HUNDREDS of senior Church of Ireland members will today begin a two-day debate on the issue some fear could split the church – gay clergy.
The crucial talks, being held in Co Cavan, will bring together about 450 bishops, clergy and senior lay members from opposing wings of the church.
Some believe that same-sex relationships are sinful and shameful while others believe that they should be celebrated and affirmed by the church.
The meeting was called by the church’s bishops last year in an attempt to stop a split over the first civil partnership involving a serving Anglican minister in Ireland.
Dean Tom Gordon’s same-sex union – revealed by the News Letter last September – led to dramatic and highly unusual public calls from conservative members of the church, many of whom are in Northern Ireland, for Dean Gordon and his bishop to be disciplined.
All the Christian Churches are having to face up to the challenges to traditional teaching presented by the existence of gay or lesbian clergy, ever since came out as an openly gay pastor in the in , and Troy Perry responded to his expulsion from the Baptists by founding his own church, the MCC. Once invisible, they are no longer necessarily hiding in the shadows. Some denominations, like the European Lutherans and the American United Church, have been accepting openly gay clergy for years, the Episcopal Church in the US has both gay and a lesbian bishop. The Roman Catholic Church could scarcely exist without its many gay priests, but almost all of them must remain deeply closeted. The Church of England faces potentially deep divisions on the matter, which has been overshadowed by the other acrimonious debate, on women bishops – but cannot avoid the issue for much longer. Other denominations, like the Church of Ireland, are grappling with the transition to full inclusion for LGBT equality.
The transformation over just half a century has been extraordinary, and with the help of the Holy Spirit will most certainly continue. I cannot say what will be the outcome of this week’s meeting in Ireland, but it’s a sure bet that they will get openly gay and lesbian clergy: if not yet, then in a few more years.
- A Gay Priest’s Journey, From Exile to Reconciliation
- Petition: allow CofE clergy to bless civil partnerships in church
- English Bishop Backs Gay Marriage: Queer Ferment in the Anglican Church.
- Gay Bishop Charles Otis, on Homosexuality and Faith
- Catching up on Queer Saints – Bridgid of Ireland, and others.
- Church of Ireland hold conference on gay issues – one gay speaker (mamanpoulet.com)