COI Gazette – 24 April 2015

Human sexuality resolution of 2012 ‘open to difference of interpretation’ – Bishop Michael Burrows

Bishop Michael Burrows

Bishop Michael Burrows

The Bishop of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory, the Rt Revd Michael Burrows, who has declared that he will vote ‘Yes’ in the Republic’s 22nd May referendum seeking to change marriage law in a way that would admit couples of the same sex to marry, has told the Gazette that he believes the Church of Ireland’s stated position on the issue of ‘Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief ’ is open to interpretation.

He was referring to the 2012 resolution of the General Synod which, reaffirming Canon 31, states that the Church of Ireland views marriage as a union between “one man with one woman”, going on to affirm: “The Church of Ireland recognises for itself and of itself, no other understanding of marriage than that provided for in the totality of Canon 31.”



While marriage has been opened to same-sex couples in England, Wales and Scotland, that change has not been adopted in either jurisdiction in Ireland. However, that will be different if the referendum on marriage law, due to be held in the Republic on 22nd May, is passed.

The arguments for and against same-sex marriage have been widely rehearsed and, indeed, the Anglican Communion has been deeply torn over the same-sex debate. Last week, we reported on a seminar that was held in Dublin in support of a ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum and this week we report further on the views of Bishop Michael Burrows (page 1) who at the seminar publicly declared his support for the referendum proposal.

At least some of those speaking in favour, both at the seminar and elsewhere, most likely have read what the English bishop, the Rt Revd Alan Wilson, has written in his recently published book, More Perfect Union? That book, however, has met with some responses that do not do it any favours, as well as those supporting the bishop’s view.

The learned Anglican academic, the Revd Dr Charlotte Methuen, who is not noted as a conservative thinker, comments that in the book, Bishop Wilson “brings together a host of arguments and data which should prove thought-provoking even to those who disagree with his conclusions”. She concludes: “The style suggests that this is a book written in haste, and it certainly speaks to the moment. But that is necessary, and right: and it is much to be applauded that a bishop of the Church of England has chosen to speak out on the question of equal marriage.” Dr Methuen’s comments are hardly a ringing endorsement.

From a conservative evangelical perspective, Canon  Andrew Goddard’s reaction to Bishop Wilson’s book comes from one who, like Dr Methuen, is an accomplished theologian. He, too, reflects on what Dr Methuen refers to as Bishop Wilson’s “style”. Canon Goddard refers to this as “tone” and comments, quite devastatingly: “From start to finish, the bishop expresses disdain and contempt for those with whom he disagrees.”

Bishop Wilson clearly expresses very strong and single-minded views but his book nonetheless can be described as ‘recommended reading’ on the subject. His work includes a quite shocking account of how gay and lesbian people have been sidelined, even vilified, within the Church. All concerned need to be acutely aware of this history.

As we have earlier reported, a Church of Ireland spokesperson has indicated that, in relation to the referendum, the Church points its members to its teaching but leaves it to them in conscience to decide how they should vote. There is no doubt that a momentous change is proposed and Bishop Wilson’s book certainly is, as Dr Methuen indicates, “thought- provoking”, although it is not an impartial guide to making up one’s mind – but that is not what the book is about. It is about making a case and is prefixed with five pages of endorsements from well-known figures of like mind with the bishop. Any perceptive reading of the book will surely lead one to concur with Dr Jeffrey John’s observation that, despite the element of anger, Bishop Wilson writes as “an apostle of Christ, not a secular liberal”. Indeed, therein lies an important reminder for all concerned in the Church: this debate within the household of faith is among people who are all seeking to follow our one Lord.


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Letters to the Editor

Bishop of Cork’s comments on “holy ground of other peoples’ lives”

THE BISHOP of Cork is right (Gazette, 3rd April) to say that people should not be objectified or categorised and thereby dehumanised, not least with reference to May’s marriage referendum.

We should be thankful, therefore, that the disagreements across our Church on this and other matters share a core of decency in our treatment of one another. It is this respect for
human dignity that allows us to disagree sincerely without fear of labelling.

However, it is perplexing to read the bishop’s blanket reference to the “holy ground of other people’s lives”. Is he teaching that every person’s life, by virtue of being made in God’s image, is ‘holy ground’, no matter what sort of life each person lives?

If our lives are proclaimed as ‘holy ground’, is there no need to
“repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour” (BCP pp. 386 and 372)? What of sanctification in response to GodbythesavinggraceofJesus Christ? Surely there is a danger of such teaching as the bishop promotes becoming a reversal of the Gospel message.

Andrew Brannigan – Ballyclare

Hockey Archive – request for information

DUBLIN CITY ARCHIVE, a wing of the National Library, has agreed to house the Irish Hockey Association (IHA) and the Leinster Branch Hockey Archive.

At present, we are in the process of gathering material for the Archive and are looking for any material that relates to hockey in Ireland – Men’s, Ladies’ and Schools’. This would include photographs, cuttings, programmes, caps, jackets, uniforms, sticks, medals, pennants, etc.

The Irish Senior Cup and the Irish Junior Cup are the two oldest hockey cups in the world.

The first-ever hockey International was played between Ireland and Wales. There is very little material on the early teams; many teams, especially in the Connaught area, no longer exist and many towns had military teams.

It will take a number of  years before all the material is catalogued in the Archive and can be accessed online.

If Gazette readers have any material of interest, would they please contact me as below or contact the IHA office.

Peter Agnew

86 Avoca Park Blackrock Co. Dublin email: mobile: 087-2557732

Northern Ireland LGBT Awareness Week 2015

NORTHERN IRELAND LGBT Awareness Week 2015, commencing on Monday 11th May, will focus on challenging prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people (LGBT ) and in promoting inclusion for them in all parts of our society.

At the end of the Week, on Sunday 17th May, a wide range of people here will mark International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) with Church services in Belfast, Dublin, Londonderry, Cork and Limerick.

On this day, we remember those here and elsewhere who have been victims of homophobia and transphobia. We are asking Churches to support us in our continued mission to counter these two persistent phobias, not just on this day, but for as long as there isaneedtodoso.

The friendship, understanding and acceptance by family, friends and work colleagues are vital in enabling an LGBT person to find self- acceptance, assurance, strength and comfort; these are important and essential ingredients in living a fulfilled, healthy and useful life.

Churches, too, have an essential part to play in facilitating quiet conversations, awareness sessions and
anything which can make churches places of welcome, inclusion and warmth for all.

During this Week, we reflect that loving our neighbour as ourselves, without exception, and having mutual respect for each other, without exception, are what make a happy and inclusive society.

Reaching out to margins, in the footsteps and resonances of Christ, can be challenges still for many, but we hope that Churches, organisations and individuals will all join in this journey of inclusion.

A short liturgy and prayer suitable for use during the Week will be available. In it, we reflect that Christ, himself from the margins, was often more comfortable with those whom the society of his day treated as outsiders. Putting it briefly, Christ is the champion of inclusion.

Further information about the programme during the Week is available from me at the email address below.
Colin Flinn
Joint Coordinator,
Northern Ireland LGBT Awareness Week 2015

The LGBT Centre 9/13 Waring Street Belfast BT1 2DX


Book Reviews

JOHN SENTAMU’S HOPE STORIES: 20 TRUE STORIES OF FAITH CHANGING LIvES TODAY Author: Dr John Sentamu Publisher: Darton, Longman and Todd; pp.140



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