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.
The Church Times carries a comprehensive news report on this, by Gregg Ryan Overwhelming yes vote brings same-sex marriage to Ireland.
The Church of Ireland held its General Synod from 8 to 10 May.
There are several reports of major items on the official church website:
The Explanatory Memorandum and the full text of the Bill as presented to synod is here.
This last item was also reported on in the Irish Times Church committee on sexuality needs more time for final report
The Church of Ireland Gazette now has a number of reports available online at this location including those on the new relationship with the Methodist church, and on the progress of the Select Committee on Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief.
The Diocese of New Westminster in the Anglican Church of Canada elected the Reverend Canon Melissa Skelton to be its ninth bishop on Saturday.
Press reports include:
Huffington Post Canada Rev. Melissa Skelton Elected Bishop Of New Westminster
Douglas Todd Vancouver Sun Rev. Melissa Skelton elected bishop of Vancouver-area Anglican diocese
Paul Sullivan Matro [Canada] Anglican bishop brings branding skills
By coincidence the election took place on the same day as the Consecration Of The Revd Pat Storey As Bishop Of Meath & Kildare. Patrick Comerford, a Canon at Christ Church Cathedral, where the service took place, describes the occasion in detail: A Memorable Afternoon at the Consecration of Bishop Pat Storey in Christ Church Cathedral. The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church was there, as was the Archbishop of Wales. The Archbishop of Canterbury was represented by Archdeacon Sheila Watson.
Claire Duffin Telegraph First female Anglican bishop consecrated
BBC Irish Anglicans install Rev Pat Storey as bishop
Belfast Newsletter First woman bishop installed by Anglican Church
Sarah Stack of the Press Association in the Irish Independent Tributes paid to first woman bishop at Christ Church Cathedral
The Irish news CoI consecrates first female bishop
The Irish Times Irish woman becomes first female bishop in UK and Ireland
Ciarán Hanna Inside Ireland Tributes to first woman bishop on these islands consecrated by the Church of Ireland at a service in Dublin
Savitri Hensman writes for Ekklesia about Ireland’s first - or perhaps second - woman bishop
A consortium including the Church Commissioners are the preferred bidders to purchase 314 bank branches from RBS, it was announced today. Details are in this press release from the Commissioners.
Church Commissioners statement on RBS bid
The Church Commissioners for England have today confirmed that as part of a consortium of investors they will be partnering with Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to create a leading challenger bank from 314 RBS branches across the UK.
The confirmation follows the decision of the board of RBS to favour the bid of a consortium which includes the Corsair Capital investment fund, Centerbridge Partners and the Commissioners to create a new bank with a focus on ethical standards and servicing the needs of retail and SME customers.
The new bank, to be called Williams and Glyn’s (W&G), will be a vigorous challenger in UK business and retail banking sector with a projected 5% market share of the small and medium sized enterprise (SME) and mid-corporate banking markets, and a 2% share of UK personal current accounts.
Andreas Whittam Smith, first estates commissioner, said:
“The Church Commissioners are excited to have the opportunity to be involved in creating a U.K. challenger bank operating to the highest ethical standards and giving consumers more choice. We are delighted that the Royal Bank of Scotland recognised the strengths of our bid and the consortium’s vision, and have chosen the consortium as their preferred bidder.”
Andrew Brown, Secretary to the Church Commissioners, said:
“This is a great opportunity for the Commissioners to invest in an exciting opportunity for the benefit of the serving and retired clergy, bishops, cathedrals and the wide work of the Church of England throughout the country especially in areas of need and opportunity.”
The Church Commissioners for England are responsible for managing a well-diversified investment portfolio with the aim of producing returns to support the Church of England’s work across the country.
The Church Commissioners manage an investment fund of some £5.5 billion, held mainly in a diversified portfolio including equities, real estate and alternative investment strategies. The Commissioners’ work today supports the Church of England as a Christian presence in every community.
The annual objectives of the Church Commissioners include:
- A return on investments of RPI +5%
- Supporting poorer dioceses with ministry costs
- Providing funds to support mission activities
- Paying for bishops’ ministry and some cathedral costs
- Administering the legal framework for pastoral reorganisation and settling the future of closed church buildings
- Paying clergy pensions for service prior to 1998
- Running the national payroll for serving and retired clergy
A copy of their annual report for 2012 can be found here.:
RBS says Return of Williams & Glyn’s moves closer.
Press reports include:
James Quinn in The Telegraph RBS sells stake in Project Rainbow branches to Corsair for as much as £800m
Jill Treanor in The Guardian RBS sells 314 branches to church-backed Corsair consortium
BBC News RBS sells 314 bank branches to Corsair consortium
Sky News Church Consortium Wins RBS Branch Sale Race
The recent decision of the Church in Wales to allow women to be consecrated as bishops, and the election of a woman bishop in the Church of Ireland have prompted an article, Women bishops and the recognition of Orders, by Will Adam, editor of the Ecclesiastical Law Journal, in Law and Religion UK about the implications for the Church of England.
… This is bound to bring up again the question of the recognition in a Church which does not permit the ordination of women as bishop of episcopal acts performed by a bishop who is a woman …
However, the consecration of a woman as a bishop in the Church of Ireland changes the situation. Deacons, priests and bishops of the Church of Ireland, Church in Wales and Scottish Episcopal Church are not considered as “overseas” clergy by the law applying to the Church of England. This is significant, because the permission of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York is not required for such ministers to be invited to exercise the ministry of their orders in England …
The article refers to this 2004 opinion from the Legal Advisory Commission of the Church of England: The Effect of Acts by women Bishops of Churches in Communion with the Church of England.
Kelvin Holdswoth writes about the same topic in Taint. He concludes with
What I’m interested in is that with respect of our current bishops in Scotland, all of them have either had a female co-consecrator present at their consecration, joined in consecrating someone with a female co-consecrator present or have been consecrated by someone who has had a female co-consecrator present at their own consecration.
What I wonder is whether those who apply the theology of taint believe that anyone at all (bishops, priests or deacons) now ordained in Scotland is legit.
Oh, and by the way an English bishop was present and joining in when this situation began. I was there – I saw it with my own eyes.
Where does this leave the Scottish Episcopal Church in relation to those who would deny the legitimacy of women to act as bishops? …
Do we, or do we not, remain in full communion with [all of] the Church of England?
Reform Ireland has published this:
The Church of Ireland, in common with the Anglican Communion worldwide, has always prized doing things ‘decently and in order’ (1Corinthians 14:40). With the appointment of the first woman bishop in Britain and Ireland, it has furthered the disorder in God’s church that it originally initiated with the decision to appoint women as presbyters and bishops by an act of Synod in 1990.
God’s order for the family and for his church is male headship, a loving, Christ-like, self-sacrificing leadership for the purpose of leading others into maturity and fellowship in Christ. This ordering, initiated by God at the creation of man and woman, is not based upon or designed to produce any inferiority or inequality of woman to man. Rather, it is based upon the very nature and purpose of relationships within the Trinity itself.
As God’s Word makes clear, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are co-equal persons of the eternal Trinity, ‘One God world without end.’ Yet, the Son is eternally submissive to the Father (1Cor.11:3), who is described as his ‘head’, and similarly the Holy Spirit’s role in the economy of God is to serve the Father and the Son. Such headship of the Father does not imply the inferiority of the Son or the Spirit. Rather, the submissiveness of the Son within the Trinity is for the purpose of a perfect loving fellowship where there is mutual glorification of the other.
In 1 Corinthians 11, the NT teaches that the principle of male headship in the family and the church is modelled upon the relationship of the Father and the Son. Male and female are equal in status (Galatians 3:28) but woman is called to be submissive to God’s design for male headship in the church. This voluntary acceptance by a co-equal of her role in the church is her Christ-like service of God, and like Christ does not imply any inferiority or inequality. On the contrary, like the voluntary submissive relationships within the Trinity, the purpose of the woman and the man in playing such complimentary roles is for the purpose of mutual glorification of the other in Christ.
This complementarian approach is creational, biblical and crucial for our sanctification in Christ. To ignore God’s design for man and woman is to bring disharmony and disorder into Christ’s body. The Church of Ireland, by its recent appointment of a woman to be Bishop, has not only brought more disharmony and disorder into God’s church, but it has also side-lined Christ in his own church. If God’s Word does not rule his body, the church, then Christ is a mere figure-head and not the captain of his people.
