Church of Ireland committee on sexuality had no gay members

Panel was established last year following controversy over sexuality in the clergy

Tue, Mar 18, 2014, 19:46

The Church of Ireland Select Committee on Sexuality was criticised today for having no gay members.

The 16- member Committee was set up by the Church’s General Synod last year to enable “the listening, dialogue and learning process on all aspects concerning human sexuality in the context of Christian belief to continue” and has been meeting regularly since last September.

Pam Tilson, of the pro-gay Changing Attitude Ireland (CAI) group, told members of the Committee in Dublin today: “If this was a committee on gender it would be unacceptable for it to have no female member, so it is no less acceptable that the Church’s Committee on Sexuality has no gay or lesbian member on it”.

She added that “the Church should also reflect on why the gay, lesbian and bisexual members of the 600-plus member General Synod from which the Committee is drawn are fearful of coming out as gay in the church environment”.

Ms Tilson is a church warden at Belfast’s St George’s parish church. A lesbian, she was one of a three person CAI delegation which met the committee today.

She also told Committee members that “some gay Christian individuals and couples undergo terrible ordeals from other Christians because of their sexuality” and called on the Church of Ireland “to confront the problem of homophobia in the Church.”

Canon Mark Gardner, rector of St Catherine’s in Dublin, told the committee about discrimination against openly gay Church of Ireland ordinands and clergy.

Canon Ginnie Kennerley said that “to require any one, as a condition of fulfilling their God-given ministry, to deny and suppress an important aspect of their lives, is to court mental and spiritual breakdown for that person and censure for the Church which thus oppresses them.”

CAI is a Church of Ireland group which “dedicated to celebrating and maintaining the traditional inclusivity and diversity of the Anglican Communion.”

At the Church of Ireland General Synod in 2012 a motion was passed affirming the church’s traditional understanding of marriage, after contentious debate. It arose following the civil partnership of Dean of Leighlin Very RevTom Gordon in July 2011 to his long-term gay partner.

Meanwhile, the openly gay Dr Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of History at Oxford University, will speak in Dublin at 1pm on Friday May 9th about faith and sexuality.

His ‘A History of Christianity ’ was made into a BBC TV series. A deacon of the Church of England, he will be interviewed by RTÉ’s Bryan Dobson at Dublin’s St Audeon’s Church of Ireland, near Christ Church cathedral.