On Thursday, the Church of Ireland Synod meets in Dublin to discuss Resolution 8A introduced by His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, and His Lordship the Bishop of Down & Dromore, Harold Miller. The motions follow on from The Conference on
Human Sexuality Homosexuality in March in the Slieve Russell Hotel in County Cavan. This conference had no input from LGBT members of the Church of Ireland.
It is important to remember the General Synod, the governing body of the Church of Ireland, is made up of three Houses: the Laity, the Clergy, and the Bishops.
The resolution being debated on Thursday has many LGB members of the Church of Ireland worried and rightly so. The resolution reads as follows:
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 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 campaign believes that the last paragraph is the big problem.
The final paragraph is the most nasty of all. For it is the one that will legitimise witch-hunts against gay clergy; it is the one that will allow gay people to be excluded from Holy Communion; and it demeans the relationships of remarried divorcees.
It is clear that the Church of Ireland needs to listen to it’s LGBT members. The Synod and the Church needs to engage with the members it is passing judgement on. They have written an Open Letter to the General Synod which reads as follows:
As Church of Ireland members, who are lesbian, gay or bisexual, we were not consulted as the Bishop of Down and Dromore and Archbishop of Dublin drafted the resolutions on sexuality before General Synod this week. Had we been, we would have been clear that writing 655 words about people in same-gender relationships without one good thing to say about us is unacceptable.
By stating that faithfulness within marriage is the only ‘normative’ context for sex, Resolution 8A imposes a condition that people in faithful same-gender relationships cannot comply with. The implication that members of the Church of Ireland in relationships other than marriage are in breach of the Catechism gives legitimacy, for the first time, to excluding lay people in same-gender relationships from Holy Communion.
At the conference on homosexuality in March, some clergy said they refused the Sacrament to people in faithful same-gender relationships. The Bishops have done nothing to challenge such behaviour yet claim the right to lecture us about our relationships with the people we love.
Resolution 8A provides a pretext to launch witch-hunts against gay clergy in liberal Dioceses. This has happened in the Anglican Church in Australia since similar motions were passed by their General Synod in 2004.
Although Resolution 8A has been drafted to say all things to all people, once an official statement of policy is passed, the intentions of its drafters are irrelevant. History is littered with motions and legislation that functioned in ways contrary to the wishes of their drafters.
Nine years ago, our Bishops promised to start listening to us. This year, they see fit to table high-handed motions at General Synod while kicking the long-promised listening process into touch for another year. Most people would find the idea of beginning a consultation process after passing official policies odd, to say the least.
These Resolutions should have been brought through the normal democratic procedures of the Church of Ireland, but were not. They have been sprung upon members of General Synod allowing no time for wider debate in the Church. By doing so, those Bishops disrespect our Church’s democracy. Putting off this debate for a year or two to allow real listening will hardly kill us.
- Lesbians write letter to members of General Synod as well (8anoway.com)
- Resolution 8A – it’s Anti-Gay. (8anoway.com)
- Bishops’ Conference: ‘Human Sexuality in the context of Christian Belief’ (kiwianglo.wordpress.com)
- LGBT Churchpeople still not being listened to @churchofireland (8anoway.com)
- Book Launch: Moving Forward Together: Homosexuality and the Church of Ireland (faithandpride.org)
- Press Statement on Same-Sex Forum in the Church of Ireland (kiwianglo.wordpress.com)
- Irish Church Debate Gay Clergy (queeringthechurch.com)