Belfast Telegraph

Retired Church of Ireland minister tells of sadness at Presbyterian Church’s ruling on same-sex couples

By Alf McCreary

A retired female minister from the Church of Ireland in the Republic has expressed sadness at the recent developments in the Presbyterian Church.

The church recently decided not to allow people in same-sex relationships to be full members, or to baptise their children.

Canon Marie Rowley-Brooke said: "It would be presumptuous of me to comment on the current Presbyterian situation except to say that, along with so many others in the Presbyterian Church, I am saddened by the recent move which so clearly departs from the Gospel mandate of love and welcome."

The former rector of Nenagh in Tipperary and a Canon of St Mary's Cathedral in Limerick was speaking after publicly criticising the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon).

The first conference was in 2008 and was seen as a response by Anglican conservatives to the 2003 ordination of an openly gay US cleric, Rev Dr Gene Robinson, as a Bishop by the Episcopal Church in the US.

Canon Rowley-Brooke claimed that Gafcon opened a branch in Northern Ireland in April and that it has "an intense purity in sexual matters, and promotes the expulsion of those who do not conform to its own particular reading of scripture".

She wrote: "Part of Gafcon's self-proclaimed mission is guarding the Gospel, but the Gospel does not need guarding. It never did.

"It needs abundant and joyful flinging all over the place. It does not need protecting by holding fast to cultural mores some 2,000-3,000 years ago. Today we are in the midst of a turbulent theological conversation regarding our LGBTQI sisters and brothers, who too often are excluded from these conversations, as we struggle to realise the indisputable fact, like slaves in the past and ordained women in the present, they are fully made in the image of God and are thus to be welcomed and enabled to rightfully flourish in our church structures."

She added: "This continues to be a work in progress, part of which is the vital challenging of Gafcon-supported 'conversion therapy' for gay people, with its toxic, destructive and abusive results".

Canon Rowley-Brooke claimed that Gafcon "supports a theology of headship, that is the 'Biblically mandated submission of women to their husbands and other men in positions of church authority'."

"The introduction of Gafcon ideology, emanating from its branch in Northern Ireland, into the Church of Ireland, has the capacity to drive a wedge between us," she said.

"The adoption, or attempts to adopt, conservative notions about 'headship' and other unwelcoming attitudes, particularly toward LGBTQI people, is likely to be seen by many CoI clergy in the Republic as yet another manifestation of the 'No Surrender" mindset in which some members of the Church of Ireland in the north seem to be corralled.

"Even though we understand how tightly religion and politics are interwoven in the north, Anglicanism at its best has always been a broad and kindly church, with a large canopy of welcome for people to dwell under."

The Canon claimed that two out of the 12 Church of Ireland bishops - Harold Miller of Down and Dromore and Ferran Glenfield of Kilmore - attended a recent Gafcon conference in Jerusalem.

The Belfast Telegraph attempted to contacted Bishop Miller yesterday for a comment but he was unavailable.

Some years ago former Primate Archbishop Eames chaired the Windsor Commission to try to find a solution.

However, the deep schism in the worldwide Anglican Communion remains.

Belfast Telegraph

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