Church of Ireland Synod: Gay relationships cannot be ‘normative’

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The General Synod of the Church of Ireland has passed a motion confirming its opposition to the recognition of gay marriages and describing straight unions as the only ‘normative’ context for a sexual relationship.

The original motions, which also called on the Church to recognise hurt caused to gays by its members’ actions, had been withdrawn last week but were reintroduced on Saturday in an amended form.

The subsequent motion said the faith’s Canon 31 on marriage should be reaffirmed.

That canon states that marriage should be regarded as “a union permanent and lifelong […] of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side, for the procreation and nurture of children, for the hallowing and right direction of the natural instincts and affections, and for the mutual society, help and comfort which the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity”.

The new motion added that “faithfulness within marriage is the only normative context for sexual intercourse”, a stipulation which provoked anger last week.

The amended motion called for the Church’s opposition to “all unbiblical and uncharitable actions and attitudes in respect of human sexuality from whatever perspective, including bigotry, hurtful words or actions, and demeaning or damaging language”.

It reminded the Church “that ‘all have sinned and come short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:22 – 23) and are in need of God’s grace and mercy”. It requested the formation of a Standing Committee “to progress work on the issue of Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief and also to bring a proposal to General Synod 2013 for the formation of a Select Committee”.

The motion was passed by 81 clergy and 154 laity in favour and 53 clergy and 60 laity opposed.

David McConnell, a Dublin Church member told the Belfast Telegraph that passing the motion “in controversial circumstances has added to and not reduced the hurt and exclusion caused by the Church to its gay and lesbian members”.

Gerry Lynch, of Changing Attitudes Ireland and a member of St George’s Church in Belfast, said: “Nobody says that my love life is not ‘normative’ when the collection plate is passed round, or when I come in on a Saturday to get the church ready for Sunday, or spend time with distressed people who often turn up at a city centre church.

“The General Synod vote confirmed many gay people’s experience of the churches as the last bastion of homophobia.”

One parishioner said the motion had made the Church of Ireland “a colder house for gay people like my daughter”.