A PRIVATE motion calling on the Church of Ireland to make provision for public prayer and thanksgivings for same-sex couples at special moments in their lives was defeated.
The motion, proposed by Leo Kilroy (Dublin & Glendalough) and seconded by the Revd Brian O’Rourke (Cashel & Ossory), read: “Recognising the diversity of conviction regarding human sexuality, and in order to maintain the unity of the Church of Ireland, the General Synod acknowledges 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, and 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.”
The sponsors of the motion went on to state that “the development of any such pastoral arrangements should not infringe Canon 31.” (The Church of Ireland continues to uphold its teaching that marriage is part of God’s creation, and a holy mystery, in which one man and one woman become one flesh.)
“And the facilitation of such arrangements would not impair the communion between an individual bishop or diocese with any other bishop or diocese of the Church of Ireland.”
The debate on the motion showed a clear difference of opinion between clergy and laity in the Republic to those in Northern Ireland, the latter adopting a more conservative approach.
Mr Kilroy, who proposed the motion, spoke of what he described as the “grave hurt” caused by the Church to homosexuals. There had, he said, been a lack of compassion, whereas Jesus “loathed stigmatisation”.
Both he and his partner found a lack of pastoral support from the Church, which caused them great upset and sadness.
The director of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, Canon Maurice Elliott (Down & Dromore), said that if the motion was passed it would be “immensely detrimental” to relations with other Churches in the Anglican Communion.
Another opponent of the motion, the Revd Alison Calvin (Kilmore), complained: “It’s not fair that my deeply held convictions are portrayed as those of a narrow-minded bigot.”
The Revd Brendan McCarthy (Kilmore) said that his attitude towards LGBT people had changed. He accepted that he had contributed to their discrimination and pain, which was unintended but none the less real.
At the vote, 72 clergy opposed, with 56 supporting and 9 abstentions. The vote among laity was closer: 104 opposing, 90 supporting, and 15 abstentions.