Church Committee On Sexuality Meets CAI

The Church of Ireland ‘Select Committee on Sexuality” has met with a delegation from the Church’s pro-gay group Changing Attitude Ireland (CAI). The meeting took place today Tuesday 18th March at the Emmaus Centre in Swords, County Dublin.


The Select Committee on Sexuality was established by the Church of Ireland General Synod last year, following the previous year’s conservative motion on marriage. (This motion was consequent on strong criticism in certain dioceses of the entry into a civil partnership of a serving clergyman, the Very Revd Tom Gordon). The Committee is composed of 16 persons and has been meeting regularly since last September, charged to “enable the listening, dialogue and learning process on all aspects concerning human sexuality in the context of Christian belief to continue”.


Changing Attitude Ireland (CAI) welcomed the opportunity to inform the Committee about the experiences of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Christians and to advise it on how the Church of Ireland can engage with LGBT members. However, CAI has criticised the Committee for its failure to have a single self-identifying gay or lesbian member on the Committee.


One of the three person CAI delegation, Ms Pam Tilson, told the Committee that “If this was a Committee on gender it would be unacceptable for it to have no female member, so it is no less acceptable that the Church’s Committee on Sexuality has no gay or lesbian member on it”. Pam added that “the Church should also reflect on why the gay, lesbian and bisexual members of the 600+ member General Synod from which the Committee is drawn are fearful of coming out as gay in the church environment”. Pam is church warden and an out lesbian at St. George’s parish church, Belfast where she is affirmed. However, Pam advised the Committee that “some gay Christian individuals and couples undergo terrible ordeals from other Christians because of their sexuality” and she called on the Church of Ireland “to confront the problem of homophobia in the Church”.


The Committee was told by Canon Mark Gardner, rector of St Catherine’s, Dublin about the discrimination against openly gay Church of Ireland ordinands and clergy. Canon Ginnie Kennerley added that “To require any one, as a condition of fulfilling their God-given ministry, to deny and suppress an important aspect of their lives, is to court mental and spiritual breakdown for that person and censure for the Church which thus oppresses them”.


Dr Richard O’Leary

Chair, Changing Attitude Ireland


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