Church of Ireland general synod member ready to quit if gender stance changes

A man who has served for about half-a-century on the Church of Ireland’s general synod has said he will leave the church altogether if it recognises “non-binary gender identities”.

By Adam Kula
Wednesday, 3rd June 2020, 6:30 am
Updated Wednesday, 3rd June 2020, 10:08 am
Dermot O’Callaghan is a lay reader in the Church of Ireland and has been a general synod member for 50 years
Dermot O’Callaghan is a lay reader in the Church of Ireland and has been a general synod member for 50 years

Dermot O’Callaghan, in a letter to the News Letter (see link beneath this article) said that if such a change in doctrine ever occurs, not only will he abandon his erstwhile spiritual home, but “I fear that God will leave it too”.

Mr O’Callaghan, who joined the general synod in around 1970 and is a lay reader within the church (meaning he can take services among other duties), was reacting to a News Letter exclusive on Monday.

The paper revealed that the Church of Ireland’s Church and Society Commission – chaired by Bishop of Limerick Kenneth Kearon – had called for the recognition of “intersex, transgender and non-binary people”.

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Whilst intersex is a medically-recognised condition (based on things like unusual development of reproductive organs) transgenderism and “non-binary identities” are more contentious issues, which have emerged from relative obscurity in recent years to become touchstone causes for many left-leaning activists.

Fundamentally transgenderism has come to mean anyone who feels their “gender identity” is different from their biological sex, whilst non-binary refers to people who believe their true selves are neither male nor female, but some other gender (such as two-spirit, neutrois, womxn, gender-queer, gender-fluid, genderless, agender, bi-gender, or many more).

There was already a deep split within the Anglican communion between orthodox and liberal approaches to gay marriage; for example last year Coalisland rector Rev Andrew Rawding made headlines when he publicly apologised “for how the church still mistreats LGBTQI+ people” (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer / questioning, intersex, and more).

But in addition to gay marriage, gay adoption, and the existence of homosexuals within congregations and the ranks of the clergy, churches now face far more fundamental social issues such as whether there is any such thing as “men” and “women” at all.

Mr O’Callaghan noted that the Book of Genesis refers to the creation of “male and female” (Gen. 1:27: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”) and dubbed attempts to recognise “non-binary gender identity” as “gender subversion”.

As well as being one of the 400-plus members of the general synod, Mr O’Callaghan, aged 73, is also a director of a company called the Core Issues Trust, which describes itself as “challenging gender confusion, upholding science and conscience”.

When the News Letter had posed questions to the Church of Ireland’s central communication office about the church commission’s call to recognise multiple genders, it responded by saying the commission’s views “only become representative of the church as a whole when given approval by the general synod”.

It added church teaching “recognises two genders, male and female, and is unchanged”.

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