By ignoring God’s equality agenda and role for man and woman and substituting it with a ‘spirit-of-the-age’ equality agenda, the Church of Ireland has in effect discriminated against those who hold to a biblical position. This decision will not only prevent those who believe in God’s agenda for man and woman being able to serve in Meath diocese, but also impair fellowship throughout the Church of Ireland. The appointment to Meath is therefore a sad day for many in the Church of Ireland because it is one more indication that the Church of Ireland is no longer listening to God’s purposes for his church.
23th Sep 2013
Church of Ireland press release: Bishops Appoint The Revd Pat Storey As New Bishop Of Meath And Kildare
The House of Bishops of the Church of Ireland meeting yesterday in Dublin appointed the Revd Pat (Patricia) Storey as the new Bishop of Meath and Kildare, to succeed The Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke, who is now Archbishop of Armagh. The appointment of the new bishop had passed to the House of Bishops as the Episcopal Electoral College which met on 28 May failed to appoint a Bishop of Meath and Kildare dioceses. The Revd Pat Storey is currently Rector of St Augustine’s Parish Church, Londonderry.
Announcing the appointment of the Revd Pat Storey, The Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, said: ‘Having known Pat Storey since she was an undergraduate and I was Chaplain at Trinity College, Dublin, I very much welcome her as a new bishop. She is a person of great warmth, intelligence and spiritual depth and I am certain that her ministry in the Dioceses of Meath and Kildare and the wider Church will be a blessing to many. We remember her and her family in our prayers.’
Responding, the Revd Pat Storey said: ‘I am both excited and daunted by this new adventure in our lives. I have had an extraordinarily happy experience in St Augustine’s and in this wonderful city which I will be sad to leave. However, I count it an enormous privilege to begin a new phase of my ministry with the people of Meath and Kildare, and I look forward to working with the team of clergy who are already there. I would sincerely ask for your prayers for myself and my family, who are the best family in the world!’
The Revd Pat Storey (53) has been Rector of St Augustine’s, Londonderry (Derry and Raphoe) since 2004. She is married to the Revd Earl Storey and has two adult children, Carolyn and Luke, and a son–in–law Peter. Having grown up in Belfast and studied French and English at Trinity College, Dublin, she trained at the Church of Ireland Theological College (now Institute) and was ordained deacon in 1997 and priest in 1998. She served a Curacy in Ballymena (Connor) and was a Team Vicar in Glenavy (Connor) and a part–time Youth Worker Co–ordinator with the Church of Ireland Youth Department. Among Central Church participation, she is a member of the Standing Committee of the General Synod. The Revd Pat Storey becomes the first woman to be appointed a bishop in the Church of Ireland.
The consecration of the new bishop will take place in due course, followed by enthronement in the diocesan cathedrals thereafter.
The Church of Ireland General Synod met from 9 to 11 May, but we failed to report anything about it at that time.
There were several reports of the synod in the Church Times issue dated 17 May, but these are only available to subscribers.
The Church of Ireland official site has news reports linked from here. There is a detailed report titled Resolution Establishing Select Committee On Human Sexuality In The Context Of Christian Belief Passed.
Archbishop Michael Jackson said that there had been developments in the debate on Human Sexuality in the year since Synod 2012. “I sense now in 2013 more of a mood of sober carefulness than I have sensed before in relation to this most private of subjects and most invasive of areas. I also sense a proper fearfulness of insult and diminishment of others whom we are only now beginning to understand. If the passage of time has taught us any of this, then it is indeed good that time passes. There is no attractiveness or advantage in ripping ourselves or indeed our polity apart by the abstracted certainties which, all too readily, make it impossible for us to see the face of Jesus Christ in our neighbour and, I would have to add, in our enemy. This cannot continue to be a game of: cat and cat,” he said.
He said that the bishops and the Standing Committee had worked on drawing together the names of people who represent a broad range of human sympathy, life experience and geographical belonging in the complex organism that is the Church of Ireland of today to form the Select Committee. He said it was important to ensure that all points of view were included on the committee and said there must be room for co–options at later stages.
The Belfast Telegraph reported this under the headline Church denies ‘stalling’ on same-sex relationships.
The Church of Ireland Primate, Archbishop Richard Clarke has denied that the creation of a Select Committee to consider same-sex relationships and human sexuality is an attempt by the Church to “stall” on handling this contentious issue.
At a General Synod press conference in Armagh he told reporters: “The subject of same-sex relationships is desperately divisive but we are trying to approach it in a systematic way.
“The creation of a Select Committee is not an attempt to kick anything into the long grass. If we rush things, people will want to think of ‘winning or losing’ but that is not the way the spirit of God works.
“ This is a time for people to listen generously to one another. It is no a stalling process, and I would not want to a party to anything which is evolved in this way.”
The Archbishop, who holds a traditional view of marriage, also said: “I have to be prepared to listen intently to the views of others. I have to be ready to the possibility of my mind and spirit being changed, and others will have to do likewise.”
The Church of Ireland Gazette carries reports of the synod and editorial comment in its 17 May issue. It had also carried a letter before the meeting, in its 3 May issue, which can be read in full here (scroll down) and starts this way:
It is almost beyond belief that there is not a single member of the proposed Select Committee on Human Sexuality who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (Gazette report, last week).
While there is space for two co-options, that these must come from General Synod – which (as far as I am aware) has only one openly gay member – makes it entirely possible that the committee will remain ‘straights only’.
Can we envisage the Church of Ireland setting up a committee with an all-white membership to examine the experiences of the growing number of ethnic minority people in our parishes?
Or could we imagine the State establishing a commission on gender equality with an all-male membership?
The Irish Government has established a Constitutional Convention to consider a number of possible changes to the Irish Constitution. These issues are varied and include changes to the electoral system, the removal of the offence of Blasphemy, and provisions for same-sex marriage. The latter may or may not be precluded by Article 41 of the Constitution as currently worded.
Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland the Guardian reports Northern Ireland’s ban on gay marriage to be challenged by Amnesty in court.
Amnesty International and gay pressure groups have warned that Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government will soon face a human rights legal case over its refusal to allow gay couples to marry.
Unionist parties have voted at Stormont to ensure Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are excluded from the same-sex marriage bill, which was passed in the Commons in February…
Paul Johnson at ECHR Sexual Orientation Blog has more legal detail: ECHR complaint is likely if same-sex couples cannot marry in Northern Ireland.
Possible court action could be brought under the Human Rights Act in the domestic courts and, if that failed to remedy the situation, a complaint could be made to the European Court of Human Rights. Such a complaint to the Court would present a novel legal issue which it has hitherto not considered: the existence of different arrangements for same-sex marriage within a nation state. Whilst the Court has so far been reluctant to recognize a right to same-sex marriage under Article 12 of the Convention, the existence of differences in treatment in marriage within the jurisdictions of the UK based solely on sexual orientation could make a more compelling Article 14 case than those argued in previous applications. What would the Court make of a situation whereby citizens of a Council of Europe state could contract same-sex civil marriage in one part of the state but not in another?
In this week of the second Sunday in Advent, readers are invited to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest this very helpful article by Frank Cranmer at Law & Religion UK.
When matters touching on relations between religion and the state are discussed it not infrequently happens that the terminology becomes hopelessly confused and misused – sometimes by people who really should know better. So the following is a cut-out-and-keep guide to the absolute basics of Church and State.
First, there are four separate territories in the United Kingdom…
The Province of West Africa made this announcement a few days ago: New Primate elected for the Church of the Province of West Africa.
CHURCH OF THE PROVINCE OF WEST AFRICA (Anglican Communion)
ELECTION OF THE NINTH PRIMATE OF CPWA
Upon the approval of the amendments to the constitution to create two internal provinces in the Church of the Province of West Africa (CPWA) namely, the province of Ghana to comprise all the dioceses in Ghana and the province of West Africa to comprise the dioceses in Bo, Cameroon, Freetown, Gambia, Guinea and Liberia; each to be headed by an Archbishop:
The province of Ghana elected Rt. Revd. Dr. Daniel Yinka Sarfo, Bishop of Kumasi as the Archbishop-elect and the province of West Africa, Rt. Revd. Dr. S. Tilewa Johnson, Bishop of Gambia as the Archbishop-elect.
Archbishop-elect S. Tilewa Johnson was then elected as the Ninth Primate of the Church of the Province of West Africa for a term of five (5) years.
