Monday, March 12, 2012

Irish close no doors

The Church of Ireland has had a conference on human sexuality and its bishops have issued a joint statement. Here's an excerpt:

"The format included a range of facilitated seminars on themes as diverse as the welcome provided to gay people in church to recent changes in legislation to whether or not there can be ‘agreeable disagreement’ over gay clergy. It further involved listening to the direct experience of gay Christians and to parents of gay children. There was a clear appreciation of the integrity and principled positions of those expressing different views. It has become clear that there is a breadth of opinion in the Church of Ireland on these matters but also a strong sense of the cohesiveness of the Church. While it is acknowledged that there are still difficult issues for us as a Church, there is not an atmosphere of division.

The intention of the conference was one of enabling open discussion, rather than one of articulating policy or making decisions. We observed a common desire to welcome all people to participate in the life of the Church, whilst accepting that there are no easy answers to difficult questions. In response to the Holy Spirit, the Church seeks to witness to society – with humility – rather than simply reflect current popular opinion. The conference comes at a time when there are live cultural and political debates relating to ‘same-sex marriage’. Within this context, the Church’s position on marriage as being the union of one man and one woman remains constant."
What a great model for the rest of the Communion: cohesiveness, willingness to explore issues in respectful conversation and a constant position on marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

UPDATE: for a different view of proceedings, read here.


Father Ron Smith said...

I agree Peter. The Church of Ireland is a model to us all - in its readiness to sit down together and discuss the situation of the LGBT community in the Church.

I used to hold your opinion on the sanctity of Marriage being reserved for heterosexual couples - with the capacity to procreate. However, now that the Church marries couples who are not capable of producing off-spring - the argument is different.

Furthermore, since conservative Church people have denied to gays the prospect of a Blessing for a monogamous Civil Partnership, they cannot blame society for wanting an official state of marriage for Same-Sex partnerships, in lieu.

I feel that, if the Church had been more open to a simple Same-Sex Blessing, the request for Same-Sex Marriage may never have arisen.

Father Ron Smith said...

From your link on this thread, in the last sentence, Peter, (presumably, part of a letter to a friend - one Mr David Virtue?), one Church of Ireland clergy-person was not too happy at the Bishops' presentation! Obviously shocked at his Church's willingness to engage in the 'Windsor Report's Listening Process. I do feel sorry for him.

Andrew Reid said...

David Virtue has taken down that article - even Google cache doesn't have a copy. I did manage to read it briefly yesterday.

Peter, as you know, conferences and official dialogues always look glowing and positive in press releases, but the participants may have a different view. I haven't looked, but it's possible some of the participants who supported homosexual relationships may have come away feeling the conservatives "dominated proceedings" or "drowned them out". As the TEC experience shows, the orthodox often have a very different view of events which are characterised in official press releases as "marked by charity and unity" and "respectful listening to different views".

With regards to the listenting process, it began not with the Windsor Process, but with the 1998 Lambeth Conference, some 13 years ago. Perhaps the Church of Ireland is a bit late getting started on this, but most provinces are now at the point where we need to end the "open discussion", which is usually code for "pointless talk while we change the facts on the ground", and make some decisions about our future direction.

I hope the Church of Ireland is genuine in its statement regarding its constant position on marriage between a woman and a man. And I hope that it conducts its decision making with Biblical faithfulness, careful listening and consideration, and adherence to its canons. But I'll need more than a press release to be convinced.