The Bishop of Cork has declared his support for civil same-sex marriage, becoming the first Church of Ireland Bishop to do so.
In a first for a Church of Ireland bishop, he also said that he hoped one day the church would “one day” be ready to allow religious same-sex marriage services, or blessings for gay couples.
The Bishop Dr Paul Colton made the comments on BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence program today.
He said: “The events in society are moving very rapidly and the church is not at all up to pace with the debate.
“I certainly support civil same sex marriage.
“I also recognise that the church of Ireland’s definition of marriage is for itself and I adhere to that discipline… but that is not to say that everyone must be required to take the church of Ireland’s view of marriage.
“Having said that I’m also among those in the church, and perhaps we’re only a minority, albeit a significant one that long to see the day when we can have a discussion – as we’ve had discussions over the years on all sorts of other issues about the nature of marriage – with a view, ultimately, at least to the blessing of same sex couples following civil unions if not to their marriage in church as is happening in other parts of the Anglican communion.”
Dr Richard O’Leary, chairman of Changing Attitude Ireland, said: “The bishop’s acknowledgement of the hurt that the church has inflicted on its gay and lesbian members is greatly appreciated especially as it comes on the day we are holding services to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT).”
It marks the first time a Church of Ireland Bishop has spoken so openly about the prospect of religious same-sex marriage within the church.
Ireland is due to hold a referendum on equal marriage next year.
Although polls have found up to 76% in favour of the policy, referendums in Ireland are often unpredictable.