Saturday, 12 May 2012

Church of Ireland: report of sexuality debate

Updated again Monday morning

This is what happened on Saturday.

The motions were re-introduced as a single motion, in this form.

The Archbishop of Dublin proposed them in this speech.

The Bishop of Down & Dromore seconded them in this speech.

Four separate amendments were proposed. After some debate, they were voted on, and all of them were defeated.

Text of amendments:

The unamended motion was then passed.

Some official reports now published:

Motion Passed On Human Sexuality In The Context Of Christian Belief

General Synod Passes Motion On Human Sexuality In The Context Of Christian Belief

Discussion On Human Sexuality Motion Encompasses Broad Range Of Views

The following voting figures for the main motion have been reported on Twitter

Clergy 81-53 in favour, Laity 154-60 in favour, Bishops 10-2

They are confirmed by this Irish Times report CofI affirms marriage teaching and there appears to be a later version of this article here.

The motion, proposed by the Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson and the Bishop of Down & Dromore Harold Miller, was supported by 81 clergy and 154 laity. It was opposed by 53 clergy and 60 laity.

Following the general vote, the church’s bishops then voted, by standing. All but the Bishop of Cork, Cloyne & Ross, Paul Colton, and the Bishop of Cashel & Ossory, Michael Burrows, supported the motion.

Church News Ireland has several additional reports, including:

General Synod debate on sexuality 2 – Contributors and voting

Votes on amendments

There were then votes by orders on the four proposed amendments which involved members passing though tellers and in accord with standing orders a five minute interval was required before each vote was taken. The process in all took over 45 minutes.

A proposal by Canon Patrick Comerford and the Reverend Stephen Fielding which inter alii sought to include reference to the BCP pp 405 − 438 was lost. Clergy for 58, against 73 – Laity for 84, against 122.

A proposal by Mr Andrew McNeile and the Dean of Cork, the Very Reverend Nigel Dunn, to replace the fourth paragraph of the motion was lost. Clergy for 54, against 75 – Laity for 84, against 126.

A proposal by Neville Bagnell and AG Oughton to remove a word and insert the word bigotry was lost. Clergy for 56, against 73 – Laity for 89, against 121.

A proposal by the Reverend Darren McCallig and Mrs Joan Bruton extending the definition of marriage and referring to “the normative context for sexual intercourse” was lost. Clergy for 48, against 81- Laity for 60, against 148.

Vote on substantive motion

The motion in the names of the Archbishop of Dublin and the Bishop of Down was passed. Clergy for 81 , against 53 – Laity for 154 , against 60 .

The House of Bishops then voted in public. Two against.

General Synod debate on sexuality 3 – Media coverage

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 12 May 2012 at 2:26pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of Ireland

I am, on the one hand, grateful that the Church of Ireland seems to have found a way to start a conversation on human sexuality. On the other hand, it is clear that psychological professionals concluded this conversation decades ago, and secular institutions are now beginning to conclude this conversation in significant numbers. The conversation seems to conclude in the same place - that full inclusion and equal rights for gay and lesbian people enhances society. In TEC, the conversation seems close to the conclusion that full inclusion enhances God's church. The statement from the Church of Ireland would have been unthinkable in the '70s, groundbreaking in the '80s, progressive in the '90s, contemporary in the '00s, but by now so much of society has moved on that it feels a bit stale. Which makes me sad - I think Jesus would have us lead society rather than mopping up after the parade passes by.

Posted by: Scott on Saturday, 12 May 2012 at 6:32pm BST

Well said Scott....and so true. My children cannot see what all the fuss is about because for them it is no longer an fact it isn't for me either...the only problem is that I am a priest in the Church of England....a church that is light years behind the times on the subject and one feels so out of step with it....and the built in dishonesty and hypocrisy of the institution is really beginning to get me down......and make me angry.

Posted by: Robert Ellis on Saturday, 12 May 2012 at 9:27pm BST

Too little, far too late.

Posted by: LaurenceR on Saturday, 12 May 2012 at 11:59pm BST

"Liz and myself starred in the Changing Attitude Magazine as an example of those who came to the LGBT events to listen. Listening brings understanding.
Sometimes even, listening, like love, suffers long! Listening accords respect and value to the other. It is absolutely vital to all we do and how we live."

- Bishop Harold Miller, Seconding the motion -

Precisely! This has been the problem, hitherto, in those parts of the Church that have not been disposed to listen to anyone or anything that has not chimed with their own 'traditional' under-standing of relationships 'en Christo'.

Only by respectfully listening to Christians (and others) who have actually experienced the Love of God through a same-sex committed relationship, can one ever hope to understand how Good's love can be mediated through any expression of the love of, and loving, another person of the same gender.

