Veteran synod member fears for Church of Ireland’s future as annual congress draws near

An erstwhile member of the Church of Ireland synod has spoken about his fears for the future of the denomination as it gets ready to host its annual congress this week.

Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 3:16 pm
Rev Paul Robinson and activist Stephen Spillane with a modified rainbow flag at St Anne’s Church, Shandon, Cork, during the summer; the flag is used by those who feel the existing rainbow flag was not 'inclusive' enough, so the pale pink and blue stripes have been added to represent transgender people, and the brown and black ones to represent Black Lives Matter
Rev Paul Robinson and activist Stephen Spillane with a modified rainbow flag at St Anne’s Church, Shandon, Cork, during the summer; the flag is used by those who feel the existing rainbow flag was not 'inclusive' enough, so the pale pink and blue stripes have been added to represent transgender people, and the brown and black ones to represent Black Lives Matter

Dermot O’Callaghan, in his mid-70s and from Hillsborough in Co Down, first joined the synod in about 1970, and had remained a member until recently.

The synod will meet from Thursday to Saturday. The gatherings will be online, not in person.

Asked his message for those attending, Mr O’Callaghan said: “I think they need to be thinking about where the church is going, particularly in the context of sexuality.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Dermot O'Callaghan

“I’ve got a newspaper cutting in front of me here. It’s the Daily Mail, from August 23: ‘Scotland lets pupils aged four change their gender’.

“We seem to lost the ability to look rationally at things. There’s been a big push from the activists on the gay side, and to me we’re going to make a lot of big mistakes if we’re not careful.”

In recent years the News Letter has reported on the changing objectives of LGBTQ+ campaigners, both within and outside the church.

These objectives go far beyond advocating for the acceptance of gay marriage, and seek to change the fabric of gender itself.

For example, last June the News Letter reported that the general synod’s Church and Society Commission had called for the recognition of “non-binary people”.

This refers to people who do not want to be regarded as male or female, but as some new category like “neutrois”, “genderqueer”, or “two-spirit”.

The commission said that “for many people, gender is a spectrum made up of many different fluctuating societal norms”.

When the Church of Ireland’s press office was asked about this, it contradicted the commission, saying: “The Church of Ireland’s teaching recognises two genders – male and female – and is unchanged.”

And in June this year, gender campaigner Jayne Ozanne was invited to address a church service in Co Cork during which she called for certain types of prayer to become criminal offences.

“Prayer isn’t prayer if it causes you to hate yourself for being LGBT!” she said.

“It is actually ‘hate prayer’. It is dangerous, damaging, and must be included in a bill to ban conversion therapy.”

Mr O’Callaghan said there is a “divergence” within the church over these matters, adding: “If it does continue, there’s no way you can reconcile the two sides.”

When it comes to the future unity of the church, he said: “I would be hopeful that there wouldn’t be a split – but I wouldn’t be confident.”

As to when this might happen he said: “I’d have thought this decade [we are] going to have to sort things out.”

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to newsletter.co.uk and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.newsletter.co.uk/subscriptionsnow to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Ben Lowry

Acting Editor