Dated this 29th day of September, 2012 at Cuttington University, Suacoco, Liberia
(signed) +AlbertDG Gomez
RT. REVD. ALBERT D. G. GOMEZ
DEAN OF THE CHURCH OF PROVINCE OF WEST AFRICA (CPWA)
Today, the Church of Ireland made this announcement: The Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke Elected As Archbishop Of Armagh And Primate Of All Ireland
The Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke, Bishop of Meath and Kildare, has been elected Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland by the House of Bishops of the Church of Ireland, following the retirement of Archbishop Alan Harper on 30 September…
…The House of Bishops also decided that his election would take effect from 15 December 2012 which will be the date of the bishop’s translation and enthronement in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh. In the meantime, The Venerable Raymond Hoey, Archdeacon of Armagh, will carry the diocesan responsibilities for the Diocese of Armagh. The Provincial responsibilities are carried by the Archbishop of Dublin, The Most Reverend Dr Michael Jackson until this date.
Archbishop Harper To Retire
The Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland and Metropolitan, The Most Revd Alan Harper, OBE, has announced his intention to retire later this year. The decision will take effect from 1 October 2012.
Archbishop Harper, who is 68, has been a bishop for 10 years having served as Bishop of Connor from 2002 to 2007; he was elected as Archbishop of Armagh in January 2007 and enthroned in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh on 16 March 2007. A former Chairman of the Historic Monuments Council for Northern Ireland (Member 1980–1988, Chairman 1988–1995), he was awarded an O.B.E. for services to Conservation in Northern Ireland in 1996. The Archbishop is married to Helen and has four children and ten grandchildren.
Archbishop Harper will continue to carry out all the duties and responsibilities of the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland as normal until 30 September 2012.
The Church of Ireland House of Bishops will consider in due course the selection of a successor…
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:
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
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:
…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.
This morning there is a further development in this story. From the official news service:
Following morning devotions, the Archbishop of Armagh announced that the majority of the bishops were of the view that the General Synod should have the opportunity to discuss the issues raised by Motions 8a to c on Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief which was not able to happen yesterday. He said a revised motion was to be introduced. The discussion on the new motion will take place tomorrow morning (Saturday) immediately after the completion of consideration of Bill No 6.
Belfast Newsletter CoI U-turn on gay row motion
THE Church of Ireland will debate gay relationships tomorrow after a decision to stop the debate taking place was effectively overturned following behind the scenes negotiations in Dublin today.
A motion brought to the church’s General Synod by two bishops to re-affirm the church’s teaching that marriage is only between a man and a woman was ruled out of order by the Archbishop of Armagh, Alan Harper, on Thursday in dramatic scenes which led to two other motions about same-sex relationships being withdrawn.
But between Thursday night and Friday morning, conservative members of the church succeeded in bundling all three motions together and re-introducing them for discussion on Saturday morning under Standing Order 31 (d) in what could be a bitter debate.
Tomorrow’s motions will allow for the church to publicly discuss homosexuality for the first time since the News Letter revealed last September that Dean Tom Gordon had become the first serving Church of Ireland cleric to enter a civil partnership.
The three original motions had been presented by the liberal Archbishop of Dublin, Michael Jackson, and the evangelical bishop of Down and Dromore, Harold Miller in a public show of unity.
But on Thursday as the first motion came to be debated the liberal Bishop of Cashel and Ossory, Michael Burrows, raised a point of order about his fellow bishops’ motion which led to Archbishop Alan Harper ruling that it could not be discussed.
Bishop Burrows, who was aware of Dean Gordon’s civil partnership before it took place, was openly jeered by large sections of the synod in Dublin’s Christchurch Cathedral but applauded loudly by others in a public sign of the considerable strain within the church.
Reintroducing the motion has infuriated some liberal members of the church who yesterday believed that they had defeated a motion which they believe will make it harder to get the church to accept gay relationships at a later point.
The Church of Ireland press office said that while the text of the three motions had now been incorporated into a single motion, the ‘preamble’ to the original motions had been dropped.
That preamble had said: “Having regard to the present discussions in the Church of Ireland on Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief, the General Synod affirms that…”
The full text of the motion now reads:
HUMAN SEXUALITY IN THE CONTEXT OF CHRISTIAN BELIEF
To the Honorary Secretaries:
I wish to propose the following motion under Standing Order 31(d)
The General Synod affirms that:
The Church of Ireland, mindful of the Preamble and Declaration, believes and accepts the Holy Scriptures as revealing all things necessary for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ;
The Church of Ireland continues to uphold its teaching that marriage is part of God’s creation and a holy mystery in which one man and one woman become one flesh, as provided for in Canon 31:
‘The Church of Ireland affirms, according to our Lord’s teaching that marriage is in its purpose a union permanent and life-long, 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’.
The Church of Ireland recognises for itself and of itself, no other understanding of marriage than that provided for in the totality of Canon 31. The Church of Ireland teaches therefore that faithfulness within marriage is the only normative context for sexual intercourse. Members of the Church of Ireland are required by the Catechism to keep their bodies in ‘temperance, soberness and chastity’. Clergy are called in the Ordinal to be ‘wholesome examples and patterns to the flock of Jesus Christ’.
The Church of Ireland welcomes all people to be members of the Church. It is acknowledged, however, that members of the Church have at times hurt and wounded people by words and actions, in relation to human sexuality.
Therefore, in order that the Church of Ireland is experienced as a ‘safe place’ and enabled in its reflection, the 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, and demeaning or damaging language;
A willingness to increase our awareness of the complex issues regarding human sexuality;
A determination to welcome and to make disciples of all people.
The Church of Ireland is mindful that for all who believe ‘there is no distinction’ and that ‘all have sinned and come short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:22 - 23) and are in need of God’s grace and mercy. We seek to be a community modelled on God’s love for the world as revealed in Jesus Christ. We wish that all members of the Church, through the teaching of the scriptures, the nourishment of the sacraments, and the prayerful and pastoral support of a Christian community will fulfil their unique contribution to God’s purposes for our world.
That the General Synod requests the Standing Committee to progress work on the issue of Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief and also to bring a proposal to General Synod 2013 for the formation of a Select Committee with terms of reference including reporting procedures.
The Archbishop of Armagh, Alan Harper delivered a Presidential Address.
…The other matter, along with clergy pensions, that may occupy us at this year’s synod is that of Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief. I want to say something about the way in which we should address this sensitive subject and the interplay of different factors that impact upon the way we should respond as a church.
Arising out of the atmosphere created and the desire expressed at the Conference on Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief that we should continue the journey of respectful and charitable listening in pursuit of deeper and clearer understanding of the will and purpose of God in these matters, the archbishops and bishops of the Church of Ireland, with the encouragement of the Standing Committee, will seek to present three motions offering a possible way forward.
The motions that the Archbishop of Dublin and the Bishop of Down and Dromore will seek to introduce belong together. The first sets out the doctrinal understanding of marriage and the appropriate context for sexual intercourse, as currently set forth in the formularies of the Church of Ireland. To set out the current position is not to pre–determine any future adjudication the General Synod may reach on such matters. Indeed, Canon 31, which is quoted in the first motion, actually takes the form that it does as a direct result of decisions taken by the General Synod permitting the re–marriage in church of divorced persons is itself witnesses to the fact that Canons may be added, altered, refined, replaced or abolished by the General Synod at its absolute discretion.
The second motion acknowledges openly the hurt and injury experienced at times by Lesbian and Gay people as a result of the words and actions of Church members. It articulates the commitment of the Church of Ireland to being sensitive to the pastoral needs of Gay and Lesbian people and a safe and welcoming place for everyone.
The third motion, if approved, directs the Standing Committee to bring to next year’s synod recommendations for the formation of a Select Committee to study the issue of Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief and to report progress to the General Synod on the basis of a specific timetable.
The additional work generated by the need to provide for the special conference for synod members that took place at the Slieve Russell Hotel in March, followed by the framing of motions to be brought to the synod, have made heavy demands on the time and energy of my fellow bishops. Therefore, I want to pay a particular and personal tribute to my colleagues in the House of Bishops, not only for their commitment to providing means by which the Church of Ireland may address what are experienced in all the churches as difficult and potentially divisive issues, but also for their commitment to modelling and sustaining a spirit of unity in the Church of Ireland.
Members of the General Synod, this is but ‘work in progress’, and it is work not for bishops alone but for the General Synod on behalf of the Church of Ireland as a whole. Leadership in the Church of Ireland, especially in the context of the role of bishops, consists not in telling the Church what to think but in assisting the Church in coming to a richer, deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the faith we have received.
