Bishop says Scottish church’s move on gay marriage ‘a way forward’

Scottish Episcopal Church first major congregation in UK to allow same-sex marriage

Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork Paul Colton: ‘the reality is that there is such diversity and difference throughout the Church of Ireland.’ Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork Paul Colton: ‘the reality is that there is such diversity and difference throughout the Church of Ireland.’ Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The Church of Ireland may have found a way forward on the issue of same-sex marriage following a move by a church in Scotand, Bishop of Cork Paul Colton has said.

The Scottish Episcopal Church last week became the first major church in Britain or Ireland to allow same-sex marriage. A vote by its general synod in Edinburgh removed a clause from the church’s canon law which defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

However, clergy who do not agree can opt out of conducting same-sex weddings.

Dublin-born Bishop David Chillingworth is primus of the Scottish Church. He was ordained in Belfast and served in Northern Ireland until 2005 when he was consecrated Bishop of the diocese of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane in Scotland.

Addressing the Cork diocesan synod in Douglas, Bishop Colton quoted Bishop Chillingworth who said “the new canon itself affirms that there are differing views of marriage in our church.

“Nobody will be compelled to do anything against their conscience. We affirm that we are a church of diversity and difference, bound together by our oneness in Christ...”

Diversity and difference

Bishop Colton said “the reality is that there is such diversity and difference throughout the Church of Ireland too. Those differences and that diversity cannot be ignored.”

He added it may well be the Scottish approach “represents a way forward for us too that recognises all integrities. It is worth considering in our debate here in Ireland”.

The bishop said “that such things are open to debate in this Church [of Ireland] has always been the case. If there had been no questioning or discourse, the Reformation itself would not have happened, nor would many other developments have unfolded over the centuries, in ministry, in liturgy and in belief, the most recent examples being our change in approach to suicide, to the marriage in church of divorcees, and also the ordination of women, and there are many others.”

Thanksgiving service

Last month a motion that Church of Ireland bishops investigate developing a public thanksgiving service for legally married same-sex couples was defeated at the church’s General Synod in Limerick. It followed debate where speakers divided along North-South lines, with all speakers from the South in favour and all but one Northern speaker opposed.

Meanwhile, a report to the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) General Assembly last month concluded there were not “sufficient theological grounds to deny nominated individual ministers and deacons the authority to preside at same-sex marriages”.

It said “conscientious refusal” of ministers and deacons to preside at such marriages should be protected and spoke of “constrained difference” in the church over the issue. Officials were instructed to consider changes to church law that would allow ministers to preside over same-sex marriage ceremonies.

A report presented last week in Belfast to the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland concluded that its sister Church of Scotland “has departed from the clear teaching of scripture on the matter of same-sex relationships.”