Irish General Synod does a U-Turn

Who’d have thought? This is not going away…

THE Church of Ireland will debate gay relationships tomorrow after a decision to stop the debate taking place was effectively overturned following behind the scenes negotiations in Dublin today.

A motion brought to the church’s General Synod by two bishops to re-affirm the church’s teaching that marriage is only between a man and a woman was ruled out of order by the Archbishop of Armagh, Alan Harper, on Thursday in dramatic scenes which led to two other motions about same-sex relationships being withdrawn.

But between Thursday night and Friday morning, conservative members of the church succeeded in bundling all three motions together and re-introducing them for discussion on Saturday morning under Standing Order 31 (d) in what could be a bitter debate.

Tomorrow’s motions will allow for the church to publicly discuss homosexuality for the first time since the News Letter revealed last September that Dean Tom Gordon had become the first serving Church of Ireland cleric to enter a civil partnership.

The three original motions had been presented by the liberal Archbishop of Dublin, Michael Jackson, and the evangelical bishop of Down and Dromore, Harold Miller in a public show of unity.

But on Thursday as the first motion came to be debated the liberal Bishop of Cashel and Ossory, Michael Burrows, raised a point of order about his fellow bishops’ motion which led to Archbishop Alan Harper ruling that it could not be discussed.

Bishop Burrows, who was aware of Dean Gordon’s civil partnership before it took place, was openly jeered by large sections of the synod in Dublin’s Christchurch Cathedral but applauded loudly by others in a public sign of the considerable strain within the church.

Reintroducing the motion has infuriated some liberal members of the church who yesterday believed that they had defeated a motion which they believe will make it harder to get the church to accept gay relationships at a later point.

The Newsletter report is interesting as it names Bishop Burrows, not Dean Nigel Dunne, as the instigator of the Point of Order. Bishop Burrows is not a popular boy at the moment in the Irish Church.

The most significant thing however is that the new motion has exactly the same wording as the old motion. To do this the proposers will have to have been absolutely sure that any further Points of Order similar to the ones yesterday would fail (so that in effect the arguments I made earlier today will be used if necessary to stamp on any attempt to block the motion). This is to all intents and purposes a clear signal that Archbishop Harper got it seriously wrong in agreeing to the Point of Order and makes it much more likely that the motion will pass and that with it the official orthodox stance of the Church of Ireland on human sexuality will be reaffirmed.

The key signal that the conservatives are winning this battle in Ireland will be the way that liberal blogs spew about this over the next few hours. Watch this space…

20 Comments on “Irish General Synod does a U-Turn

  1.  Peter, I am reluctant to “spew”, but I would see it as a bad day when any church leadership meeting decides that jeering at one of their own is part of Christian life. I don’t see that as part of any robust debate I would want to be part of. I have had people jeer at me and my family, I suspect you have had known the same – it is deeply distressing.

  2. From the above report:
    “Bishop Burrows, who was aware of Dean Gordon’s civil partnership before
    it took place, was openly jeered by large sections of the synod ……”

      •  Sorry Peter, it hadn’t occurred to me that there was a homophobic element, it simply seems to me to be not a Christian way to behave. Now, if it were Mick (not the ears) McManus then ………..

        • It seems though to have been a natural response to the way the Bishop had, in the view of many there, deliberately ignored the official position of the Church and then with this ridiculous Point of Order tried to stifle any debate on the matter.

          •  But that’s it Peter, if jeering is these people’s “natural response” then I am completely at a loss to know how they can square that with their faith.

            It seems to me that love and respect lies at the heart of every relationship and although I refuse to share a public platform with people like Fred Phelps or David Virtue I would never dream of sneering or jeering at them, they are my brothers. I may be hurt angry and passionate sometimes when defending my family but jeering at this bishop is a hateful thing to do. But now I think about it, a sneering, demeaning, belittling attitude has become par for the course in many places in recent years.
            Good night, my friend.

  3. Both of you are wrong – he wasnt jeered at all, a muted laugh at his cheek to mention not wanting to be the centre of a controversy.  the media hyped this laughter to a jeer.  get your facts right before posting as this would help

    • Well, unless those who were there actually report, all we have to go on is what the media say.
      But your report Alan sounds right. The idea that this particular Bishop was “trying not to cause controversy” would have been met with muted laughter at the very least.

    •  Indeed, quite right. My in box this morning says “It didn’t happen quite like that!”.
      I should be wiser than to believe a press report, in fact it’s getting to the point of disbelieving ANY press report.
      I corrected factual errors in a report carried by the CofE Newspaper that its author George Conger had reprinted on his website only to have them removed and comments closed.
      The funny thing was the article was actually about the poor factual reporting of The Times reporter!
      Standards are just appalling – even amongst those who are also clerics!