The archbishops and bishops of the Church of Ireland guard and define the doctrine of the Church only to the extent that they may be called upon to declare whether or not a particular view is consonant with the current teaching of the Church as the Church of Ireland has received it. Ultimate sovereignty under God rests with the General Synod. Therefore, I want to say something about the character of the Church of Ireland, particularly in the context of the work of the General Synod and especially the role of the laity…
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:
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
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…
The Church of Ireland Gazette has an audio interview this week with Bishop Greg Venables of Argentina.
The 22 minute interview can be heard via this page.
There is a major article based on this interview in this week’s Gazette, headlined Church of Ireland must stay together, Bishop Greg Venables tells Gazette. This is subscriber-only but here is an excerpt:
The Bishop of Argentina and former Primate of the Southern Cone, the Rt Revd Greg Venables, a leading theological conservative in global Anglicanism, told the Gazette last week that, should the General Synod adopt a liberal approach to the issue of same-sex relationships, those of a more conservative view should stand together but remain within the Church of Ireland, because their position was “the original Anglicanism – Prayer Book, Bible, original 39 Articles Anglicanism”.
Bishop Venables, who, along with Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, was visiting Ireland to address a ‘First Things’ evangelical conference held last Saturday (21st April) at the Jethro Centre in Lurgan, Co. Armagh, was speaking to the Gazette editor before the conference.
Bishop Venables said in the interview that if the forthcoming General Synod, which it is widely expected will address the issue of same-sex relationships, were to take a less strict approach to the subject, then “those that don’t agree have to review their position and ask themselves how they are going to respond to that situation, but do it in a collegial, consultative, gracious, united way”.
However, he also stressed the need, in such circumstances, for dialogue with those of different views on the subject.
Bishop Venables said that, in the context of the current controversy in the Church of Ireland over samesex relationships, “there must be discipline, there must be consequences, and there must also be a way for things to be put right … That implies repentance, that implies recognizing that something is wrong and repenting of what is wrong and putting things right in that way.”
He also spoke about the need for the Church generally to focus on fundamental issues, especially because of cultural shifts that had taken place in recent times, and commented on current Anglican Communion affairs, in particular in relation to the proposed Anglican Covenant.
The Bishop noted how two distinct ways of being Anglican had now emerged. The first held to scriptural authority and the second saw Christianity as “an ongoing development which is related to the Scriptures, but which isn’t founded on the Scriptures”, he said.
The Church of Ireland Gazette has this editorial opinion: Anglican Covenant, Anglicanism and The Church of Ireland.
It might well be said that the unthinkable happened last weekend, with the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant coming to grief in the Church of England of all places (report, page 1). Yet, that is precisely what happened, and it will surely go down in the annals of Anglican history. The Covenant had been intended as an agreement with procedures that would help keep the Anglican Communion in one piece when facing contentious issues. Undoubtedly, it arose as a result of the inter-Anglican same-sex relationships controversy that has now seen its own fraught manifestation in the Church of Ireland playing out since last autumn and occasioning, earlier this month, a unique Bishops’ Conference on the topic for General Synod members.
One aspect of the Church of England débâcle that no doubt will be the subject of careful consideration in the relevant quarters is the fact that in some of the diocesan synods the voting was very close. In theory, following reflection at the English General Synod on what has transpired, the Covenant could be put back on the table in the Church of England after a lapse of three years, but there are at least two reasons why this is unlikely: first, as the No Anglican Covenant Coalition has pointed out, the Covenant is facing difficulties in some other parts of the Communion and, second, in any case, the passage of time and considerable disagreements about it have left the Covenant unable really to deal with the differences in the Communion over same-sex relationships. Other divisive issues could, of course, arise, but it is difficult to see all the requisite superabundance of energy actually now being summoned to recover and progress the Covenant (perhaps).
The moral of the story has at least two dimensions. First, from a practical perspective, when faced with a divisive crisis, setting up a bureaucratic procedure that is going to take years to get anywhere, if it is to get anywhere at all, is hardly a good idea. If anyone thought that ‘buying time’ would allow the same-sex relationships imbroglio to subside, that was a very mistaken notion, and we in the Church of Ireland do need to take note of that as we face our own difficulties over the issue.
Second, from a more conceptual perspective, we now know, as surely as we can know, that Anglicanism is set to remain a Communion of wholly autonomous Churches, bound together by ‘bonds of affection’. It should be added, however, that such mutual affection is far from a weak ideal; it is, in fact, a considerable calling and it is surely true that at times we do have to work at loving one another. There has been talk about being in communion implying ‘interdependence’ and thus justifying central regulation, however light, but that interdependence argument is actually quite vague because everything in the world is interdependent and, from an ecclesiological perspective, all Christians of whatever denomination, in communion or out of communion, are interdependent. Thus, as Anglicans, we are all, across the globe, now challenged to ponder our affection for one another and, where it is waning, to seek to nurture it carefully and prayerfully….
The Church Times has this leader: After the Covenant.
ANYONE offered a welcoming doughnut and a seat near the projector on arrival at church on Sunday would probably have guessed that it was one of the growing number of Messy Church services. But even if things looked normal, they weren’t. After the diocesan votes on the previous day, it is all Messy Church. The Anglican Covenant — an attempt to introduce order to the Communion — was tipped into oblivion, at least as far as the Church of England goes.
Without the Covenant, it was argued, national Churches had no formal obligation to consider the “relational consequences” (a coinage of the Covenant text) of their actions on other Churches in the Communion. Dr Williams warned that, without the Covenant, he found it “hard at present to see another way forward that would avoid further disintegration”. One of the troubling aspect of the Covenant debates — such as they have been — is the impression given by critics that they can not only live with disintegration but positively welcome it, if it means not having to relate to people with whom they disagree fundamentally.
In the end, Anglicans have discovered what another ecclesial body might have told them from the start: in the present age, a text cannot hold Churches together in the way that a person can. Given that no text will be perfect, a degree of affection is needed to persuade people to subscribe. An individual can earn that affection; a text (poetry excepted), never — especially a text monitored by a standing committee that few understand and none recognise. Time and again in the General Synod, affection for Dr Williams carried members along; but he was absent in the diocesan synods, and the link was broken…
Giles Fraser writes Covenant is dead. Long live unity.
I WILL not disguise my joy at the death of the Anglican Covenant. And death it is — despite the fact that some people will inevitably try to give its corpse the kiss of life. The idea that the Church of England has given it so emphatic a thumbs-down, especially in the face of huge episcopal and archiepiscopal lobbying, is evidence of how unpopular the idea is in the pews.
Here, the majority of bishops have shown themselves to be completely out of touch with the centre of gravity of the Church of England. It is not that we do not care about our brothers and sisters in other parts of the Communion. It is simply that we want our Christian solidarity to be expressed through our Anglican heritage, our common baptism, and the development of friendships — and not through a treaty that can be haggled over by church politicians, the purpose of which was always to isolate those Churches that had a different view of sexual ethics…
And there is a news report by Ed Thornton Challenges remain, Primate warns, after dioceses block Anglican Covenant.
…Speaking on Monday, Dr Williams said: “This is, of course, a disappointing outcome for many of us in the Church of England and many more in the Communion. Unfortunately, the challenges the Covenant was meant to address will not go away just because people vote against it.
“We shall still have to work at vehicles for consultation and managing disagreement. And nothing should lessen the priority of sustaining relationships, especially with some of those smaller and vulnerable Churches for whom strong international links are so crucial.”
The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, a patron of the Yes to the Covenant Coalition, said on Tuesday that he was “disappointed”; but “we have to trust the mind of the Church. I simply hope that the Anglican Communion can flourish a different way, without what I thought was its best hope.”
The Bishop of Buckingham, Dr Alan Wilson, who voted against the Covenant in Oxford diocesan synod, said that its defeat in the C of E was an “opportunity to grow up, to take stock, and to get real. It’s very sad that a large number of bishops were out of touch on this one.”
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.)
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:
Respect key in gay ‘marriage’ debate (editorial)
Church of Ireland bishops back ‘traditional marriage’
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 RESPONDS TO THE CHURCH OF IRELAND CONFERENCE ON HOMOSEXUALITY
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.”
Updated Tuesday evening
This report and related documents can be found at the Evangelical Alliance website, here.
