BY SAM McBRIDE
A SENIOR Church of Ireland minister has entered a same-sex civil partnership.
In what is believed to be the first gay union involving a serving Church of Ireland cleric, the Very Rev Tom Gordon, who is originally from Portadown, yesterday confirmed that he had formalised the relationship under new laws introduced in the Republic earlier this year.
The Rev Gordon, who is Dean of Leighlin Cathedral in Co Carlow, said that the ceremony had taken place at a registry office on July 29.
A spokesman for the Churchof Ireland declined to comment in detail, saying that it was a “civil matter”.
It is understood that there was one other case previously, which involved a retired Church of Ireland minister who entered a civil partnership.
The development seems certain to re-ignite the fierce and long-running Anglican debate about homosexuality.
Generally the Church of Ireland has been more conservative than the larger Church of England, which has seen several clergy enter civil partnerships since the new unions were created by the government in 2005 but requires them to affirm that they will remain celibate in the partnerships.
When contacted by the News Letter yesterday at his home in Carlow, the Rev Gordon said: “I’m a very transparent person and I can confirm with you that yes, the civil partnership happened on July 29. That’s a matter of openness.”
The 54-year-old cleric said that he “hadn’t really” thought about the reaction to his decision to enter a civil partnership.
However, when asked whether he had spoken to the church prior to his decision and whether he had received support from the church, the Rev Gordon said: “I don’t think that I would be prepared to comment on anything else on that.
“I’m a very, very transparent person. I would be surprised if this came as a surprise to anyone and I suppose that is as far as I would really want to comment.”
A spokesman for the Church of Ireland said: “This is a civil matter. I understand that it [the partnership] has taken place. In answer to your enquiry about whether it is the first instance [of a Church of Ireland minister entering a civil partnership], I understand that it is not”.
The Rev Gordon has been in the Republic since 1991. He is a former lecturer at the Church of Ireland theological college in Dublin and is coordinator of religious programmes involving the Protestant churches for RTE.
In January 2009 the Church of Ireland Gazette reported that the Rev Gordon was one of two staff at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute who were “leaving their posts this year ‘by mutual agreement’ between the church and themselves”.
Last September the Rev Gordon was installed as Dean of the Cathedral of St Laserian, Leighlin, in the Diocese of Cashel and Ossory.
A report on the diocesan website said that the service was conducted by Bishop Michael Burrows and the preacher was the Rev Dr Adrian Empey, former principal of the Church of Ireland Training College.
Bishop Burrows is seen as being one of the church’s most liberal bishops and prior to being appointed a bishop said that he regularly gave communion to practising homosexual couples.
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