A CHURCH of Ireland parish has carried out a survey which its rector claims shows overwhelming opposition to clergy in same-sex civil partnerships.
Amid continued controversy within Irish Anglicanism about same-sex relationships, the Rev Donard Collins, rector of Killowen Parish in Coleraine, said that his church’s select vestry had approved the questionnaire in the absence of leadership from the church’s bishops.
Mr Collins claimed that the church’s bishops — who met yesterday for further talks on the implications of the civil partnership of the Rev Tom Gordon — were “betraying by their collapse in favour of a misguided compromise”.
The move follows an inconclusive weekend conference on homosexuality from which many on both sides of the argument left feeling dissatisfied.
Mr Collins said that “in the continued absence of a united biblical directive from the Irish bishops” one of his parishioners had drafted three questions which his select vestry approved to be put to the congregation.
They asked: “One: do you think it is right for Christians to have same-sex relationships?
“Two: is it right for church leaders (clergy) to have same-sex relationships?
“Three: do you believe that the Bible condemns this practice?”
In a letter to the News Letter, Mr Collins said: “In every one of 64 responses the replies were the same. One: no to Christians having same-sex relationships.
“Two: no to clergy having same-sex relationships.
“Three: yes to a belief that the Bible condemns this practice.”
It is understood that the church’s influential standing committee, which shapes the agenda for May’s decision-making General Synod, will meet today and it is expected that the issue of gay clergy will be raised at synod in some form.
Gerry Lynch, a parishioner of St George’s church in Belfast and the northern spokesman for the pro-gay lobby group Changing Attitude Ireland, said that the church was not doing enough to tackle prejudice against gay people.
“The church needs to learn to talk about difficult issues before they arise,” he said.
“I think the church needs to be talking about some of the things they didn’t talk about at the weekend like homophobia and the bad treatment which gay men, and women especially, experience in the Church of Ireland in Northern Ireland.
“If church homophobia is exposed it has the capacity to make life very difficult and embarrassing for conservatives in the Church of Ireland and it’s a conversation that urgently needs to begin.”