Writing in advance of the report’s publication, Jim Dobbin MP and Gary Streeter MP said in the Telegraph on Sunday that: We need reforms to protect the rights of Christians. There is an accompanying news story Britain failing to stand up for Christians, say MPs.
In the Mail on Sunday Jonathan Petre reported this story as Harriet Harman’s law on equality ‘is anti-Christian’ and unacceptable.
Today’s Independent has Committee claims rights laws leave out Christians by Nina Lakhani.
The BBC had Equality law ‘should be extended to cover faith’.
Today’s responses to the report so far include:
British Humanist Association British Humanist Association refutes findings of ‘Clearing the Ground’ report
Andrew Brown Cif belief Are Christians being marginalised?
Are Christians their own worst enemies in Britain today? This question is raised with unusual frankness in a couple of paragraphs of an all-party parliamentary group’s report into Christians and discrimination, which was launched yesterday.
It contains a really quite startling attack on Christian campaign groups:
“The actions of some campaign groups can discredit the Church in the UK and result in perceptions that Christians are seeking unfair exemptions. By bringing highly emotive cases to the fore, they also can add to the feeling among Christians that they are more marginalised than they actually are.
“On some occasions we perceive that campaigning becomes inflammatory or even counterproductive to Christian freedoms. This is due to factors such as: the strategically unwise selection of cases; a distorted presentation of facts for manipulation of the media; and most alarmingly, the deliberate misinforming of the church constituency in order to motivate support.”
But the report also maintains that there have been cases in which Christians have been unfairly treated, usually as a result of ignorance in the wider culture, rather than malevolence; and it demands a reshaping of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which evangelical Christians loathe…
National Secular Society Christian discrimination report is just another call for special privileges
From 1 to 4 November, the Churches of the Porvoo Communion held a consultation in Turku, Finland on the Churches’ teaching on marriage. Delegates represented the Anglican Churches in England, Ireland and Scotland, and the Lutheran Churches in Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. Observers were present from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia, the Lutheran Church in Great Britain, and the Latvian Lutheran Church Abroad.
Read more about this:
Church of Ireland Gazette High-level Porvoo Communion consultation on marriage
…The Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Michael Jackson, and the Bishop of Cashel and Ossory, the Rt Revd Michael Burrows, attended from the Church of Ireland. Archbishop Jackson had been invited to give a series of Bible studies and Bishop Burrows acted as a Group Convener.
Each member-Church of the Porvoo Communion was invited to submit copies of its marriage liturgies and regulations. Dr Jackson told the Gazette that this material, together with lectures on the interpretation of biblical passages related to marriage, on theological arguments surrounding the issue of same- sex marriage, and on aspects of human genetics “gave scope and shape to the discussions”.
The Archbishop said that in a climate of “tension” relating to marriage practice across the Churches of the Porvoo Communion, the consultation had been conducted “in a spirit of attentive listening and courteous interchange of ideas and experiences”.
…During the days together members from each Church shared their official teaching on marriage, as well as their pastoral experiences. There were also presentations covering aspects of the scriptural foundations for marriage, the development of doctrine, and human genetics.
The consultation concluded that differences over the introduction of same-sex marriage remain unresolved. The Churches hold a variety of views and pastoral practices along a theological spectrum. Some believe same sex marriage to be a legitimate development in the Christian tradition, whilst others see the potential for a serious departure from the received tradition. Nevertheless the consultation affirmed the benefits of “belonging to one another” and the value of honest encounter. The strong relationship of the Porvoo Communion, provides a “platform of sustained communication in the face of issues which raise difficulties for [the Churches]”
The full text of the communique issued can be found here (PDF).
See earlier reports via this link.
The four evangelical organisations, Church of Ireland Evangelical Fellowship, Evangelical Fellowship of Irish Clergy, New Wine Ireland and Reform Ireland have issued another letter.
Dear Archbishops and Bishops,
Thank you for your most recent Pastoral Letter to clergy of the Church of Ireland. We welcome its publication and thank you for the time spent with one another wrestling with the issues involved. Further, we look forward to the planned Spring conference of 2012 and wish to assure you of our prayers throughout this process.
The Pastoral letter states that the purpose of the Conference will be threefold. First, to discuss the content of the letter itself. Second, to assist the church in becoming more fully informed. Third, to explore wider issues in relation to human sexuality. Further, the letter commends study in biblical, theological and legal issues before and after the Conference, confirms that members of Synod and ‘some others’ will be invited to attend, and envisages that the Conference will not be an end in itself. We wish to assist this process by addressing each of these areas in as constructive a manner as possible, making observations, suggestions, and raising some questions…
Read the full letter: Joint Evangelical response to Bishops’ Letter.
The Evangelical Fellowship of Irish Clergy has released some information about the meeting earlier this week which was attended by the Bishop of Lewes.
See Fellowship declares its opposition to civil unions from the Portadown Times.
The Evangelical Fellowship of Irish Clergy (EFIC) said the civil partnership of Portadown-born Tom Gordon and New Zealander Mark Duley has made it “very difficult” for the CoI to stay united.
The Rev Trevor Johnston chaired a meeting in Belfast on Monday addressed by the Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Rev Wallace Benn, who last year caused a furore in the Church of England when he made a highly controversial comment about women bishops.
Mr Johnston told the Portadown Times, “There are usually around 40 clergy at our EFIC meetings, but Monday’s was attended by 80 from all over Ireland, with 80 per cent of them rectors and all strongly opposed to same sex partnerships. The main purpose of the meeting was Bible study, but this issue was discussed widely and clergy from all over Ireland are opposed.
“The Bible is unequivocal throughout, and the meeting took place in a very serious mood. There was a groundswell of distress by people who do not want to see their church divided over this issue, but it will be very difficult to hold the Church of Ireland together.”
He added that the bishops’ conference in the spring and then the General Synod could be a watershed for the church, “and this crisis will be very hard to resolve”.
There are letters on this subject in this week’s Church of Ireland Gazette (scroll down).
The Belfast Newsletter reports: CoE bishop at gay clergy row meeting.
A CONSERVATIVE Church of England bishop has attended a meeting of Church of Ireland clergy increasingly unhappy at their church’s response to a minister’s same-sex partnership.
There are few details about where Monday night’s meeting, which was first revealed by this newspaper last Thursday, was held, or how many were present.
However, the News Letter understands that the meeting included an address by Bishop Wallace Benn, a leading figure on the right of the Church of England…
The Newsletter also quotes an editorial in the forthcoming edition of the Church of Ireland Gazette. Full text of editorial below the fold.
“It is not an exaggeration to say that, as a result of this whole scenario, the Church of Ireland’s very unity is imperilled,” the editorial says.
“For that reason, it is somewhat concerning that the bishops refer to a need for yet further study and research on related biblical, theological and legal issues, because such could be a charter for years-long argumentation. We need to study such matters, but we also need to do so expeditiously.”
The editorial adds that in other Anglican churches the gay debate had seemed “interminable”. It says that the Windsor Report, which in an attempt to ease tensions led to the Anglican Covenant, had bought more time “but more time turns out to have been precisely not what was needed”.
“Now, the communion has reached breaking point and we have two primates’ meetings and a whole new Anglican church in north America. The dragging on has been because, of course, the Anglican Communion cannot legislate for the communion as a whole.
“However, the Church of Ireland can legislate for the Church of Ireland, and so a clear regulation of the issue before us is needed urgently if we are not to find ourselves in a situation resembling that of the Anglican Communion in all its woes.
“The Church of Ireland probably can contain itself for the process which the bishops have outlined, but it will be difficult.”
The Archbishop of Armagh, Alan Harper has commented further on the recent pastoral letter from the Irish bishops in his diocesan synod presidential address. See detailed report here. Text also available here.
Church of Ireland Gazette EDITORIAL 14 October 2011
now online here (scroll down)
A WAY FORWARD
The statement which the Bishops issued following their residential meeting last week and their subsequent Pastoral Letter together point a way forward in the quite alarming circumstances in which the Church of Ireland finds itself at this time (full texts, page 9; letters, page 8; report, page 16).
There has indeed been considerable disquiet in the Church, to use the Bishops’ term, following Dean Tom Gordon’s entering into a civil partnership, a decision which he has said was with his Bishop’s knowledge even before he was appointed last year to the position of Dean of Leighlin. It is not an exaggeration to say that, as a result of this whole scenario, the Church of Ireland’s very unity is imperilled. For that reason, it is somewhat concerning that the Bishops refer to a need for yet further study and research on related biblical, theological and legal issues, because such could be a charter for years-long argumentation. We need to study such matters, but we also need to do so expeditiously.
