Sunday, 24 May 2015

Church of Ireland responds to Irish referendum result

Updated 25 May and again 29 May

The Church of Ireland has issued the following press release:

A Statement from the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of Ireland Following the Result of the Marriage Referendum (RoI)

The archbishops and bishops of the Church of Ireland wish to affirm that the people of the Republic of Ireland, in deciding by referendum to alter the State’s legal definition of marriage, have of course acted fully within their rights.

The Church of Ireland, however, defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and the result of this referendum does not alter this.

The church has often existed, in history, with different views from those adopted by the state, and has sought to live with both conviction and good relationships with the civil authorities and communities in which it is set. Marriage services taking place in a Church of Ireland church, or conducted by a minister of the Church of Ireland may – in compliance with church teaching, liturgy and canon law – continue to celebrate only marriage between a man and a woman.

We would now sincerely urge a spirit of public generosity, both from those for whom the result of the referendum represents triumph, and from those for whom it signifies disaster.

Michael Jackson, Archbishop of Dublin has published an interview:
Press Releases / The referendum result is now out. What is your response? Interview with the Archbishop of Dublin on Whit Sunday

Do read the full text of this.

Update Friday
The Church Times carries a comprehensive news report on this, by Gregg Ryan Overwhelming yes vote brings same-sex marriage to Ireland.

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Categorised as: Church of Ireland

At least two of their bishops profoundly disagree with this statement !

Posted by: David Gillett on Sunday, 24 May 2015 at 7:43am BST

I read this last night, my heart wasn't warmed. The use of the word 'disaster' seems particularly unfortunate. And whilst the rest of the statement is true, it does feel like a circling of the wagons and a denial of the reality in this jurisdiction.

Posted by: Paul Barlow on Sunday, 24 May 2015 at 8:26am BST


Jesus spoke of his disciples, that they "do not fast... as long as the bridegroom is with them." [Matt 9:14-15] Ireland is about to get MANY new pairs of bridegrooms, and pairs of brides: it would be nice if the bishops of the CofI adopted (and emanated) the JOY Jesus expects of his disciples. I commend Hymn 463 (Hymnal 1982) to the bishops for their reflection. Words by WH Auden (who, had he and partner Chester Kallman lived in our time...)

"He is the Way.

Follow him through the Land of Unlikeness;

you will see rare beasts and have unique adventures.

He is the Truth.

Seek him in the Kingdom of Anxiety;

you will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.

He is the Life.

Love him in the World of the Flesh;

and at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy."

Posted by: JCF on Sunday, 24 May 2015 at 8:42am BST

The Church of Ireland obviously needs some good PR advice....what an awful statement. Do they not have a Bishops' Press Officer or Communications Officer to help them?

Posted by: robertellis on Sunday, 24 May 2015 at 9:09am BST

This statement could go in the dictionary as antonym of "reality check"

Posted by: ExRevd on Sunday, 24 May 2015 at 9:18am BST

" Marriage services taking place in a Church of Ireland church, or conducted by a minister of the Church of Ireland may – in compliance with church teaching, liturgy and canon law – continue to celebrate only marriage between a man and a woman"

No REAL change, then, for the Church if Ireland!

LGBTI Christians will remain second-class citizens in the Church - if they have been legally wedded.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 24 May 2015 at 11:03am BST

Whatever. But you'd think that even bishops would get tired of talking to themselves after a while.

Posted by: Daniel Berry, NYC on Sunday, 24 May 2015 at 11:53am BST

The use of the word disaster is surely way OTT. Anyway, who cares what two old members of a minority sect think? Contrast this with the RC Archbishop of Dublin saying that the church needs a reality check. Meanwhile, here in blighty, hypocrisy continues to rule.

Posted by: Fr William on Sunday, 24 May 2015 at 12:35pm BST

Check out the reporting from an earlier article from The Guardian, re the comments prior to the vote by Bishop Storey to her clergy.

“In the last week of campaigning, Pat Storey, the first female Anglican bishop in Ireland, England, Scotland or Wales, has written to all her clergy in Meath and Kildare, explaining her reasons for voting no.”

Full article in The Guardian available via this link: reported comments regarding the church are about half way down the piece.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Sunday, 24 May 2015 at 4:46pm BST

The 'Church of Ireland' bishops' statement -so -called -I do not believe they all wrote, and in-putted to it and agree it, in the few available hours --

but the statement was as unimaginative and ungenerous as I have come to expect. Even the RC archbishop managed to sound a little more relevant, even though, he still doesnt get it. He thinks the RCC needs to learn to speak to young people better! No archbishop, you must learn to listen and learn !

