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Church of Ireland General Synod: Homosexuality

16 May 2014

REMARKS attributed to the Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Richard Clarke, suggesting that he stated that gay couples did not want to be "married", were inaccurate, his colleagues said.

An interview with Dr Clarke, which appeared in the Belfast-based Irish News, coincided with the opening of the General Synod. In it, addressing the issue of gay marriage, he stated that he knew a gay couple who had been together for many years, but did not wish to be married, although they were now in a civil partnership.

In a reference to the same-sex marriage debate being considered by a Committee of the Synod, Dr Clarke made a reference in the interview to the seldom queried nuance between equality and equivalence.

"I have gay friends who are in a civil partnership, but don't like the nomenclature of marriage. They can understand the difference between equality and equivalence," he said. Asked about the limits of the Church of Ireland's "much-vaunted diversity, particularly on sexuality", the Primate had responded: "When it comes to human sexuality, you are on a spectrum from 'Nothing gives' to 'Anything goes'. I think, for some people, that line has been reached.

"I think for many of us there is that place in the middle - and that's not being naïve or wishy-washy; for it is a very painful place - where we want to bring people together to find an answer. If the State decides that is the nomenclature we've got to use, we can't stop them doing it, though I don't like people changing definitions for that reason.

"I would certainly see inequality as something that the State needs to be involved in, but not the equivalence that is implied by the nomenclature."

He was subsequently reported in the online newspaper Pinknews as having said that gay people did not want marriage.

Clergy, including some members of the House of Bishops, reacted strongly to the report,which they described variously as erroneous, based on an inaccurate reading of the whole interview, and not representing the Primate's views on the subject.

The interim report of the Select Committee on Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief was received at the Synod on Saturday. It is hoped that the full document will be ready by the autumn.

The Dean of Belfast, the Very Revd John Mann (Connor), proposing, said: "We have been conscious that all that we are talking about affects individuals - chiefly those within the LGBT community, but also every other person that is consciously, or subconsciously, seeking to relate, within the fellowship of the Church, to those of a different sexual orientation to themselves."

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