Irish synod to debate apology for failure to support gay couples

Private member’s motion set for debate on 5 May 2017

The Church of Ireland’s General Synod is set to debate tomorrow a private member’s motion that would apologize for its refusal to give sacramental support to same-sex couples. Scheduled for Friday afternoon, 5 May 2017, Motion 12 asks Synod meeting at the South Court Hotel in Limerick 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 publicly and prayerfully in church”.

It further “respectfully requests the House of Bishops to investigate a means to develop sensitive, local pastoral arrangements for public prayer and thanksgiving with same-sex couples at these key moments in their lives, and to present their ideas to general synod 2018, with a view to making proposals at general synod 2019.”

In 2012 Synod reaffirmed the church’s traditional understanding as being between one man and one woman. Subsequent meetings created a select committee to examine the theological issues surrounding same-sex relations.

Two members of the select committee, Dr. Leo Kilroy and the Rev. Brian O’Rourke, brought forward the motion. Sources familiar with the deliberations of the committee tell Anglican Ink Kilroy and O’Rourke have pushed for a change in church teaching, but have been rebuffed by the majority. Stymied in their desire to change church teaching through the committee process, traditionalists suspect the two are hoping to sideline the committee’s work by having synod endorse a “pastoral” support resolution, which they can then leverage in the committee to change the theology of the church. The motion has come as a surprise to some committee members, AI has learned.

The mood of synod towards the motion is unclear, and those queried by AI have declined to speculate on the outcome of the vote. One source, however, stated the decision by the secretaries of synod to hold the meeting in the far southwest of Ireland, rather than in Dublin or Armagh — locations approved for future meetings by the past session of synod — may help pass the motion. The majority of the Irish church’s members live in Ulster in the North. If the vote is pushed to Saturday, many conservative delegates will have had to leave the session in order to be able to serve in their parishes on Sunday morning — leaving Southern liberals who support the resolution in a better position.

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