We can learn from the experience at Anglican Communion level - but will we? There, the issue has been debated, seemingly interminably, for well over a decade. The Windsor Report’s big idea, the Anglican Covenant, seems to be drifting into the mists of obscurity and irrelevance. The ‘Windsor process’ bought more time, but more time turns out to have been precisely not what was needed. Now, the Communion has reached breaking point and we have two Primates’ Meetings and a whole new Anglican Church in North America. The dragging on has been because, of course, the Anglican Communion cannot legislate for the Communion as a whole. However, the Church of Ireland can legislate for the Church of Ireland, and so a clear regulation of the issue before us is needed urgently if we are not to find ourselves in a situation resembling that of the Anglican Communion in all its woes.
The Church of Ireland probably can contain itself for the process which the Bishops have outlined, but it will be difficult. The conference which has been proposed will not be held until the spring, but this does allow time for proper preparation for the gathering which, assuming the matter proceeds to the General Synod, will in turn inform the mind of the Synod with its power to legislate on Church matters, including matters of doctrine. Given the circumstances, the best path for all concerned is to enter into this process with grace and with the clear aim of discerning, as we stressed in our 16th September editorial, the right way forward to guard the Church of Ireland in unity, truth and holiness. [ENDS]
The Irish Times in Dublin reports: C of I planning conference on sexuality for early 2012
A MAJOR conference on sexuality is being planned by the Church of Ireland for next spring and a pastoral letter will be issued by its archbishops and bishops in the next few days. The move follows a three-day meeting of the church’s House of Bishops this week.
It was precipitated by disclosure early last month that the Dean of Leighlin (Carlow) Rev Tom Gordon and his same-sex partner of 20 years had been married in a civil ceremony at a registry office last July. Formerly a lecturer at the Church of Ireland theological institute in Dublin and a co-ordinator of religious programmes at RTÉ, he was installed as Dean of Leighlin last year…
The Belfast News Letter reports: Archbishop had notice of cleric’s gay union plan
…Asked whether when he was first told of the same-sex union he realised that it would be a very difficult issue for the Church, the archbishop says: “Of course, of course.”
He adds: “There was nothing more that I could do. The civil partnership legislation is a freedom that he has and, technically, it’s not just not my diocese, it’s also not my province, it’s in the province of Dublin.
“But obviously then the urgent matter was to try and get an opportunity to begin to grapple with the issues as they have now presented themselves and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
So has he been surprised by the vocal opposition from evangelical and traditional Anglicans, many of them in Northern Ireland?
“I’m not surprised that it’s vocal,” he says. “I think probably the extent to which it has been sustained is interesting but this is a free country; this is a church which believes in people having the right to express themselves freely and I’ll defend that right if it is necessary to defend it.”
Asked whether the Church has a position on whether same-sex activity is sinful or normal, the archbishop says: “Sinful and normal are not alternatives. And so obviously, as you perfectly well know, there are different views within the Church as to whether or not a committed same-sex relationship is sinful.
“There has been a traditional view which has in effect not accepted the appropriateness of sexual relations between same-gender people. That is the traditional view.
“That view had come under question and that is where we find ourselves now and that’s why there’s a debate across the communion and that’s why we’ve got the present situation as it affects the Church of Ireland.
“The Church itself hasn’t thoroughly debated these new developments and the implications of these new developments. “That’s why it is necessary, it seems to me and to my fellow bishops, to put in train a way for the Church to address those matters.”
And earlier Church summit to address gay tensions
…last night the News Letter learned that disillusioned conservative and evangelical members of the Church of Ireland are planning their own meeting next week.
The meeting, to be held in Northern Ireland on Monday, is to be addressed by a visiting bishop from outside Ireland, as some parishes become increasingly unhappy at the Irish bishops’ leadership…
We met over three days in an atmosphere of prayer and worship to reflect on current disquiet in the Church caused by disagreements on the matter of human sexuality. We acknowledge that this tension is a cause of distress to many.
Our discussions were frank and careful and, at times, painful. We committed ourselves to listen carefully to one another and speak openly about our differences within the context of a variety of reactions within the Church. Strengthened by our honest interchange of views, we corporately agreed a way forward.
A pastoral letter to the Church will be issued through the Clergy in the next few days. It will highlight key themes and outline a process by which the Church may move forward. This will involve a major conference in Spring 2012 to which members of the General Synod and others will be invited. The conference will provide an important opportunity to learn from and listen to one another as the Church strives to discern the mind of Christ.
As Bishops we commit ourselves to work together on these issues. In addition, we envisage that further study and research on biblical, theological and legal issues will be required.
The Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of Ireland
- The Most Revd Alan Harper, Archbishop of Armagh
- The Most Revd Michael Jackson, Archbishop of Dublin & Glendalough
- The Most Revd Richard Clarke, Bishop of Meath & Kildare
- The Rt Revd Harold Miller, Bishop of Down & Dromore
- The Rt Revd Paul Colton, Bishop of Cork, Cloyne & Ross
- The Rt Revd Ken Clarke, Bishop of Kilmore, Elphin & Ardagh
- The Rt Revd Ken Good, Bishop of Derry & Raphoe
- The Rt Revd Michael Burrows, Bishop of Cashel & Ossory
- The Rt Revd Alan Abernethy, Bishop of Connor
- The Rt Revd Trevor Williams, Bishop of Limerick & Killaloe
- The Rt Revd Patrick Rooke, Bishop of Tuam, Killala & Achonry
- The Rt Revd John McDowell, Bishop of Clogher
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.
News reports of this:
Belfast Telegraph Primate wants gay debate to be shelved
Belfast Newsletter Harper moves to end CoI split talk
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…
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…
The Church of Ireland Gazette last week published an editorial column, which can be read in full here (scroll down a little).
CIVIL PARTNERSHIP CONTROVERSY
There has been concerned and very deep reaction to the recent revelation that the Dean of Leighlin, the Very Revd Tom Gordon, who is open about being a gay man and was appointed as Dean last year, has entered into a same-sex civil partnership. The situation gained added momentum after Dean Gordon confirmed on Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence programme on 4th September that this had been with the prior knowledge of his Bishop and without being asked for any assurances regarding lifestyle. In addition, he said that he had initially declined to be considered for the post of Dean but that, after being pressed to reconsider, had agreed to allow his name to go forward for interview on the understanding that “this is who I was and also that this would be what would be happening”.
While civil partnership is not marriage and does not necessarily involve same- sex sexual expression, there is a very wide perception that it is a form of gay marriage, and perceptions are, of course, often as important as facts. No doubt for this reason, and also because the Christian ethical aspect of same-sex expression is theologically highly contentious, Church of England bishops ask clergy entering civil partnerships to give an undertaking that their relationship is celibate. Differing views on this subject have co-existed in a relatively settled way in the Church of Ireland during the whole inter-Anglican debate over recent years, but what has now developed jeopardises that situation. While those on one side see an advance for gay rights in the Church, those on the other side feel that there has been an unacceptable, unilateral move on the subject. There is thus a sense of ‘log-jam’, and it is dangerous.
This is a time both for an honest speaking of minds and for action that displays Christian grace. Without openness, matters cannot really be confronted; without grace, the Church is untrue to itself.
Regular central meetings of the Church of Ireland are due to be held shortly and the Archbishop of Armagh has indicated that the subject in question will be considered by the Bishops in the near future. The Church now needs a breathing space and the relevant bodies should be allowed the opportunity to reflect, with urgency, leading to the best steps that can be taken to guard the Church of Ireland’s unity in truth and holiness.
The same link also contains (scroll down more) a number of letters to the editor on this topic.
Today, there are reports in the Portadown Times of a further statement from ten clergy: Clerics unite against civil partnership.
Updated Tuesday morning
Changing Attitude Ireland has published the following statement:
Changing Attitude Ireland Responds to Dean Gordon’s Civil Partnership and Resulting Statements in the Media
Firstly, Changing Attitude Ireland would like to extend its hearty congratulations to Dean Tom Gordon and his partner on their civil partnership, and wish them God’s continued blessing on their life together as it enters a new phase.
We would also like to commend them on their courage. It is never easy to be a path-breaker, and some of the reaction to the news of their partnership was singularly lacking in charity; it must have been quite bruising to be on the receiving end of it. We assure them of our gratitude and our prayers.
