Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Church of Ireland's strange path to affirming traditional marriage

Traditional marriage, that is, the union of one man and one woman as established way back in Genesis 2, is still the official teaching of the Church of Ireland after a soap opera-like debate in the General Synod punctuated by dubious procedural motions and unlikely episcopal alliances. The end result left the pan-sexual revisionists whining, which is probably a good thing.
The General Synod of the Church of Ireland today passed a motion affirming the church’s traditional teaching on marriage and repeating its welcome to all people as members of the church by two to one majority.

It also requests its standing committee to progress work on the issue of human sexuality in the context of Christian belief and to bring proposals to next year’s General Synod for the formation of a select committee with terms of reference and including reporting procedures.

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. The General Synod, which began on Thursday, concluded this evening

The vote by the bishops was the sixth of the day and ended proceedings, which extended for four-and-a-half hours, from approximately 10.30am until shortly after 3pm this afternoon.

Much discussion surrounded four proposed amendments to the main motion.

Voting was by division, the first time this has been done since 1990 at a General Synod. The motion then concerned the women priests issue. In all instances yesterday the amendments did not secure majority support.

A form of the motion passed today had first been introduced at last Thursday’s session of the General Synod but was withdrawn by synod president Archbishop Alan Harper following a point or order. It was announced yesterday it had been modified and was being reintroduced with the debate and voting to take place today.

The motion emerged following a special two-day General Synod conference on human sexuality at the Slieve Russell hotel in Co Cavan on March 9th and 10th last.

It was called by the church’s bishops last October following disclosures the previous month that the Dean of Leighlin (Carlow), the Rev Tom Gordon, and his male partner of 20 years had entered a civil partnership last July.

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

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

Gerry Lynch of the same group said: “Both the way the motion on sexuality was submitted and the vote itself confirmed many LGBT persons’ experience of the Churches as the last bastion of homophobia.”
As is almost always the case in church debates over sexuality, this one is far from over. The charge to the "standing committee to progress work on the issue of human sexuality in the context of Christian belief and to bring proposals to next year's General Synod for the formation of a select committee with terms of reference and including reporting procedures" (translation: "blah, blah, blah") pretty much guarantees this fight will go at least several more rounds.