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.