On Saturday the General Synod of the Church of Ireland passed a motion on Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief. While the motion in itself is not overtly homophobic, it has created a fear that it could be used against those of us in the Church who are Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender members.
Similar motions have been used in other provinces of the Anglican Communion to get rid of openly gay clergy and to close down debate on marriage and other issues.
For those of us opposed to this motion it was also a blow for the aim of an inclusive church. But it is not the end. The motion stipulates that “The General Synod requests the Standing Committee to progress work on the issue of Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief and also to bring a proposal to General Synod 2013 for the formation of a Select Committee with terms of reference including reporting procedures.”
We were saddened at the way the original motion was submitted and then, having been thrown out on Thursday and withdrawn, it was cobbled together in a revised motion to be debated on the Saturday, which also saw the debate being curtailed by his Lordship the Primate of all Ireland Archbishop of Armagh, The Most Rev. Alan Harper, bringing an end to one of the longest debates at Synod in many years.
This is not the end. Much like debate around the ordination of women in the Church in the early 90s, this debate at Synod is only the beginning. There is hope for those opposed to this as we do have people in the General Synod who agree with us.
Two members of the House of Bishops, The Bishop of Cork, Cloyne & Ross, The Right Rev. Paul Colton and The Bishop of Cashel and Ossory, The Right Rev. Michael Burrows, voted against the motion. In the House of Clergy 53 members voted against, and in the House of Laity 60 against. These are people we need to be thankful for. Those who stood and spoke against the motion are also to be thanked for speaking up for an inclusive Church.
The fight back begins now.
On Sunday International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) Services took place in Churches and Cathedrals in Dublin, Cork, Derry/Londonderry, Limerick and Waterford, a service will take place in Belfast this coming Sunday. This event normally only takes place in three cities and to see the services double in number this year should give heart to those of us in the Church of Ireland who are looking for an inclusive church.
The Service in Cork, in St Anne’s Union Shandon, began with an apology. The Rev Brian O’Rourke is a member of the House of Clergy of the General Synod and explained to a packed church what had happened and how he himself has questioned his Ministry in the light of the Synod motion.
In a wonderful service, the Gospel reading was the part that should be taken to heart. In Gospel of St John, Chapter 15:
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
This one line is what we must remind our brothers and sisters of is the key Christ teachings on Earth and it is how we will be judged.
Many people have counselled me and others that following this motion those of us opposed to this motion should leave the Church. To me that would be an own goal.
Those of us who want an inclusive Church must stay and fight for our Church. Groups like Changing Attitudes Ireland and those who signed the open letter and petition against this motion must, I contend, get more involved. We can no longer stay on the sidelines of our Church. If we wish the Church to be an open and inclusive place for others as it has been for us, we need to get involved in our Parishes, Dioceses and of course the Synod.
I pray that this is not end but only beginning of the fight for an inclusive, open and welcoming Church which will have open arms for anyone no matter who you are or who you love.