Having an Irish parent and links, I feel very proud of Ireland for how they dealt with this in a kin of I-Thou way; and overwhelmingly breaking with the oppressive old order - all those voters were Roman Catholics thinking for themselves. Loving freely and embracing all their citizens.

As a free thinking & loving RC myself, I am proud of the people, even if the hierarchy just don't get it.

And how wonderful that the Vote was on Harvey Milk Day and the declaration of the Eve of Pentecost.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Sunday, 24 May 2015 at 4:50pm BST

The CofI's use of "disaster" is unfortunate, but let's face it, many who voted "no" feel that it is precisely that -- a moral disaster.
But, the overall statement is simply an affirmation of what any good campaigner for the "yes" vote would have stressed: Civil same-sex marriage is now legal in the Republic of Ireland, but every single religious denomination is free to decide for itself whether to grant religious marriage rites.
Years ago, in a leadership conference, we participants were asked, when hearing each other's views to "assume positive intent".
Therefore, I will take at face value, the following from the letter:
"The church has often existed, in history, with different views from those adopted by the state, and has sought to live with both conviction and good relationships with the civil authorities and communities in which it is set."

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Sunday, 24 May 2015 at 7:42pm BST

Laurence, I take exception to one part of your comment: "all those voters were RCs" - no, some were Anglicans also thinking for themselves. Yes the statement was disappointing, and as to actual author, do I detect the pen of the Archbishop of Dublin?

Posted by: David Oxley on Sunday, 24 May 2015 at 8:18pm BST

Re Lawrence Roberts, " ...all those voters were Roman Catholics thinking for themselves." Totally agree. News media here are carrying a picture of Roman Catholic nuns heading off to vote. The photo is intended to highlight the church on the 'no' side; but five will get you ten some of the Roman Catholic religious voted 'yes'. A good number of the good sisters tend to be way out in front on these kinds of issues. All will be well, indeed.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Sunday, 24 May 2015 at 11:58pm BST

That was indeed careless of me, David, especially as in the context of my comment, 'all' could nt possibly have been literally true !

Perhaps the back story of my comment , is that the RCC has done more harm to the people of Ireland than any other denomination.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Monday, 25 May 2015 at 12:31am BST

It seems that even the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, understands the situation of the young people of the Church better than the Church of Ireland Bishops. Here is an excerpt from the speech made by the Archbishop after the referendum (published on line by 'Living Church) :

"The church’s teaching, if it isn’t expressed in terms of love — then it’s got it wrong.”

Here is the touch of honesty that needs to be heard more often among the Church's hierarchy.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 25 May 2015 at 12:43am BST

Judging by the referendum votes, I suspect that a significant number of church members in the pews hold a very different view to their leadership.

It's like when a spokesman for 'The Church of England' says 'The Church of England is opposed to same sex marriage' when in truth the church is divided down the middle on this issue.

Anyway, society is moving on, with more generosity and more inclusivity, and these church leaders must feel more and more beleaguered in their dogma, and yet the world does not come crashing down, and people simply get on and love one another.

Which is kind of the whole point...

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Monday, 25 May 2015 at 7:58am BST

David Oxley is right to detect Archbishop Michael Jackson's voice dominating the C of I Bishops' statement. For one thing, Richard Clarke (Archbishop of Armagh) would not use the word 'disaster' in relation to equal marriage. But I'm perplexed. Yes, the conservative evangelical Bishop of Meath and Kildare, Patricia Storey (not elected, by the way, but imposed on us by the House of Bishops) was a 'No' voter; but what about Michael Burrows (Cashel and Ossory), Paul Coulton (Cork, Cloyne and Ross) and Ken Kearon (Limerick and Kilaloe)? Did they put their signatures to this statement - or was it rushed on them without time for discussion?

Again, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin has shown real leadership and honesty: the Church is at a cultural disconnect from young people in Ireland and this vote will come to be seen as a moment of social revolution. This is the day when Ireland said 'Yes' to being a mature European democracy. It is also a day when the Church of Ireland failed to demonstrate that it can offer the emerging generations an intelligent, critical and humane way to celebrate the Christian faith. Just as Justin Welby has more than one eye on his conservative friends in the Global South - so the Irish bishops are in thrall to the conservative majority in Northern Ireland - and they weren't even voting on equal marriage!

Posted by: Michael Mulhern on Monday, 25 May 2015 at 8:55am BST

The use of "disaster" has been criticized in the CofI statement, and not unreasonably so - as the last word people will give it more attention than was perhaps expected by the author(s). As has been asked, where was the Communications Officer?

