MOVING FORWARD TOGETHER: Homosexuality and the Church Of Ireland (2012)

New publication in advance of the Bishops Conference on Sexuality, 9-10th March 2012.

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Welcoming the exchange of views on sexuality

It is most regrettable that the Church of Ireland and our House of Bishops, like the wider Anglican Communion, is so divided on the issue of homosexuality – or, to be more precise, on the question of whether gay individuals should be accepted into the ordained ministry of the church. (That they are and probably always have been so accepted remains a fact, the difference being that both society and individuals are more open about these matters nowadays.)

It may be that the church is in the middle of what Hans Küng has called a “paradigm shift”, with the ship going through some dangerously rough water as it moves from one sea to another, threatened by the rocks of biblical literalism on the one hand and over-adaptation to the secular world on the other. And it may be that it will be some time before we come through it.

It is my heartfelt prayer and my hope that all of us crew and passengers on the ship of the church on this difficult voyage will remain true to our captain, whose core command is “that you love one another”, and not fall into rival factions trying to push each other overboard. And it is in that hope and with that prayer that this volume has been produced.

Changing Attitude Ireland is a group of Church of Ireland Christians and friends who are convinced that one of the variables in human nature as God created it lies in the area of sexual orientation. We want people of the minority sexual orientation to be respected and their gifts appreciated on a par with the rest of humanity. While CAI was started, I understand, by gay people in need of support and affirmation, its membership today is both heterosexual and homosexual – or in our preferred language ―”gay” and ―”straight” – probably about half and half, though members are not asked to specify their orientation.

Unlike some more conservative Christians, we in CAI believe that our bishops have done the right thing in announcing a major conference on these issues for spring 2012, rather than feigning a non-existent common mind.

No such conference can hope finally to resolve all the issues to everyone’s satisfaction, but at least it will encourage all of us to think carefully about them and about each other’s sensitivities. In the meantime, I would suggest that “the truth” which our church leaders have been urged to “clarify” is not as simple as many of us would like it to be. The fullness of truth remains always over the horizon, and we must work our way towards it conscientiously under the guidance of the Holy Spirit; in the light of scripture, yes, but scripture read with an awareness of its original context and our own rather different 21st century context.

As to the assertion that “our chief aim must remain God‘s glory” – we agree, but let us remember that “the glory of God is man (including women!) fully alive (Irenaeus of Lyons). The glory of God must also be that His people love and seek to understand one another, however difficult that may be.

Ginnie Kennerley
Chairperson, Changing Attitude Ireland