that is achieved, then only a simple majority is required for approval.

Some Irish press reports:

Belfast Newsletter Gay backlash ahead of CoI debate on sexuality and earlier there was Unease in CoI at gay row motions.

An open letter has been published in several newspapers:

Belfast Telegraph Church motion on sexuality needs debate

Belfast Newsletter Group urges delay over gay debate.

And this letter: Serving clergy are afraid to ‘come out’

Irish Times (along with two more letters) Church of Ireland and same-sex relationships

Irish Independent Exclusive church

A website has been established at Say No to Resolution 8A.

Belfast Newsletter Church group’s petition opposes gay relationships

Belfast Telegraph Gay clergy could face witch-hunt if Church of Ireland synod backs motions, say campaigners

Church News Ireland General Synod Sketchbook – 10th May and then General Synod sketchbook – Day 1 and then this one. These reports are the most detailed and uptodate available.

Three motions in the area of human sexuality and Christian belief (Ref – 8 a,b,& c) are being brought before the synod by two members of the House of Bishops. A cursory examination of the C of I e-mail forum, the correspondence in yesterday’s Irish Times – see this site May 9 - and of an independent web site set up to rally opposition to the first of the motions (8a) indicate that a good number of clergy and laity regard the nature of the motion as being extremely contentious at worst and unhelpful at best…

From the comments below:

Motion 8A was ruled out of order and Motions 8B & 8C were then withdrawn by the bishops. Canon Nigel Dunne raised a point of order that 8A clashed with the Order Two marriage service in BCP 2004 and therefore sufficient doubt was raised that it was a change in doctrine.

From the Diocese of Down & Dromore:

Motions on Human Sexuality fail to come before Synod

The Bishops’ Motion 8A on Human Sexuality did not come before the General Synod on a point of order. After submissions from several speakers, it was ruled that there was doubt as to whether motion 8A constituted a change of doctrine which would necessitate bringing a bill before Synod.

Following this ruling by The Archbishop of Armagh, the proposer and seconder of motions 8B and 8C withdrew the motions altogether.

Friday’s Irish Times carries this report of yesterday: Motions run high as synod debate on same-sex marriage is called off on a technicality

…Raising the point of order, Dean of Cork Rev Nigel Dunne said that the church’s teaching on marriage “as expressed in Canon 31 stands in conflict with an understanding of same as expressed in Marriage Service Two in the Book of Common Prayer”.

He continued: “Canon 31 gives first place to the procreation and nurture of children. Marriage Service Two does not. Marriage Service Two is quite clear that sex and sexual intercourse is firstly to strengthen the relationship. The procreation of children comes second.” Motion 8A, he suggested, could “constitute a modification or alteration of doctrine” and ought not be considered as a motion but ought to be a Bill.

Following some debate on the matter the Church of Ireland primate and Synod president Archbishop Alan Harper, concerned with “the avoidance of doubt”, ruled that the motion not be taken. Related motions 8B and 8C were withdrawn by proposers Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson and the Bishop of Down and Dromore Harold Miller, who had also proposed motion 8A…

Belfast Telegraph Gay row: Church of Ireland’s resolutions withdrawn

The row over same-sex relationships in the Church of Ireland has ended after three motions opposed by gay rights campaigners were withdrawn from the General Synod without debate.

The issue may be raised again within the next two days at the synod in Dublin, although it is more likely that any major decision on the issue will be delayed for up to two years…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 9 May 2012 at 10:24pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of Ireland

One can only respect the Irish Diocese which has refused to outlaw a loving relationship on the part of one of its clergy - with a same-sex partner. When is the Church of Ireland going to emerge from the chrysalis of the past - where sex was confined to baby-making? I suggest a good look at the Wisdom of the Song of Songs, where God delights in loving relationships between his human children.

"Where Charity and Love are - there is God".

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 10 May 2012 at 10:23am BST

I think many will find the first two motions mutually exclusive.

Thus, in the second motion:

"[T]he Church of Ireland affirms a continuing commitment to love our neighbour, and opposition to all unbiblical and uncharitable actions and attitudes in respect of human sexuality from whatever perspective, including bigotry, hurtful words or actions".

Correct me if I'm wrong but won't many LBGTQ people, and LBGTQ christians in the Church of Ireland in particular, find the words and actions of the first motion hurtful and probably bigotted?!

