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Church split over synod motion on gay debate

By Rebecca Black

A Church of Ireland debate over whether it should liberalise its stance on same-sex marriage will be strongly opposed.

The church's annual general synod, set to take place at South Court Hotel in Co Limerick later this week, will hear from an internal committee set up in 2013 to consider human sexuality in the context of Christian belief.

On Friday, the decision-making body of the Church of Ireland will hear a motion asking for the development of "sensitive, local pastoral arrangements for public prayer and thanksgiving with same-sex couples" at key moments in their lives, such as marriage.

The motion, which has been proposed by Dr Leo Kilroy from Co Wicklow and seconded by the Rev Brian O'Rourke of Portlaoise, calls for ideas to be presented to next year's general synod with a view to them being introduced as policy the following year.

It also calls for an acknowledgement to be made by the church of "injury felt by members 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".

The issue is one that has been rumbling within the church for a number of years.

Changing Attitude Ireland - a group within the church which seeks the full acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people - is expected to back the proposal.

However it did not respond to requests for comment.

There is also expected to be opposition. Rev Dr Alan McCann, rector of Holy Trinity Woodburn in Carrickfergus, writing for Virtue Online, said he would seek to have the motion rejected.

He has spoken of fears that many parishioners may leave the church if it liberalised its stance.

"At this moment, it would be impossible to say what the outcome of that vote would be," Rev McCann wrote.

"We are deluded as a church if we believe that by embracing this sinful way of life we are going to fill our church pews each week."

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