The love of Jesus for the Apostle John; the love of David for Jonathan; these are biblical examples of how same-gender love can possibly be "above that of" a man for a woman or vice-versa - for the people involved. Maybe we need to pause to listen to what the Holy Spirit may just be saying to the Church.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 13 May 2012 at 1:53am BST

"The statement from the Church of Ireland would have been unthinkable in the '70s, groundbreaking in the '80s, progressive in the '90s, contemporary in the '00s, but by now so much of society has moved on that it feels a bit stale."

Concise and spot on.

Posted by: Malcolm French+ on Sunday, 13 May 2012 at 3:49am BST

I would myself end Scott's pithy summary "old fashioned in the 00s and perverse now"

The resolution means that the church does not approve of any gay person having any sexual relationship in any context. On the same day that this resolution was passed, the Law Society of England and Wales cancelled the booking of a conference with the same agenda, on the basis that it could not accept such disreputable views being promoted on its premises.

Posted by: baseman on Sunday, 13 May 2012 at 7:32am BST

A "bit stale"?!

I stand w/ this commentary:

"Gay members of the Church of Ireland have reacted strongly against today’s decision.

David McConnell of the Church's pro-gay Changing Attitude Ireland group said the motion on human sexuality had been presented with “unnecessary haste” and the decision by the General Synod to accept it in controversial circumstances had “added to, not reduced, the hurt and exclusion caused by the Church to its gay and lesbian members”.

Gerry Lynch of the same group said: “Both the way the motion on sexuality was submitted and the vote itself confirmed many LGBT persons’ experience of the Churches as the last bastion of homophobia.”"

I grieve for Irish LGBT Anglicans. God bless the Episcopal Church!

Posted by: JCF on Sunday, 13 May 2012 at 8:48am BST

The church needs only to debate one thing, one of Jesus's greatest commandments to us:

"One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me."

One of the greatest calls from Christ is to poverty; that is the elephant in the room the church leaders ignore, and debate sexuality instead.

Posted by: Randal Oulton on Sunday, 13 May 2012 at 9:12am BST

Baseman "The resolution means that the church does not approve of any gay person having any sexual relationship in any context. On the same day that this resolution was passed, the Law Society of England and Wales cancelled the booking of a conference with the same agenda, on the basis that it could not accept such disreputable views being promoted on its premises."

Baseman, please will you give further information about this. Nor surprisingly there is nothing about it on the Law society's website, but I would like to check it out. Thank you.

Posted by: Anne Lee on Sunday, 13 May 2012 at 11:01am BST

Yeees - the church in Jerusalem took Jesus literally on this ... with the result that they became so poor that the collection for Jerusalem was a constant theme of Paul's. If modern scholarship is right, this gave Paul an edge to use to insist on the inclusion of the Gentiles, and so it did work for God's purpose. But I think it also indicates the need for a bit of caution in following that approach.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Sunday, 13 May 2012 at 11:10am BST

As a Corkman, I congratulate Bishop Paul Colton.

Otherwise, it is now clear that the C of I is not a safe place for gays.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Sunday, 13 May 2012 at 11:29am BST

I second Scott's comment.

It's the usual "we think you and your sexuality are revolting and we really don't want you around, certainly not in any visible position of leadership; the only way we'd let you anywhere near an altar is if you took a vow of celibacy, and even then, we'd really like you to stay there in the corner behind the potted palm and keep your mouth shut; oh, and by the way we insist that we are NOT bigots and that we do NOT condone violence against you because God is love, yadda yadda, so get that idea that we are anything less than selflessly loving out of your same-sex addled gay little minds you filthy perverts."

Ho hum and feh!

The Church covers its institutional keister once again.

Posted by: Counterlight on Sunday, 13 May 2012 at 12:26pm BST

This is a disaster.

Having such a large number of the clergy voting AGAINST a motion that ostensively supports the wonderful institution of marriage is deeply depressing!

How did these premature motions get through? Why so late and so seemingly underhand? How can anyone justify this on the very poor conference that took place earlier. How did Colton and Burrows end up so isolated?

What threats were on the table?
Gay families are completely excluded from any shelter - but so are so many of the families who now flourish in Ireland.
This is truly a disaster - even if it seems so mild - I hope the truth of what lies behind this comes out!

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Sunday, 13 May 2012 at 2:07pm BST

The report of the Archbishop of Dublin's words states, "Explaining the terminology of the resolution the Archbishop said the term sexual intercourse was necessary because: “It is a term which has a legally defined meaning, and it complements and sheds light on the term: chastity which is to be found in the Catechism. That is why it has to be used here, reticent though anyone might be about it”.

From what I've been able to find on the net, Irish law seems to define "sexual intercourse" only in heterosexual terms. Given that fact, and the Archbishop's emphasis on the legal definition, one wonders what bearing Synod's act has on gay people. Indeed, for a piece of legislation that everyone seems to be convinced is all about gay people, it manages to avoid referring to homosexuality at all.

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Monday, 14 May 2012 at 2:05am BST

Excellent Law Society.

Andrea Williams makes me laugh with her 'open debate' outburst. She is so transparent and incredible !