On the other hand, it's a nice little literary reference - think Kipling's "If", where triumph and disaster are paired as "two impostors." A rare case of bishops being too educated for their own good?

Posted by: Bernard Randall on Monday, 25 May 2015 at 11:31am BST

Neither a communicant member of the Anglican Church nor a citizen of the Irish Republic (both of which institutions I respect) I find the C of I bishops' statement short and to the point of honesty.

Posted by: Clive Sweeting on Monday, 25 May 2015 at 1:50pm BST

Re Michael Mulhern, thanks for the reminder that Bishop Pat Storey was not elected. I just finished re-reading the September 20, 2013 article about her appointment that was posted on Thinking Anglicans at the time. Fascinating! A review of the facts reinforces the notion that the church hierarchy are largely out of touch with the general population, and probably a majority of church goers as well. Reality check please!

Posted by: Rod gillis on Monday, 25 May 2015 at 2:00pm BST

Illuminating comments both from Michael Mulhern and Bernard Randall. Thank you both.

Posted by: John on Monday, 25 May 2015 at 2:16pm BST

Yesterday, the intelligent and insightful Dean of Durham, Michael Sadgrove, preached on the seven gifts of the Spirit. He did not refer specifically to the equal marriage referendum in Ireland; but some of his closing words (which clearly allude to other concerns on this blog) might provide a more considered Anglican response to the Irish referendum, and resonate more perceptively with Archbishop Dairmuid Martin's honest reaction:

"I see a church today that is at risk of panicking as it watches itself diminish in numbers and influence, as it wonders whether even Christian faith itself could be at risk of eclipse and a lingering, painful, sclerotic death. It’s understandable that our church is tempted to become busy and excitable, embark on great outreach projects with relentless energy, invest vast sums of money to try to turn this stately galleon Christianity round before it is too late. It is understandable. Like climate change, we can either pretend it isn’t happening, or engage seriously in mitigating its inevitable effects.

But the texts of Pentecost tell us that all the best-intentioned endeavour in the world will count for nothing without the Spirit of God and the seven gifts of an anointed people: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and the fear of the Lord. They give us a ‘values statement’ for the imitation of Christ. But they call for a deep and spiritual intelligence – ‘mindfulness’ - if we are to become life-changing agents of mission. These are gifts to make us into reflective practitioners, as they say, to foster wisdom before they are impulses to activity. The question at Pentecost must be: how do we cultivate the vocation of the church to practise mission with this kind of contemplative wise biblical insight? How do we make sure that in what we do and the way we do it, we are truly emulating our anointed King, and listening to what the Spirit is saying to the churches?

See for the full text.

Posted by: Will Richards on Monday, 25 May 2015 at 4:15pm BST

The fact is that the Church of Ireland is a conservative denomination... and 85 per cent of its membership is concentrated in northern Ireland where evangelicalism and protestantism is strong. The Southern dioceses with about 35,000 active Anglicans are disproportionately represented in the General Synod.

Posted by: robert ian williams on Monday, 25 May 2015 at 10:42pm BST

I have no ¨fear of the Lord¨ ... I would like to think I engage in ¨wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety..¨ It takes lots of fortitude for GLBTI Anglicans to keep ¨stomaching¨ the kind of marginalizing, outcasting and general ignorance that leads to being ¨seperate¨ sisters and brothers at Church. One wonders how much longer humanity will apply wisdom and understanding for such deadly nonsense spewn forth with fear and hate from pulpits and beyond. Viva Ireland, Viva Equality and inclusivity at ALL levels of Churchlife. Leonard Clark/Leonardo Ricardo

Posted by: Leonardo Ricardo on Monday, 25 May 2015 at 11:09pm BST

Robert Ian Williams might check the facts before making assertions - at the Censuses of 2011 there were 257,000 members of the Church of Ireland in Northern Ireland and 134,000 in the Republic. Church censuses in 2013 showed attendances in the conservative evangelical diocese of Down and Dromore at just one in seven while those in the 'liberal' Cashel and Ossory were one in four.

Posted by: Ian Poulton on Tuesday, 26 May 2015 at 12:17pm BST

The C of I Archbishop of Dublin's response was perhaps more nuanced than I first realised. While I didn't like: 'A significant majority situation brings with it a fresh responsibility to a numerical minority', not because of the sentiment itself (which I share), but because the 'minority' that has really suffered here has been gay people, I did like: 'This has involved painfully the abnegation of who they know themselves to be and are perceived to be by others', because it has no truck at all with any notion that gay people are 'diseased', can be 'cured', etc. etc.