  4. Just to let you know that the motion was passed today. 
    All of the amendments, four in total, were defeated by a 2:1 ratio in the house
    of laity and house of clergy.  The motion itself was passed 3:1 in the
    house of laity and 80 in favour, 60 against in the house of clergy.  When
    the Bishops voted it was 10:2 in favour of the motion, with the Bishop of Cork
    and Bishop of Cashel and Ossory voting against the motion.


    On the whole the debate was respectful, courteous and not
    without some humour on occasions.  Personally, the most powerful speech of
    the day came from one of our ecumenical guests, Father Ireanaeus du
    Plessiis.  He spoke from a deep personal faith and conviction, with great
    courage warned the General Synod against acting unilateral and changing the
    doctrine of marriage which the church catholic has held to for nearly 2000
    years.  He gently but firmly spoke about his own Antiochian Church and how
    for them the matter of human sexuality was settled nearly 2000 years ago by the
    Church catholic – that marriage is between one man and one woman and outside of
    this all were to remain celibate.  He lovingly spoke of ‘holy space’ and
    not just the ‘safe place’ that the motion mentioned.  He also reminded
    those present, and especially the clergy, that we were to be holy because God
    is Holy.  In my heart I wished we had such leadership speaking with such
    conviction, clarity and courage before a general synod.  God used this man
    in a powerful way today.


    The passing of the motion was received in respectful
    silence, as requested by the Archbishop if Armagh.  He had chaired this
    part of synod with fairness and allowed a long time for people to put their
    viewpoints.   It was disappointing and to be honest hurtful to then
    read what can only be described as a vitriolic diatribe on certain liberal and
    pro-gay blogs immediately the vote was announced.  However, that came as
    no surprise as members of Changing Attitude Ireland, who attended as visitors,
    stood at the back of the synod hall during the vote.  Personally it did
    not intimidate or annoy me to have to walk past these individuals to go into
    the voting lobby but I know some synod members did feel it was intimidating to
    have to do so.


    Thankfully, the Church of Ireland synod has restated this is
    what the Church teaches concerning marriage and the ‘only normative place for
    sexual intercourse.’  Thankfully it has also condemned language and
    actions that bring hurt, shame and fear into the lives of others (irrespective
    of sexuality).  It has committed the Standing Committee of the General
    Synod to bring before Synod next year proposals for a Select Committee and its
    terms of reference. 


    I for one am not gloating over the passing of this
    motion.  It pains me to belong to a Church which at one point appeared to
    be unclear as to what it actually has taught and does teach about
    marriage.  It pains me that some people would want to move away from God’s
    revealed will for mankind in the area of human sexuality but I am encouraged by
    the actions of General Synod today.


    God bless

  5. What a shame!
    A set of premature points, resulting in s very substantial part of t he clergy appearing to vote against Christian marriage – not a good plan and a very poor outcome.

    One wonders why this was presented now and in this way.
    What pressure was applied?

    • Martin, glad you backtracked here and elsewhere about criticising as unChristian the alleged jeering when  you found out it wasn’t true..  but aren’t you going to criticise as unChristian the “vitriolic diatribe on certain liberal and pro-gay blogs” – especially one some liberal christian ones?

      ps Strange claims – that supporting the Biblical norms and 2000 years of Christian teaching denounced is a “vote against Christian marriage”… and then following up by casting doubts about “pressure” being applied?  Never any pressure applied by liberals of course? 

      •  No Dave, I would think any jeering was un-Christian – I rejoiced it wasn’t the case!
        I only read a few blogs and none of those have succumbed to “diatribes” – perhaps you can point me to them?
        You have completely misunderstood what I say in your post scriptum  I was talking of those who had voted against the motion ……

  6. “Peter, I am reluctant to “spew”, but I would see it as a bad day when any church leadership meeting decides that jeering at one of their own is part of Christian life. I don’t see that as part of any robust debate I would want to be part of. I have had people jeer at me and my family, I suspect you have had known the same – it is deeply distressing.”
    I completely agree with you here.  At the time Jeffrey John was forced out of the bishops position there was a huge amount of really nasty stuff written in the press, jeering at evangelical Christians, their stupid reading of scripture (along the shell fish line form of ridicule).  Although I had gay Christian friends at the time, this set me back years in trying to engage with this issue and I didn’t even realise at the time the rather important bit of information that JJ was celibate.  Although anger was understandable, this was NOT the way for his supporters to help his image.  Most people seemed more intent on using the case as a vehicle for bashing evangelicals than had any real concern for JJ.  Some evangelicals also have a habit of jeering at liberals without bothering to find out what they really believe about scripture.  It’s all a waste of time and energy that only obscures things further.

    • Also, I’m sorry to hear that your family have been jeered at.  When I wrote the slightly sarcastic comment about gay couples being the moral gatekeepers of society, I didn’t realise your own position or that you knew anything of the case involved – I thought you were talking in abstractions.  I’ll remove it if you would like?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.