The Church of Ireland General Synod will discuss this week the ‘hurt and injury’ felt by gay people as a result of the actions taken by those within the denomination in addition to a motion affirming its view that gays should not be allowed to marry.

630 clergy and laity have come together at the General Synod at Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral to discuss a range of matters affecting the denomination, which has around 365,000 members.

The first motion on human sexuality, 8A, says: “The Church of Ireland continues to uphold its teaching that marriage is part of God’s creation and a holy mystery in which one man and one woman become one flesh.”

It continues that the Church will recognise “for itself and of itself, no other understanding of marriage than that provided for in the totality of Canon 31 [which defines marriage as being between a man and a woman]” and that therefore “faithfulness within marriage is the only normative context for sexual intercourse”.

The second motion, 8B, states: “The Church of Ireland welcomes all people to be members of the Church. It is acknowledged, however, that members of the Church have at times hurt and wounded people by words and actions, in relation to human sexuality.

“Therefore, in order that the Church of Ireland is experienced as a ‘safe place’ and enabled in its reflection, the Church of Ireland affirms:
• A continuing commitment to love our neighbour, and opposition to all unbiblical and uncharitable actions and attitudes in respect of human sexuality from whatever perspective, including bigotry, hurtful words or actions, and demeaning or damaging language;
• A willingness to increase our awareness of the complex issues regarding human sexuality;
• A determination to welcome and to make disciples of all people.”

Revd Alan Harper, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion, addressed the assembled ahead of discussions over the coming three days.

PA reports Archbishop Harper saying: “The second motion acknowledges openly the hurt and injury experienced at times by lesbian and gay people as a result of the words and actions of Church members. It articulates the commitment of the Church of Ireland to being sensitive to the pastoral needs of gay and lesbian people and a safe and welcoming place for everyone.”

He continued: “Members of the General Synod, this is but work in progress and it is work not for bishops alone but for the General Synod on behalf of the Church of Ireland as a whole.

“Leadership in the Church of Ireland, especially in the context of the role of bishops, consists not in telling the Church what to think but in assisting the Church in coming to a richer, deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the faith we have received.

“The archbishops and bishops of the Church of Ireland guard and define the doctrine of the Church only to the extent that they may be called upon to declare whether or not a particular view is consonant with the current teaching of the Church as the Church of Ireland has received it. Ultimate sovereignty under God rests with the General Synod.”

A letter from Church of Ireland members to the Irish Independent today said of 8A: “By stating that faithfulness within marriage is the only ‘normative’ context for sex, Resolution 8A imposes a condition that people in faithful, same-gender relationships cannot comply with.

“The implication that members of the Church of Ireland in relationships other than marriage are in breach of the Catechism gives legitimacy, for the first time, to excluding lay people in same-gender relationships from Holy Communion.”

They added: “Resolution 8A provides a pretext to launch witchhunts against gay clergy in liberal dioceses. This has happened in the Anglican Church in Australia since similar motions were passed by their General Synod in 2004.

“Although Resolution 8A has been drafted to say all things to all people, once an official statement of policy is passed, the intentions of its drafters are irrelevant.”

A poll in Ireland last year found 73 percent support for allowing gay couples to marry, with nearly three-quarters agreeing with the statement: “Same sex marriage should be allowed in the Constitution”.

A civil partnership between a senior Church of Ireland minister, Rev Tom Gordon Dean of Leighlin Cathedral, Co Carlow, announced in September last year was thought to be the first for a serving minister.