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Same-sex marriage: Church of Ireland defers report on 'elephant in the room'

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 08/05/2015

Delegates at the General Synod of the Church of Ireland at Armagh City Hotel
Delegates at the General Synod of the Church of Ireland at Armagh City Hotel

The contentious issue of same-sex marriage has been parked for another two years at the Church of Ireland annual synod.

The hot topic, which is proving divisive to the Church both in the north and the south, was still at the top of the agenda for the hundreds of clergy and laity who attended the meeting yesterday at Armagh City Hotel.

The synod agreed to extend the time for the Church's select committee on human sexuality, which would include the discussion on same-sex marriage and gay relationships.

Despite the uncontested motion to extend the report by the Church into human sexuality, one minister referred to the subject of same-sex marriage as "the elephant in the room" as something that members were not yet ready to tackle.

As the Republic prepares to vote on the State allowing same-sex marriages on May 22, a former Archdeacon of Dublin addressed a side meeting at the synod explaining his support for it.

Archdeacon Gordon Linney spoke on 'Why I changed my mind on same-sex marriage' in a talk organised by the inter-denominational cross-border campaign group Changing Attitudes Ireland.

This follows an opposition letter sent to the Church of Ireland Church Gazette signed by two Belfast ministers, Rev Dr Alan McCann and Rev Tim Anderson, which called on the Bishop of Cork and the Bishop of Cashel and Ossory to repent following publicising their support for same-sex marriage.

The letter ended: "We believe that they are now themselves teaching error and we call on them to repent of this and to teach what the Church has taught about marriage according to Scripture."

Concern has been expressed about a possible split in the Church following 43 members of the clergy last week penning a joint letter endorsing same-sex marriages in the Irish Times.

The controversy and yesterday's general election were referenced in Archbishop's Richard Clarke's presidential address.

While the Archbishop stressed: "We are not a Church community which, for the most part, makes official declarations as to how people should vote", he urged caution.

He advised that the Church community needs to "decide in conscience before God what they believe will truly be for the common good, the good of all".

He also described the statistic from the first Church-wide survey on church attendance last year - which showed an average attendance of just 15% over three Sundays - as "a necessary reality check".

The Archbishop said: "If we cannot embrace with confidence and with hope in Jesus Christ we may as well close the doors of our churches now."

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