C of I planning conference on sexuality for early 2012


A MAJOR conference on sexuality is being planned by the Church of Ireland for next spring and a pastoral letter will be issued by its archbishops and bishops in the next few days. The move follows a three-day meeting of the church’s House of Bishops this week.

It was precipitated by disclosure early last month that the Dean of Leighlin (Carlow) Rev Tom Gordon and his same-sex partner of 20 years had been married in a civil ceremony at a registry office last July. Formerly a lecturer at the Church of Ireland theological institute in Dublin and a co-ordinator of religious programmes at RTÉ, he was installed as Dean of Leighlin last year. In a brief statement the archbishops and bishops said: “We met over three days in an atmosphere of prayer and worship to reflect on current disquiet in the church caused by disagreements on the matter of human sexuality. We acknowledge that this tension is a cause of distress to many.”

Their pastoral letter “will highlight key themes and outline a process by which the church may move forward”, they said, while next spring’s conference “will provide an important opportunity to learn from and listen to one another as the church strives to discern the mind of Christ”.

“As bishops we commit ourselves to work together on these issues. In addition, we envisage that further study and research on biblical, theological and legal issues will be required,” they said.

The church’s Changing Attitude Ireland group has welcomed the statement. Its secretary Canon Charles Kenny said it was “happy to hear that the bishops are committing themselves to listening and speaking openly about these complicated issues”. They hoped “the atmosphere at the proposed conference will make it possible for gay and lesbian church people, lay and clerical, to participate honestly in the discussion”.

Changing Attitude Ireland is working “for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons within our churches. It is dedicated to celebrating and maintaining the traditional inclusivity and diversity of the Anglican Communion.”