A SELECT Committee on Human Sexuality in the Context
of Christian Belief is to be established after a motion was passed
at the General Synod in the names of the Archbishop of
Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, and Samuel
Dr Jackson said that the debate had moved on since the Synod had
discussed it in 2012 (News, 18 May 2012).
At the 2012 meeting, the Church passed a motion confirming its
opposition to the recognition of gay marriages, and describing
straight unions as the only "normative" context for a sexual
"I sense now, in 2013, more of a mood of sober carefulness than
I have sensed before in relation to this most private of subjects
and most invasive of areas. I also sense a proper fearfulness of
insult and diminishment of others whom we are only now beginning to
He said that it was important to ensure that all points of view
were included on the proposed committee, with room for co-options
at later stages.
The motion was seconded by Mr Harper. He said that a great deal
of the discussion had been defensive, and he said that it was hoped
that the group could consider the question without a forced
decision. The decision would lie with the Synod.
The Bishop of Tuam, Killala & Achonry, the
Rt Revd Patrick Rooke, said that the motion proposed to build on a
process in which tripartite conferences would take place next year.
Those being proposed to serve on the select committee represent a
broad spectrum of opinion in the Church of Ireland. As to the lack
of people known to be gay or lesbian on the committee - the select
committee was confined to members of Synod only. Co-options might
enable the imbalance to be corrected.
Thea Boyle (Glendalough), a proposed member of
the committee, voiced her disappointment that there was no gay or
lesbian representation. "Surely to enable constructive dialogue to
take place, both sides must be represented," she said.
Dr Richard O'Leary, an openly gay member of the
Church, and founder of Changing Attitude Ireland, complained that
the Select Committee on Human Sexuality did not contain any LGBT
"Not one member of the Church's Select Committee on Sexuality
identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender," he said. "It
would be seen as unacceptable to have a committee with an all-white
membership to examine ethnicity and racism; so how can the Church
of Ireland approve a committee on sexuality on which not even one
self-identifying LGBT person is included?"
The Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Richard Clarke,
said that the Synod was continuing a process to open hearts and
minds to the Holy Spirit, and to other people.
"Everyone in this Synod has to be ready to be changed," he said.
"We are now trying to entrust the further part of this process into
the hands of God."