Thinking Anglicans

Church of Ireland: Sexuality resolutions to be reintroduced

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Armagh, Alan Harper, on Thursday in dramatic scenes which led to two other motions about same-sex relationships being withdrawn.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.

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Rupert Moreton
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Rupert Moreton

It is blindingly obvious that the only thing to do at this stage is to suspend all further discussion of any motion relating to sexuality and marriage. ‘Abide,’ says Christ, not ‘legislate.’ Leave it alone, Your Grace. We’re just not ready. Unity cannot be imposed.

Pluralist
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I take the view that a Church, when it is so minded, does have the right to determine its boundaries. It is clearly unwelcoming to gay people in an active relationship and all that about bad language is so much flannel. The obvious thing is for gay people to leave. I don’t go on about entryism on the one hand, where other people start defining what are the boundaries of a Church, as in Southwark, to then not allow the relevant authority to define its boundaries. Ambiguity – old rules undecided – allow for space, but defining again makes things… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

Oh dear.
What an awful report.

JCF
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JCF

What MartinR said.

Kyrie eleison!

Rosemary Hannah
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Rosemary Hannah

Oh dear, indeed. But it is never just or only or mainly about sexuality. It is about how we can read the Bible. It is about how we understand Jesus. It is about how we live life. About how we understand the whole way we understand our relationship with the world: cautious, legalistic, fear-based, narrow/dangerous, grace-based, hopeful, open. That is why it matters to each and every one of us – this is why this issue is THE issue. It is not just about LGBT although I do realise is a pressing matter, life and death,even,to them. But the truth… Read more »

David Shepherd
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So…

LIBERAL FILTER ON: ignore or side-step that bit of Canon 31 (‘of one man with one woman’), since the framers of those canons clearly didn’t have in mind the faithful monogamous same-sex relationships that we see around us today. And, er, considering their ‘lived reality’, and the listening process and, um, inclusion, blah, blah, ad infinitum) and we’re all happy, right?

LIBERAL FILTER OFF.

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

The report in the Belfast Newsletter above claiming a Bishop “was openly jeered by large sections of the synod” was contradicted by an email from someone there that says: “It was not like that.”.

Not all decency lost then.

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

Once again I find myself agreeing with Rosemary Hannah’s analysis. These divergent opinions are not just about sex but about “how we read the bible”. Evolution, zoology, geology, genetics, palaentology, astrophysics etc have all called into question the way Genesis should be read. Like a divine sign to our age, literalism is overthrown. That then opens up debates on inerrancy, on what is meant by inspiration, on whether God really *did* mandate and order the ethnic cleansing of the Canaanites, or whether it was just the narrative of the victors, whether such accounts were even a reality at the time… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Susannah, of course, is right when she say that, for the fundamentalists (who may or may not have booed a Bishop of the Church in Synod) the issue is not really about sexuality itself – but rather about how they discern the Bible’s treatment of sexuality. In fact, the majority of texts on the subject seem to have grave difficulty with those disposed towards heterosexual conduct – certainly about divorce and promiscuity. In today’s debate about Gay Marriage, the idea is to alleviate the need for casual sex amongst those who happen to be intrinsically Gay, preferring to offer the… Read more »

JCF
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JCF

David, tell us about *your own filter*, please. Self-identifying liberals can speak for themselves.

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

Father Ron, I think what I’m implying is that you can oppose gay or lesbian intimacy out of loyalty to what you understand the bible to mean… rather than out of homophobia. What complicates the matter is that many people are sexist or homophobic as well, and then their “way of reading the bible” mandates their inherent homophobia. My point really is that the debate over homosexuality is simply a flash point and focus for the deeper debate of whether and in what way the Bible is inerrant. It seems like a God-given sign for our age, that literalism has… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Susannah “I think what I’m implying is that you can oppose gay or lesbian intimacy out of loyalty to what you understand the bible to mean… rather than out of homophobia.” I’m not so sure. And I don’t think that the debate on how to interpret the Bible is any more than a smokescreen either. Because no-one, absolutely no-one takes the bible literally. Everyone recognises myth, parable and even “literalists” distinguish between those things that have to be interpreted and those that can, indeed be read as literal. And so it comes down to what we want to read in… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

The real difference between my evangelical friends and my liberal friends is that liberals are willing to say “the bible is wrong here”, or “this is cultural and out-dated”, whereas my evangelical friends would never treat the bible like that but would search and pray until they found a way of incorporating difficult passages in their understanding of an issue. There are many accepting evangelicals who treat the bible with just as much love and respect as those who claim biblical orthodoxy for themselves, and yet they come to a pro-gay reading of it. Those who find it difficult will… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

So, what do presumed literalists like me believe? Peter claimed, ‘For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit’ I fully believe that MEN spoke: that they were fallible humans and that they expressed themselves using metaphors and idioms that related to their era. Nevertheless, Peter explains that the Holy Spirit steered their insights to predict events and warn generations with salvific clarity far beyond their own era and nation: ‘It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when… Read more »

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

Well Erika, I would say I have a liberal approach to the Bible, but I disagree with your analysis of what the biblical authors thought about man-man sex. My reading of the bible is that it condemns man-man sex where it has anything to say about it. It originally advocates stoning. Man-man sex is regarded (to use the Muslim term) as ‘haram’. It is outside the acceptable boundaries of their society. There was homophobia back then as there is today. And no effort is made in the new testament to repudiate previous condemnation of man-man sex. On the contrary, wherever… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Susannah,
“Well Erika, I would say I have a liberal approach to the Bible, but I disagree with your analysis of what the biblical authors thought about man-man sex.”