Posted by: John on Tuesday, 26 May 2015 at 1:59pm BST

Ian Poulton is wrong.. I quoted figures for communicant members not nominal census rolls. Down and Dromore has a larger number of active members ( even though it is one in seven of the census roll)more attending as the numbers in Cashel and Osssory are so small. The Church attendance in northern Ireland would be the envy of any Church of England bishop.

Hope you will allow me this fair reply to his accusation

Posted by: robert ian williams on Tuesday, 26 May 2015 at 4:36pm BST

Worth reading this:

Posted by: Fr William on Wednesday, 27 May 2015 at 11:48am BST

It would be really nice if anyone in any church could be reported as saying something positive for once.

So far, we have the RCs demonstrating their confusion of good and evil with a "defeat for humanity", we have the CoI bishops saying [paraphrased] "that's nice for you, society, but we don't do that here", and the Archbishop of Dublin who manages a very half-hearted "safe place" (hey, why not go the whole hog and add equality as the missing dimension in your safe place?) before finishing with a collect that has to wade through sin, penitence, lament and wretchedness before you get your forgiveness and remission.

Is this what the church has to say? What's the corporate-speak for "damn, we got caught daydreaming with our heads up the past and are doing all we can to catch up"? Where's the being-free-indeed? Where's the life? Where's the delight?

Posted by: Tim on Wednesday, 27 May 2015 at 3:55pm BST

Here is a whole different take on the "reality check" comment. According to Associated Press reports of comments by the Pope's no.2.

"In comments to reporters Tuesday evening, Parolin referred to remarks by the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, that the results showed the church needed to do a 'reality check' since it clearly wasn't reaching young people with its message.'I don't think you can speak only about a defeat for Christian principles, but a defeat for humanity,' he said. "

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Wednesday, 27 May 2015 at 4:46pm BST


The statement 'our teaching has failed' can go in different directions: (1) we keep the content the same but have to improve the delivery; (2) maybe the content itself requires a bit of modification. One tries to be analytical, one tries also to encourage the Good. One also notes that many Catholic leaders are pretty pragmatic. I think some of the Irish ones and certainly some of the English ones are going to find practical wiggle room for pastoral reasons. It won't be enough (no doubt), but it'll be better than the present - and that's something worth achieving.

Posted by: John on Thursday, 28 May 2015 at 2:30pm BST

It does seem to me that many of the people who voted for marriage equality have concluded that the Church has failed to follow Christ's commandment that we should love one another.

This is not the rejection of Christ, quite the contrary; it's the rejection of those who seem to have mislaid their belief in Christ's message...

Posted by: Stevie Gamble on Thursday, 28 May 2015 at 5:43pm BST

Re John May 28 2:30 pm, I agree completely. See my post on May 24, 11:58 pm (above). It's interesting, however, that the "no. 2" guy at the Vatican has put a particular spin on the "reality check" comment, a spin that favors your (2) hypothesis above.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Thursday, 28 May 2015 at 6:05pm BST

A very clear minded unambiguous reality check, perhaps a portent of things to come from other Churches, including Anglicans, i.e. apologizing to the LGBT community for the Church's prejudice?

"A letter asking the LGBT community for forgiveness by a United Church minister has touched a nerve with thousands of Canadians."

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Thursday, 28 May 2015 at 9:59pm BST

Robert Ian Williams,

For the record, the number attending churches in Down and Dromore in November 2013 was around 12,000 out of a pastoral contact number of 73,000 and that in Cashel and Ossory was 2,500 out of a population of 9,900.

Down and Dromore was once one of the strongest dioceses in the Church of Ireland but has experienced sharp decline, a parish in which I served twenty years ago where Sunday attendances averaged over a hundred has lost its parochial status, other parishes have disappeared altogether.

Posted by: Ian Poulton on Thursday, 28 May 2015 at 10:36pm BST

Read carefully the previous postings and my contention still stands. The Dioceses of Northern ireland have the vast majority of communicant members in the Church of Ireland. Also the figures quoted by Ian are from different sources...the Down figure is average Sunday attendance and the Cashel figures are Easter communicants. Yes there is retraction in Protestant Ulster, but nothing like the Church of England.

Posted by: robert ian williams on Saturday, 30 May 2015 at 8:08am BST

Here is an editorial from one of Canada's national media outlet on the "reality check" comment.Published today, Trinity Sunday.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Monday, 1 June 2015 at 2:48am BST
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