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, which stigmatises any sexual relationship outside opposite-sex marriage as not ‘normative’. 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.
There is a culture of fear in parts of the Church of Ireland, especially for clergy. That is why some of us can only sign this letter anonymously.