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Gay marriage divides Church of Ireland

27 March 2015


THE Church of Ireland Bishop of the cross-border diocese Kilmore, the Rt Revd Ferran Glenfield, has added his name to that of his Roman Catholic counterpart, the Most Revd Kevin Doran, in opposition to legislation for same-sex marriage.

Bishop Glenfield, a well-known Evangelical, has joined a 50-strong ecumenical group which produced a document, Same-sex Marriage Referendum May 2015: A cross-denominational response.  It says that "freedom of conscience will be challenged by a 'Yes' vote. Service providers such as caterers and photographers would be acting illegally if, on grounds of conscience, they were to decline services for same-sex weddings."

Bishop Glenfield's stance highlights the divisions between Evangelical and liberal wings in the Irish House of Bishops on the subject: the northern bishops are more likely to voice opposition to the referendum on the issue in the Republic next May.

At least two bishops in the southern province - the Rt Revd Michael Burrows of Cashel, Ferns & Ossory, and Bishop Paul Colton, of Cork - are known to approve of same-sex partnerships.

The C of I group Changing Attitude Ireland, which is calling on people to vote yes, expressed disappointment with Bishop Glenfield's stance. Its chairman, Dr Richard O'Leary, said that "Bishop Glenfield should be mindful of how, in the past, the [Roman] Catholic and Protestant Churches opposed mixed marriages." Dr O'Leary said that he was disappointed that bishops should be seeking to introduce the right of businesses to discriminate against customers on the basis of sexual orientation

In a poll in the newspaper The Irish Timeson Monday, 78 per cent of the respondents approved of same-sex marriage, and 71 per cent said that gay couples should be allowed to adopt children.

The Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland has decided to take a neutral stance on the same-sex marriage issue. On Tuesday, the group, which represents more than 1000 priests, issued a statement asking priests not to influence their parishioners in either direction. This is in contrast to the RC bishops, who are calling for a "No" vote.

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