In the Church of Ireland, we have always lived with profound differences in our understanding of issues of significant theological weight, such as the nature of God’s revelation in Holy Scripture and our understanding of the Sacrament of Holy Communion. We have lived with significant differences in our approach to personal sexual morality, for example in our approach to divorce and remarriage. Despite these differences, relations within our Church have always been characterised by tolerance, charity and good humour.
The decision of a priest in the Church to enter into a civil partnership is certainly of no more theological significance, and arguably of considerably less, than other issues where the Church of Ireland has accommodated diversity with mutual generosity and grace.
We are therefore saddened and perplexed by the joint statements released by four Conservative Evangelical and Charismatic groups following the announcement of Dean Gordon’s civil partnership. These have only served to raise the temperature within the Church of Ireland, and have not contributed to reasoned discussion; and their content raises a number of other concerns.
Dean Gordon’s partnership of 20 years has been widely known in the Church of Ireland for almost that entire period. These statements have not been a consequence of a Church of Ireland clergyman living in a same-sex partnership per se, but of a Church of Ireland clergyman choosing to formalise that partnership in law.
The attitude of the four Conservative Evangelical and Charismatic groups seems, therefore, to be that it is alright to be in a same-sex relationship as long as one is not public about it. Previous generations of gay people in Ireland were forced to hide their love for fear of prison. When Irish society has become overwhelmingly tolerant of homosexuality, it is distressing that these groups seem primarily interested in perpetuating a culture of secrecy in the Church.
The intrusive, public, questioning of Dean Gordon’s private life in the two statements displayed incredible arrogance and poor taste. More seriously than that, it seems to violate the Scriptural command to turn judgement first on ourselves before we judge our neighbour. It also displayed un-Christlike double standards – it is inconceivable that the private life of any other clergyperson in the Church of Ireland would be subject to such impertinent prurience.
But this is only the tip of an iceberg of an unhealthy obsession with the subject of homosexuality from Conservative Evangelical groups in the Church of Ireland. Seven of the eight statements published on the homepage of the Evangelical Fellowship of Irish Clergy, for example, concern the issue of homosexuality. As Christians, we worry that this elevates dogmatic legalism above spreading the good news of salvation in Christ. Those looking in from outside the Church are more likely to see a weird fixation on what gay men and women get up to in the privacy of their own homes.
The people of this island, especially our young people, are fearful of the future, cynical about church and state leaders who promised much but betrayed their promises, and unwilling to give credibility to anyone who has not earned it. Our people have seen church leaders who imposed their view of sexual morality on others and bullied and abused those who disagreed revealed to be corrupt and corrupting. Is an obsession with homosexuality really likely to bring them to Christ?
There are also issues of personal sexual morality where those on all wings of the Church could work together. The advertising industry sexualises our children at a frighteningly young age. In this internet age, the temptation to look at pornography is only a mouse-click away, and yet we do nothing to build up our people to resist. Indeed, these are issues where we could work with groups who are often deeply cynical about the Church, such as secular feminists, and break down misconceptions that frustrate mission. With so many areas where we could work together, it is all the more sad that some seem intent on driving people apart.
Changing Attitude Ireland is a Church of Ireland group with ecumenical friends, campaigning for the full acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and intersex people in the Church.
Church News Ireland has published a report of the radio discussion on Sunday Sequence last Sunday, see BBC airing of clergy and civil partnerships issue.
The Belfast Telegraph has published Bishop under fire over cleric’s gay marriage.
Updated again Tuesday
The Church of Ireland has published Statement by the Archbishop of Armagh on Civil Partnerships and Serving Clergy.
Following media reports on the issue of civil partnerships and serving clergy, the following statement from the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, The Most Revd Alan Harper, was provided to the BBC NI ‘Talkback’ programme and the Belfast Newsletter today, 7 September 2011:
’The recent civil partnership of a serving ordained Church of Ireland clergyman presents a new situation within the Church of Ireland. It is true to say that within the Church there is a range of views on same–sex relationships and there will also be a range of views and reactions to civil partnerships concerning clergy. I acknowledge that this issue has caused strong feelings and concern. While there are acknowledged differences of opinion within the Church, suggestions that it might split are, I hope, premature. In 2003 the Bishops of the Church of Ireland issued a pastoral letter on human sexuality which reflected the varied spectrum of views within the Church. The General Synod of the Church of Ireland has not made any statement or decision in addition to that. The Bishops will be addressing the matter again shortly. I trust that the Church and its bishops will continue to address this subject with mutual respect. The state has provided a right in law for same gender persons to have their partnerships recognized and specific rights conferred through civil partnership, This is not recognized as marriage by the Church of Ireland or by the civil authorities in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Marriage is understood by the Church to comprise a lifelong and exclusive commitment by one man and one woman to each other. The Church has no provision or proposals for any liturgy for the blessing of civil partnerships and there are no authorized public rites of blessing for same–gender relationships.’
Some of the press reports:
Irish Times Senior cleric in same-sex ceremony
Friday morning updates
Changing Attitude Ireland has welcomed the news: CA Ireland congratulates Dean Tom Gordon and his civil partnership.
And this is the (later, fuller version of) the statement, jointly issued by the committees of the Church of Ireland Evangelical Fellowship, the Evangelical Fellowship of Irish Clergy, New Wine (Ireland) and Reform Ireland: Further joint statement by Evangelical groups in C of I.
In addition to that, Reform Ireland has published Civil partnership shame of the Church of Ireland.
Friday afternoon update
Belfast Telegraph Church of Ireland split fear over Irish cleric’s civil partnership
This story misquotes Canon Ian Ellis, editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette, as saying that the Dean had not informed his bishop beforehand, but according to the Gazette’s own report (available online only to subscribers):
The Dean said that he had told his Bishop, the Rt Revd Michael Burrows, before proceeding with the civil partnership, and confirmed that no assurances were required of him regarding a celibate lifestyle, as is required in the Church of England. However, he also said that he did not regard civil partnership as equivalent to marriage.
The Belfast Telegraph has, in effect, corrected this error, see Bishop under fire over cleric’s gay marriage.
The Church of Ireland Gazette reports: Anglican Communion ‘quite close to being dysfunctional’, senior English layman tells the Gazette.
In an interview reported in the current issue of The Church of Ireland Gazette, the Chair of the Church of England General Synod’s House of Laity, Dr Philip Giddings, speaks to the Gazette editor, Canon Ian Ellis, about the Anglican Covenant and the issue of women bishops in the Church of England.
The text of the interview report can be found at the link above.
A 23-minute audio of the whole interview can be found here.
(In the audio, the subject of the Covenant runs from 03:00-13:45 and the women bishops issue, including comment on the Ordinariate, runs from 13:45 to the end)
The booklet “I think my son or daughter is gay” by Gerry Lynch is available as a PDF here.
Or as a Google document here.
The Church of Ireland has voted in favour of the Anglican Covenant. Here is what the official press release, issued last Friday, says:
The General Synod of the Church of Ireland meeting today in Armagh voted in favour of the following Motion on the Anglican Covenant:
‘Seeing that the Anglican Covenant is consonant with the doctrines and formularies of the Church of Ireland, the General Synod hereby subscribes the Covenant.’
The vote was passed by a large majority of the House of Representatives. The House of Bishops also voted as a separate House, approving the motion, also by a large majority.
The Motion was proposed by the Bishop of Cashel & Ossory, the Rt Revd Michael Burrows, and seconded by the Bishop of Down & Dromore, the Rt Revd Harold Miller. In the course of the Synod debate it was stressed that the word ‘subscribe’ in relation to the Covenant, rather than ‘adopt’, was important. Subscribing the Covenant is an indication that the Church of Ireland has put its collective name to and aligned with it. The Covenant sits under the Preamble and Declaration of the Church and does not affect the sovereignty of the Church of Ireland or mean any change in doctrine.
So subscription is something different to adoption. And South East Asia used the term accession.
Confused? If so, then these
three four blog articles may not help you.
Catholicity and Covenant has Quincy, SE Asia & Ireland: Covenant questions.
Bosco Peters at Liturgy has Anglican Covenant meaningless.
Tobias Haller at In a Godward Direction has The Anglican Covenant — Let’s be clear.
Alan Perry has What goes on in the Emerald Isle?
The (slightly shortened) texts of the papers delivered at the recent event in Dublin are now online at the website of Search.