Open debate my a- ankle.

Posted by: LaurenceR on Monday, 14 May 2012 at 11:51am BST


I remember at my ACCM in my late teens, the bishop who chaired it taking me aside, and saying, "We know your not a homo" but he thought my long hair gave "the wrong impression." Such subtlety then as now!

Well, I was a keen young evangelical and already engaged to be married, as obviously no way could I be "a homo" !

The fact that so little has changed in the Churches since 1970 is regrettable. The comparison with health, education and the Law Society shows the Churches in a very poor, amateurish light. And lacking in the integrity shown by those professions.

This kind of thing also contributes to the institutional decline of Christianity.

Very sad.

I grieve for the Churches- the communities of lesbians and gays could have brought to them a real message of lived hope and salvation.

Posted by: LaurenceR on Monday, 14 May 2012 at 12:12pm BST

What consequences will this have for couples who get married when already living together (some 99.9% of our Wedding couples) and who may already have children together?
Will they no longer be able to marry in the CoI?

Or will this affirmation of sexual morality only be applied to gay people?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 14 May 2012 at 12:13pm BST

This is worth considering, especially in the light of the Irish church resolutions. No wonder the church is receeding into a sect of the pure and exclusive.

'When asked by The Barna Group what words or phrases best describe Christianity, the top response among Americans ages 16-29 was “antihomosexual.” For a staggering 91 percent of non-Christians, this was the first word that came to their mind when asked about the Christian faith. The same was true for 80 percent of young churchgoers. (The next most common negative images? : “judgmental,” “hypocritical,” and “too involved in politics.”)'

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Monday, 14 May 2012 at 12:53pm BST

With respect to listening, I hearken back to Lambeth 2008 when the voice that could have shed the most light on faithful, same-sex relationships was that of Bishop Gene Robinson, and he was locked out. What led me to change my mind about same-sex marriage was hearing the stories of gay couples. What they described sounded very much like marriage to me.

June Butler

Posted by: Grandmère Mimi on Monday, 14 May 2012 at 5:26pm BST

Now, now, Bill. You know we have been advised to desist from further unwholesome debate on common definitions of sexual intercourse.

My old, dusty copy of the Farmer's Almanac describes this untoward variant of lexicophilia as 'an unhealthy preoccupation with the legal definition of sexual activity. It can be cured by temperance devices, plenty of fresh air and exercise'.

Be warned. Ignore the symptoms and it might even precipitate blimdnuss! ;-)

Posted by: David Shepherd on Monday, 14 May 2012 at 6:56pm BST

Now I may not be reading the motion as it ought to be read but it seems to me to be a blatant tract in favour of what is loosely termed 'gay marriage'.

Yes procreation is mentioned but, as is well established by now, it is not a strict criterion unless the church intends to seriously ban contraception, the marriage of those who are unable to conceive or do not wish to and encouragement of the infertile to divorce and seek fertile unions.

It seems to me that gay couples are at least comparable to that category and fulfil all the others (at least to the same extent as a heterosexual couple might be expected to).

In particular it seems to attach importnace to parents bringing up children being able to marry which is good for same sex couples wishing to do so.

This motion is a cast iron argument in favour of gay marriage and to that extent I welcome it.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Monday, 14 May 2012 at 8:48pm BST

Not a member of General Synod, so can't claim any inside knowledge. Yes, it's depressing from the LGBT perspective, and maybe the Church *is* lagging behind some sections of society (not all, I suspect), but you have to start from where you are. Given our usual CofI reticence, it's remarkable that any discussion of sex took place at all; and given the extreme and vindictive views of certain members, it is also a relief that no-one has been burnt at the stake, or at least de-frocked. The fact that two bishops were prepared to indicate dissent is very hopeful for the many voices that would favour a more generous statement. There were quite a few people willing to stand up for inclusion. As for the impact of the motion on either cohabiting couples I wouldn't expect to see any. It will only make actual problems for LGBT people where there is already a desire to make problems - but yes, it does little to make the place feel safe. I think the bishops were probably right to ensure that a debate took place - to have suppressed discussion would have made more problems - and in essence the matter has been put off till later. It's not the optimal result, but neither is it quite the disaster that some people here suggest. Whether we like it or not, "Like a mighty tortoise moves the Church of God..."

Posted by: David Oxley on Monday, 14 May 2012 at 8:56pm BST

A small but important point.

“A proposal by Neville Bagnell and AG Oughton to remove a word and insert the word bigotry was lost. Clergy for 56, against 73 – Laity for 89, against 121.”

Our motion was in fact to insert the word “exclusion,” before the word bigotry, effectively it would have changed the sentence to read:

“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 exclusion, bigotry, hurtful words or actions, and demeaning or damaging language;”

Posted by: Neville Bagnall on Tuesday, 15 May 2012 at 9:45pm BST

C of I Canon speaks up:

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Wednesday, 16 May 2012 at 10:33am BST
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