Same-sex marriage: Church of Ireland body’s stance ‘makes no sense’

A prominent Anglican traditionalist has dismissed as nonsensical the decision by a major Church of Ireland body to accept gay marriages.

By Adam Kula
Tuesday, 3rd March 2020, 2:24 pm
Marchers at Belfast's gay pride parade in 2016
Marchers at Belfast's gay pride parade in 2016

Rev Tim Anderson was speaking after The News Letter broke the news last week that the Church and Society Commission – a body set up by the general synod – has come out in support of gay Northern Irish people who want to convert civil partnerships into fully-fledged marriages.

Rev Anderson, who ministers in St Elizabeth’s, Dundonald, is Irish chairman of the conservative movement GAFCON (the Global Anglican Future Conference).

He stressed he was speaking in a personal capacity rather than as a spokesman for the whole Gafcon movement.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

He blasted the commission’s stance, saying it “assumes that there is more than one legitimate definition of marriage - a secular definition and a religious one”.

This is wrong because “it undermines the Christian position that in God’s eyes marriage is a lasting creation ordinance”.

He told the News Letter: “It was ordained by God at the beginning of creation and is as permanent as creation itself.

“Jesus himself confirmed this when he quoted Genesis 2.24 in discussion with the religious leaders of his day [“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh”].

“It means that marriage does not need to be reinvented with the progress of time and nor according to cultural preferences and secular agendas...

“Christians do not deny the reality or existence of same sex unions (although we do not condone them). But these unions are not marriages.”

He concluded the commission’s statement “makes no doctrinal sense and creates confusion within the Christian community and in wider society”.

The controversy first arose due to the government’s consultation into the rules governing gay marriages in Northern Ireland.

All the main churches wrote to the government offering their opinions.

The Church of Ireland commission wrote: “If it has been decided to legalise same-sex marriage in a territory where such couples were previously only able to form civil partnerships, it should be permitted for them to convert such a partnership to a marriage.”

When this was made public, the Church of Ireland press office stressed that it does not “alter the church’s understanding of how it celebrates marriage” (which remains between a man and a woman) and claimed that its position has been “made clear”.

It was “entirely misleading” to imply the commission had “decided to defy the doctrinal position of the Church of Ireland”, it said.

On Saturday, the gay Anglican campaign group Changing Attitude Ireland that said “whilst the response from the commission may appear to differ from the church’s official stance... it is broadly representative of the feeling of the general membership of the CoI as a whole across the island of Ireland, and reflective of the universal sea-change in people’s understanding of human sexuality”.