The SEARCH Colloquium on “The Proposed Anglican Covenant - a step forward of a step too far?” took place in TCD on Saturday March 12th and has been judged a great success. Over 50 people attended the Thomas Davis Theatre to hear speakers from England, Wales and Ireland (both North and South) consider the decision on our response to the Covenant to be made at the General Synod in Armagh in May.
After a welcome from the TCD chaplain and secretary of the SEARCH editorial committee, the Revd Darren McCallig, and a brief introduction from the editor, Canon Ginnie Kennerley, the speakers and their subjects were as follows:
- Ms Kate Turner, C of I lay representative on the Anglican Consultative Council: “A Brief Historical Introduction to the Covenant.”
- The Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, Bishop of St Asaph, former Deputey Secretary General of the Anglican Communion: “The Case for the Covenant.”
- The Revd Jonathan Clatworthy, general secretary of Modern Church: “Reservations about the Covenant.”
- The Rt Revd Michael Burrows, Bishop of Cashel and Ossory and former C of I clerical representative on the Anglican Consultative Council: “The Implications for the Church of Ireland.”
The panel discussion which followed was chaired by the Revd Professor John Bartlett, chairman of the SEARCH editorial committee.
The Church of Ireland Gazette reports:
Recommended terms of C. of I. response to Anglican Covenant explained at colloquium meeting
At a recent special colloquium in Dublin on the proposed Anglican Covenant, the Bishop of Cashel and Ossory, the Rt Revd Michael Burrows, told participants that the Church of Ireland General synod’s standing Committee had decided that the General synod next May would be asked to “subscribe” the document, but not “adopt” it.
Bishop Burrows distinguished between the two terms, commenting that “the difficulty with the word ‘adopt’ is that you make the thing you adopt part of yourself”, and pointed out that the Covenant would be “a freely entered into regulation of our external relationships”, but that the Church of Ireland could “walk away”.
He said that, while it had originally been felt that a special Bill would be required, the standing Committee had now opted for a simple motion for next May’s General synod in Armagh. Bishop Burrows quoted the text of the scheduled motion: “seeing that the Anglican Covenant is consonant with the doctrines and formularies of the Church of Ireland, the General synod hereby subscribes the Covenant.”
There is also an Editorial comment titled Approaching the Covenant. Scroll down the same link to read it in full.
The recent colloquium sponsored by Search and the TCD church of Ireland chaplaincy on the proposed Anglican covenant (report, page 1) heard excellent addresses on the subject, but it was Bishop Michael Burrows’ explanation of the procedure being followed in the church of Ireland regarding a formal response to the text that gave rise to most discussion. Indeed, semantics were to take centre stage, with the implications of the words “adopt” and “subscribe” being explored.
Bishop Burrows, hotfoot from this month’s Standing committee meeting when the procedure to be followed had been decided, referred to the three options for the General Synod: a Special Bill, an Ordinary Bill and a motion. A Special Bill, Bishop Burrows reminded everyone, would involve a two-year process and two-thirds majorities at every stage, unlike an Ordinary Bill or a motion, either of which would be taken within one meeting of the Synod and would require only simple majorities. The motion procedure had been chosen, he reported.
Then came the semantics. Bishop Burrows explained that the term “subscribe” had been preferred to “adopt”, as to adopt something involved taking it into one’s being. From a legal perspective, the term “subscribe” apparently is weaker than “adopt”, leaving the Church of Ireland more able, as Bishop Burrows put it, to “walk away”. Nonetheless, Bishop Burrows insisted on the “honourable” use of the term “subscribe” in the Church of Ireland, but that did not prevent the semantic distinction still making the planned motion sound rather like a highly nuanced pre-nuptial agreement arising from doubts about the contract in the first place, or a kind of arms’ length embracing of a loved one. Fine words of commitment may be uttered, but signing on the dotted line is carefully managed in order to try to avoid over-involvement. Bearing all of this in mind, one could be forgiven for wondering to what extent, if the covenant is considered unsuitable for the General Synod to “adopt”, there is any real heart on the part of those concerned even for “subscribing” it…
The Church of Ireland Gazette has an exclusive story. See Church of England should drop plans for women Bishops if major split would result, Bishop Tom Wright tells Gazette.
Speaking to [Ian Ellis] the Gazette editor in an interview while visiting Ireland, Bishop Tom Wright, former Bishop of Durham and now a Research Professor at the University of St Andrews, has said that the Church of England should not proceed to the consecration of women as Bishops if the move were to create a large division.
He said: “my own position is quite clear on this, that I have supported women Bishops in print and in person. I’ve spoken in Synod in favour of going that route, but I don’t think it’s something that ought to be done at the cost of a major division in the Church.”
Bishop Wright warned that if the Church of England were not able to resolve the matter “a ‘quick fix’ resolution” would be “a recipe for long-term disaster”…
And asked about the Anglican Covenant, he said this:
Asked if he thought the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant, aimed at keeping the global Communion together, would become a reality, Bishop Wright said: “I think so, because I don’t think really there’s any alternative.” He said the Communion could not afford to have “the kind of unstructured mess that we’ve had”.
Bishop Wright said that the Covenant “doesn’t foreclose on particular issues”. Rather, he explained, it “provides a framework within which you can have the discussion in a way which tries to keep all parties at the table. Obviously if parties decide to walk away from the table that’s their business, but without some sort of a structured framework what happens is, as always, that the loudest voices tend to win, or at least drown out the other ones, and I have seen that happen and it’s not a pretty sight.”
Asked to comment on what would happen if the Church of England rejected the Covenant proposal, Bishop Wright said: “That is always a possibility, and if that happens, then I suppose the thing would be dead in the water. But that’s a notional possibility which I don’t actually see as realistic.” Bishop Wright was visiting Ireland to give a series of talks to the 18th-21st October Down and Dromore clergy conference, held in Donegal Town.
The entire interview was recorded, and you can listen to the audio file here.
The Church of Ireland Gazette reports:
Christina Baxter, the Chair of the Church of England General Synod’s House of Laity, Principal of St John’s Theological College in Nottingham and a lay canon of Southwell, has paid tribute to those preparing for ordination in the Church of Ireland. In an interview with the Gazette editor during a visit at the end of August to the Diocese of Down and Dromore, where she led the Bishop’s Bible Week, Dr Baxter said that the Church of Ireland ordinands were all doing a professional certificate through St John’s College, which prepared them for Master’s level training. She said she had been working with the Church of Ireland Theological Institute Principal, Dr Maurice Elliott, on these arrangements.
For the full interview, go to this page.
Her views on the progress of English legislation on Women in the Episcopate may be of interest.
The Church of Ireland held its annual General Synod in Christ Church Cathedral Dublin from Thursday 6 to Saturday 8 May, 2010. There is an official Synod 2010 website with links to reports, news items and photographs.
One debate included some discussion of the proposed Anglican Covenant:
Inter-Anglican and Ecumenical Relations Highlighted in Standing Committee Debate.
Here is the Anglican Communion section of the Standing Committee report.
3. ANGLICAN COMMUNION
In June 2009, the Standing Committee appointed the Anglican Covenant Working Group to examine Section 4 of the Ridley Cambridge Draft of the Anglican Covenant and to recommend a response.
In September 2009, the Standing Committee adopted the report of the Anglican Covenant Working Group (Appendix B on page 233) as the official response to Section 4 of the Ridley Cambridge draft of the Anglican Covenant from the Standing Committee of the General Synod of the Church of Ireland. This response was then forwarded to the Anglican Communion Office.
The final text of the Anglican Covenant (Appendix C on page 234) was submitted to the Standing Committee in January 2010. The Committee agreed to refer the final text of the Anglican Covenant to the Commission for Christian Unity and Dialogue to enable the Commission to make a recommendation concerning appropriate action in relation to the Covenant at the General Synod 2011.
THE CHURCH OF IRELAND RESPONSE TO THE RIDLEY CAMBRIDGE DRAFT OF THE ANGLICAN COVENANT
Having considered Section 4 of the Draft Anglican Covenant very carefully, and bearing in mind a full range of points of view, we believe that the text of Section 4 as it stands commends itself in the current circumstances. The term ‘Joint Standing Committee’ clearly needs to be updated following its re-styling at ACC-14. We appreciate the work of the former Covenant Design Group, not least in taking into account the Church of Ireland’s views, and encourage the Archbishop of Canterbury and his new group under the chairmanship of the Archbishop of Dublin as they seek to conclude the work on the text of the Covenant.