C of I committee on human sexuality to be established

17 May 2013

Gregg Ryan reports from the Church of Ireland General Synod in Armagh

PA

Attentive: Dr Jackson listens to Dr Clarke at the opening of the Synod on 9 May

Attentive: Dr Jackson listens to Dr Clarke at the opening of the Synod on 9 May

Sexuality

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 Harper.

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 relationship.

"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 understand."

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 people.

"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."

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