Bishops' attitude to gays divided on North-South lines


LAMBETH CONFERENCE:Church of Ireland bishops in the Republic are more sympathetic towards gay clergy, writes Patsy McGarry.

THE 12 Church of Ireland bishops are believed to be divided on North-South lines where the ordination of gay bishops and blessings for same sex couples are concerned, with those in the South understood to be more sympathetic. All 12 are attending the Lambeth Conference, being held at Kent University near Canterbury.

Among the latter is the Bishop of Cashel and Ossory, Right Rev Michael Burrows. At the Church of Ireland General Synod in 2005, when he was Dean of Cork diocese, he said he regularly gave communion to parishioners in long-standing homosexual relationships. He also said that it was possible for the church to exist with two integrities on the subject of sexuality.

As an Irish representative on the Anglican Consultative Council he said, in 2005 also, that the Church "did not intend to break or impair communion" on the issue of "same-sex affection".

Speaking at the Lambeth Conference this week Bishop Burrows said "at the end of the day the Church of Ireland is enriched not diminished" by the differing views of its bishops on same sex issues. In his own dioceses same sex matters were "not the big issues", which would include promotion of the gospel, the Aids crisis and ecumenism. He didn't think the outcome of the conference would greatly influence people and was "always relieved that Lambeth's role is advisory not binding". He rejoiced in belonging to "a church which doesn't regard its instruments as uttering infallibly".

He felt this particularly about a resolution on human sexuality from the last Lambeth Conference in 1998 which rejected homosexual practice as incompatible with scripture. The resolution also rejected the legitimising or blessing of same-sex unions or the ordination of those involved in same-gender unions.

He believed a covenant would be drafted towards the end of this conference, but that it would be along Lisbon Treaty lines with "different degrees of signing up to it". He is finding the process of discussion "very cumbersome . . . physically, very tiring." It was "a well-intentioned attempt by a dysfunctional family to keep talking until we realise we cannot fall out of love with one another". But there was, he felt, "a danger of going round and round the elephants rather than going over or through them".