Church of Ireland divided over plans for gay ‘thanksgiving’ ceremonies

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The Church of Ireland is bitterly divided over plans to introduce ‘thanksgiving’ ceremonies for same-sex couples.

A motion is set to be debated at the all-Ireland church’s General Synod on Friday that would liberalise policies towards LGBT people.

The motion would direct Bishops to “investigate a means to develop sensitive, local pastoral arrangements for public prayer and thanksgiving with same-sex couples at key moments in their lives”.

The motion would not open the door to a tacit ceremony for same-sex unions.

Church of Ireland church

The proposal also recognises the “injury felt by members of the church who enter into loving, committed and legally recognised, same-sex relationships, due to the absence of provision for them to mark that key moment in their lives publicly and prayerfully in church”.

It will be heard at a meeting of the church’s General Synod, which takes place in Limerick this week.

The Belfast Newsletter notes that it would be the first major vote on LGBT issues since 2012, when the synod passed a resolution defining marriage as being “between one man and one woman”.

The motion has already bitterly divided the church.

Writing for Virtue Online,  Rev. Dr. Alan McCann, rector of Holy Trinity Woodburn in Carrickfergus, claimed it was “embracing the sinful way of life” and could lead to an “exodus” from the church.

He wrote: “The potential… is actually to bring disunity, division and dare one say it a possible schism in the Church of Ireland.

“[There] are definite lines drawn in the Church of Ireland on this issue and that neither side will give ground, and rightly so.”

He added: “We are deluded as a Church if we believe that by embracing this sinful way of life we are going to fill our church pews each week.

“The very opposite is true. In my own parish, I have already lost families who no longer wished to belong to a denomination that could not be clear on the plain teaching of the Bible on sexual matters, and I fear that may well become and exodus in the future.

“I take no delight in seeing the Church of Ireland in such turmoil. I foresee even more turmoil and pain ahead.

“I cannot see this motion doing other than causing deep hurt and division, irrespective of how the vote goes.

Same-sex marriage became legal in the Republic of Ireland in 2015 after a referendum, but gay weddings continue to be illegal in Northern Ireland due to a veto from the Democratic Unionist Party.

Following the collapse of the government in Northern Ireland, the DUP has laid down a ban on same-sex marriage as a ‘red line’ in the country’s ongoing power-sharing talks.

The DUP is required to form a new power-sharing government with second-largest party, Sinn Féin – but talks have repeatedly stalled.

Sinn Féin’s named equal marriage a “key issue” in the talks to form a new power-sharing government, but the DUP has refused to give any ground.