Church of Ireland General Synod to debate same-sex marriage

The Church of Ireland is to debate and vote upon a motion on same-sex unions at its general synod in Co Limerick this week.

Tuesday, 2nd May 2017, 10:42 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:20 pm
Same-sex marriage

The general synod is the main decision-making body of the Church of Ireland, meeting once a year.

A private member’s motion is set to be debated on Friday, calling for the church to acknowledge the “injury felt by members of the church who enter into loving, committed and legally recognised, same-sex relationships, due to the absence of provision for them to mark that key moment in their lives publicly and prayerfully in church”.

The motion also “respectfully requests the House of Bishops to investigate a means to develop sensitive, local pastoral arrangements for public prayer and thanksgiving with same-sex couples at these key moments in their lives, and to present their ideas to general synod 2018, with a view to making proposals at general synod 2019.”

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The 2017 general synod, due to be held at South Court Hotel, Limerick from Thursday to Saturday, will not be the first time the Church of Ireland has formally debated and voted upon same-sex marriage.

In 2012 the general synod passed a resolution affirming the church’s understanding of marriage as being between one man and one woman.

Meanwhile, the church has for the past three years had a select committee looking at human sexuality in the context of Christian faith. The committee itself did not bring forward the motion for the general synod, but both the proposer, Dr Leo Kilroy, and the seconder, Rev Brian O’Rourke, were members.

Canon Ian Ellis, editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette, a weekly and editorially independent church newspaper, told the News Letter the motion “ does not seek to change the Church of Ireland’s traditional teaching on marriage”, a position Canon Ellis said he supports.

However, he did say: “I believe the church has to consider how it is going to relate in pastoral terms to churchgoers who are in same-sex civil marriages. I do not believe that such couples should be barred from receiving holy communion.”

He continued: “It seems to me that it would be good to have some way, perhaps in a liturgical format, of assuring such church members that they are no less members of the church by virtue of the fact that they are in a same-sex civil marriage.

“This is about allowing people to have different views on the subject, in their Christian conscience.”

Meanwhile, Rev Dr Alan McCann, rector of Holy Trinity Woodburn in Carrickfergus, writing for the ‘global orthodox Anglican news service’ Virtue Online, said he would seek to have the motion rejected.

He did not, however, give a confident prediction the motion would indeed be rejected.

Rev McCann wrote: “At this moment, it would be impossible to say what the outcome of that vote would be.”

He added: “We are deluded as a church if we believe that by embracing this sinful way of life we are going to fill our church pews each week. The very opposite is true.

“In my own parish, I have already lost families who no longer wished to belong to a denomination that could not be clear on the plain teaching of the Bible on sexual matters, and I fear that may well become an exodus.”