Posted by: Alastair Newman on Thursday, 10 May 2012 at 11:06am BST

On the face of it, the motions brought to this week's General Synod of the Church of Ireland change nothing. They simply restate the Church's current position on matters of sexual morality.

However, they risk bringing the Church into ridicule; and they have caused great hurt to many faithful Church of Ireland people.

The public restatement of a position that has been observed in the breach for decades – and the Archbishop of Dublin and the Bishop of Down and Dromore cannot be unaware of this – simply underlines the gulf between a Church that is held to ransom by its conservatives and the people it would serve. Although heterosexuals are not the motions' targets, they are no less bound by their absurdity; for no one will believe Archbishop Michael or Bishop Harold if either claims never knowingly to have officiated at the marriage of a co-habiting straight couple.

The hurt – and indeed fear – the motions have caused are more serious. Nine years ago, the Church of Ireland committed to engaging in a 'listening process' on the issue of homosexuality. That process never happened. The civil partnership of the Dean of Leighlin last year was seized by the cynical and the bigoted as an opportunity to posture. The resulting Cavan conference – which purported to start a listening process that in truth is still impossible given the understandable insecurity of many gays and lesbians in the Church – engendered hope among some. But the motions now before the synod place limitations on the outcome of what therefore cannot be a process, for all that the motions pay lip service to encouraging it.

Meanwhile, many of us - gay and straight - are perplexed and fearful for our future in the Church we love. And we join our voices with the psalmist in crying, 'How long, O Lord, how long?'

Posted by: Rupert Moreton on Thursday, 10 May 2012 at 11:27am BST

Quite a brilliant article by Houston McKelvey, former Dean of Belfast, at his Church News Ireland blog.

Needless to say, I am one of the open letter signatories.

Posted by: Gerry Lynch on Thursday, 10 May 2012 at 11:56am BST

Posted on the new thread as well: The motion has been withdrawn. Canon Nigel Dunne raised a point of order that it clashed with the Order Two marriage service in BCP 2004 and therefore sufficient doubt was raised that it was a change in doctrine, so the motions were withdrawn. All very Anglican.

Perhaps now we can find a way of keeping us all together that doesn't involve belting LGBT people over the head with a crozier, or the rest of us caving in to the most strident voices who not even reflect the breadth of opinion within Northern Evangelicalism.

I am very proud to be a member of the bloody old Church of Ireland this evening.

Posted by: Gerry Lynch on Thursday, 10 May 2012 at 5:35pm BST

Motion 8A was ruled out of order and Motions 8B & 8C were then withdrawn by the bishops.

Posted by: Michael Carchrie Campbell on Thursday, 10 May 2012 at 5:46pm BST

I'm with you, Gerry. The fact that the Church pf Ireland is actually willing to now listen to the claims of the LGBT community in the Church to be co-heirs in the Kingdom of God - together with all God's children - is a move better than those parts of the Church that look upon Gays as lepers. Jesus, like Saint Francis, would have a word for GAFCON and its supporters of hatred and bigotry.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 11 May 2012 at 11:54am BST

Canon 31: 'for better or worse, till death do them part, of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side, for the procreation and nurture of children, for the hallowing and right direction of the natural instincts and affections, and for the mutual society, help and comfort which the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.'

1. 'for better or worse' is the first stated purpose of marriage according to Canon 31;

2. it is a union 'to the exclusion of all others';

3. it is 'for the procreation of children'.

Marriage Service 2:

1. 'living faithfully together in plenty and in need, in sorrow and in joy. (my ears may deceive me, but that sounds like 'for better or worse')
2. It is intended that with delight and tenderness they may know each other in love, and through the joy of their bodily union they may strengthen the union of their hearts and lives (a union 'to the exclusion of all others on either side' might even be consistent with that idea).

3. It is intended that they may be blessed in the children they may have (for the procreation and nurture of children). Procreation is entertained as a normative possibility, rather than a necessity.

Canon 31 is simply not explicit regarding the means by which 'the union of one man and one the exclusion of all others' is ACCOMPLISHED. There is no proof that the grammatical precedence, per se, accords priority to a purpose. The Dean of Cork infers from the wording that it does.

So, contrary to the Dean of Cork's fragile argument that Motion 8A *could* “constitute a modification or alteration of doctrine”, Canon 31 is entirely consonant with Marriage Service 2. Oh, and (surprise, surprise!) it agrees with sacred writ too!

Posted by: David Shepherd on Saturday, 12 May 2012 at 9:01am BST
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