Belfast Telegraph

Cleric weighs into Church of Ireland gay debate

By Alf McCreary

A lesbian couple in the US have told the Church of Ireland that there are more important issues it should be concerned about than same-sex relationships.

Writing in a supplement for the Church's magazine, Rev Jan Nunley and her partner Susan Erdey argue that no-one would question their relationship if one of them was male.

The Episcopalian couple - who have been together for 22 years - wrote: "We confess to some impatience with the fact that for two adults of the same gender to bond and celebrate a lifelong commitment remains controversial, even shocking, in some quarters.

"Ours is a marriage every bit as spiritually rich, full, holy and deeply Christian as any opposite-gender marriage we know, and more than many." The couple also argue that there are better ways of serving God than "critiquing and condemning the shared lives of two middle-aged American women of faith on the grounds of isolated Bible verses dubiously parsed".

The Church of Ireland Gazette's special supplement on same-sex relationships intends to inform debate on the issue as it prepares for a conference on human sexuality next month and a crucial General Synod debate in May.

Gazette editor Canon Ian Ellis said: "The supplement is intended as a contribution to the wider discussion on same-sex relationships. It is a difficult debate, as our extensive letter correspondence has shown, but it is one that simply must take place. There has to be a mutual understanding."

It also contains an article by an abstaining gay male who is a member of the Church of Ireland, and conservative Anglican Rev Melanie Lacy.

"Scripture... consistently condemns homosexual acts (as distinct from a homosexual orientation) and same-sex relationships," wrote Rev Lacy.


Controversy arose last year when Church of Ireland Dean of Leighlin, the Very Revd Tom Gordon, originally from Portadown, entered into a civil partnership with his long-term male companion. The House of Bishops later held a special retreat at an undisclosed venue in October, and announced that there would be a conference on the issue early in 2012.

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