Home

Church of Ireland Home

Day 2

Motion Urging Bishops to Seek Pastoral Arrangements for Same Sex Couples Defeated at Synod

A private members motion requesting the House of Bishops to investigate a means to develop sensitive, local pastoral arrangements for public prayer and thanksgiving at key moments in the lives of same–sex couples, and to present their ideas to General Synod 2018, with a view to making proposals at General Synod 2019 was defeated at General Synod this afternoon.

The motion in the names of Dr Leo Kilroy and the Revd Brian O’Rourke also called on General Synod to acknowledge the injury felt by members of the Church who enter into loving, committed and legally recognised same sex relationships due to the absence of provision for them to mark that key moment in their lives in church.

The motion stated that any pastoral arrangements should not infringe Canon 31 and the facilitation of such arrangements would not impair the communion between an individual bishop or diocese with any other bishop or dioceses of the Church of Ireland.

A request for a vote by orders was requested. Archbishop Richard Clarke said that if the motion was passed that the clergy and laity would be asking the bishops to consider it. Therefore, he said that the bishops would not comment on the debate and would not vote on the motion as the motion was making a request of the bishops. Regardless of whether the motion passed or not, he said the bishops would listen intently.

Proposing Motion 12, Dr Kilroy said that the motion recognised that a diversity of principled conviction remains, but it also places the importance of church unity at the forefront. He said that one of the strengths of Anglicanism was the ability to support a variety of traditions and accommodate difference of opinion on many matters. He suggested that human sexuality could be just another of those things we could agree to differ on.

“Many of your brothers and sisters in our Church are lesbian and gay. They are people that you meet at Church every Sunday, ordinary people living ordinary lives; some are single and others are in committed, loving relationships. Advances in civic society in recent years have seen LGBT people achieve many rights and legal protections, including, frameworks for legal union. But many lesbian and gay people continue feel gravely hurt by the Church. They have been injured by the lack of compassion shown by some, who cling to a small number of disparate and disputed verses that exist in pockets of the Bible, and claim a divine rejection of gay people,” he said.

Dr Kilroy spoke of his own experience as a young gay man and his struggle following rejection and stigmatization by other Christians. He also spoke of his civil marriage and the sadness he and his partner felt at the lack of support available to them in their Church at this key point in their lives.

“This motion is not asking for marriage in the Church. I understand that many of you hold the Church’s definition of marriage dearly. This motion is careful to protect Canon 31. It is simply calling for permission to develop ways to publicly and pastorally support and celebrate lesbian and gay people at important times in their lives. I am appealing to all of you, and particularly those of you in the middle ground of our Church to vote in favour of this motion. A yes vote is a vote to urge the House of Bishops to find a way forward for the Church. I trust the twelve people who sit on the bench behind me. I trust them to show leadership on this crucial pastoral matter, while at the same protecting the essential unity of the Church. Voting yes today is not voting for a change today. It is requesting the House of Bishops to work together and come back to us at next year’s Synod with a suggested way forward. There will be a chance for further debate, before we vote to accept or indeed reject any formula that the House of Bishops might propose.  Surely this Synod, under God can do no less,” he said.

Debate on the motion included the following points:

  • The quality of a relationship is down to the individuals not down to their gender.
  • The motion was described as impossible because its aim was to preserve unity but if passed it will bring fracture. There is an inbuilt discrimination in it against those who experience same sex attraction but who do not act on it because of their godliness. Any public and liturgical recognition of relationships that are not two gendered is in immediate opposition to Canon 31. The house is bound by the constitution of the Church of Ireland and the bishops are being forced into an impossible position.
  • It is a very special day and the motion was welcomed as something firm to act about following years of talking. It was about inclusion of everyone in the love of Christ. How would you feel if you or your family member was excluded because of his or her sexuality.
  • Caution in our consideration was urged. The outworking of the resolution could carry the potential to undermine a number of expressions of Gospel partnerships which are important for all of us across the Anglican Communion. Dioceses in the Church of Ireland are linked to dioceses in the Global South and those relationships and the projects connected with them could be jeopardized. The Church of Ireland punches well above its weight in the Anglican Communion but the instruments of the Anglican Communion have said they could not go there.
  • Efforts to engage with LGBT+ brothers and sisters had discovered pain and alienation and rejection which resulted in a change of heart. Theological and moral convictions weighed lightly in the scales of love in comparison to the pain of others. Further injury should be minimized. Passing the modest motion would be a small step in addressing the church’s checkered history and making a more generous future.
  •  Young people believe that their identity is bound up in sexuality but their identity and primary sense of worth is found in Jesus Christ and not with who they are attracted to. This motion if passed will cause deep harm to those who experience same sex attractedness but have chosen to uphold the teaching of the church.
  • People turn to the church to mark special occasions in their lives even if they are not part of the church. In this motion we address a different group of people for whom the church is important in their lives but when they turn to the church to mark milestones in their lives they are not allowed to do that. The doors of the church are closed to them at a significant time in their lives and we are rejecting a person made in the image of God who is asking for public prayer and thanksgiving for their relationship causing hurt, exclusion and rejection. The motion asks for guidance from the bishops it is not a vote for same sex marriage but to ask the bishops to investigate a very difficult question which is beyond some of us – what can we do to enhance pastoral care.
  • This motion will not change our behaviour. We are trying to resolve a debate by talking about options about words. Ask that we endorse the recommendation of the Select Committee and urge the bishops to show us where we have lost sight of Grace.
  • Locking people out of churches is not giving people the grace of God. The rules don’t change in Christianity. God is the God of Love of all. The point of the ministry of Christ is that we witness to the love of God. As a priest we can minister to people at all stages of their lives but not if they love someone of the same sex. We are answerable to Jesus. Anyone who lives in love lives in God and God in them.
  • People who have chosen a celibate lifestyle whatever their sexuality will be let down by this motion.
  • The motion is asking us to be people of prayer publically and give thanks for people who are part of the church.
  • The select committee was not set up to produce recommendations. We are not asking the bishops to present to synod a range of options. We are asking them to consider one proposal for public prayers following same sex marriage. The understanding of marriage is that couples marry and the church invokes God’s blessing. We are being asked to direct our bishops down a narrow line which does not present the huge range of options. It begins to infringe on Canon 31.
  • Dr Kilroy was thanked for his bravery. If the motion does not pass do not feel that we don’t love you we just sometimes have a funny way of showing it.
  • It has been a privilege and a painful experience to be part of the Select Committee and hear people tell their stories. The issue of baptizing the children of same sex relationships was raised. Searching Scripture to see if there is any way we can see this as God’s best plan for humanity but there is nothing in Scripture that points to this as of God. We have heard of love but often love demands a denial of self. Christ is enough and the church must hold to the teaching of Christ in Scripture. When people express their convictions they are treated as narrow minded bigots.

 

In reply Dr Kilroy said it had been a useful debate from all sides. He said the motion acknowledged that not everyone agreed theologically or otherwise but it provided a way forward. There were people in all churches in loving same sex relationships who experience Jesus Christ every single day. His question to synod as they considered their vote was ‘What would Jesus do?’

 

The Archbishop asked for a moment of quiet before the vote.

 

Voting took place by orders and members of synod could vote for or against or abstain.

Clergy vote:
For – 56
Against – 72
Abstain – 9

Laity vote:
For – 90
Against – 104
Abstain – 15 

The Archbishop thanked members of synod for the way in which the debate was conducted and said he believed the Grace of God was present. He said that regardless of the result of the vote, the bishops had been given a task by the recommendation of the select committee to give the matter further consideration.