But that’s precisely my point.

We can approach the bible in various ways, none of them provides a foregone conclusion to how we read it or which verses we emphasise.

This is not about inerrancy or literalism but about which verses we declare to be inerrant, which verses we emphasise and which ones we read literally.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Susannah, I don’t actually think that I said anything at all about how I read the verses. I was trying to explain what I believe to be the core difference between a liberal approach to the bible and an evangelical one – both of which I respect. Liberals are happier to say that the bible is simply wrong on some issues and they are also willing to dismiss things as cultural and therefore no longer applicable. My evangelical friends do not do this. They will not just dismiss a part of the text but they will try to find ways… Read more »

LaurenceR
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LaurenceR

‘Loyalty to the Bible’.

Don’t make me laugh !

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

David wrote: “Yet, there is one way to avoid that trap, here we see several liberal commenters on a mission to invalidate very specific scriptures that contradict their own sexual traits. That is disingenuous, at best.” David, I am one of those liberal commenters, here in this thread. Firstly, my support for a Christian recognition and celebration of gay and lesbian sex, does not reflect my own sexual traits. You have made an assumption there. I am heterosexual. So I am not arguing for a contextual reading of the bible to mandate my own sexual orientation. On the contrary, I… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“And it is intellectually honest – not disingenuous as you put it – to face up to these challenges to think. The other route is denial of the world as it is, which loses the bible credibility among millions of decent truth-seekers, who can no longer take some biblical assertions literally, as in any way serious ore deserving of respect. Literalism is an affront to decent, truth-seeking people, and renders Christianity like other religious fundamentalisms in our world today, reacting to human advances by retreating into a dogmatic corral, and asserting “the bible is true because the bible says it… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Erika: “To me, this clearly proves that people who want to prohibit same sex love use the argument of inerrancy to shore up their anti-gay views.” No I really don’t agree. I agree that innate homophobia might often exist. It always has. But it may not. It is reasonable that someone – out of loyalty to God and their belief in an inerrant bible – may decide, even against their own sympathy for gay couples, that as the inerrant bible condemns man-man sex, they should accept that as God’s point of view. This seems credible to me especially as if… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Susannah, I think we’re not as far apart as it seems. You are making the point that the bible has a few verses that oppose male same sex activity. And you are saying that if you were a literalist, you would have to conclude that same sex relationships are forbidden. But what, then, do you make of my evangelical literalist friends who read the same passages and say that they literally say nothing about long term stable relationships and that they therefore do not speak to the question? Or what do you make of my other evangelical literalist friends who… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

Susannah, Thank you. While we may disagree on the nature of inerrancy, you’ve properly stated the majority evangelical position from a standpoint of one who will gain far more acceptance and far less antipathy on TA than I ever will. My question to you remains, ‘Why not jettison the whole bible as atheists do?’ I understand your point about the discoveries of science, but reconciling scripture with science is not the same as dismissing unpalatable biblical ideas about God. As with your ‘principles of love’, your attempt to explain away the divine authorisation of the massacre of the Canaanites reveals… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“There are separated and divorced evangelicals, who, in endeavouring to follow Christ (and probably against their personal yearning for a new life partner), find themselves unable to re-marry out of loyalty to Christ’s teaching on the lifelong permanence of marriage. They do not capitalise on today’s more relaxed church stance on re-marriage. They do judge themselves by the same yardstick that they apply elsewhere.” A most admirable stance and one that every committed Christian should apply to same sex relationships too. Let people do what they believe to be right but live your own life according to your own standards… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“Why not jettison the whole bible as atheists do?” – David Shepherd – I can’t speak for Susannah on this issue, but I can speak for many other Christians who, like me, do acknowledge the place of the Scriptures in our understanding of God’s way with humanity – through the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension (celebrated today) of God’s Only-Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. However, whatever else it may be, The Bible of not a ‘print-out’ of God’s unadulterated Word for all peoples of all times. The human agents God has used in the production of the biblical literature –… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

!!! David, why would I, as a Christian, want to “jettison the whole bible” !!!

I mean really, why would I want to do that?

+

David Shepherd
Guest

Ron, Regardless of how truth is being revealed or communicated to creation, the real issue is not whether revelation continues (it does), but whether it can contradict past OT and NT revelation. While there are many extra-biblical cultural traditions of which we all partake, we should oppose blatantly contra-biblical traditions as heresy, including those that claim that the Messiah did not participate in mortal human life. Tell me whether a new revelation could also contradict the fact of that incarnation, or that it was the Christ, Jesus from Nazareth, crucified under Pontius Pilate who secured our redemption, and not another?… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

” Unlike you, Christ did not claim that the Holy Spirit would commend contra-biblical worldliness as divinely authorised ‘progress’.” – David Shepherd – It all depends on what you consider to be ‘contra- biblical worldliness’. e.g: the position of women in the Bible – both Old and New Testaments – was contradicted by Jesus. As modern society has (so slowly) come to realise that Paul was actually already speaking truth when he said that “In Christ, there is neither male nor female” – Paul was overcoming his own inherited prejudice here. But it has taken the Holy Spirit time to… Read more »