Added on 10/03/2012
Bishops' Conference: 'Human Sexuality in the context of Christian Belief'
Conference Statement by the Archbishop of Armagh and the
Archbishop of Dublin
Over the past 24 hours, 450 General Synod members of the Church of Ireland (together with several ecumenical guests) have come together from across the island and all the dioceses of the Church to engage with each other on this subject in innovative ways. It has been a substantial conversation reflecting strongly held convictions characterised by clarity of expression without judgmentalism. The conference enabled interactive engagement by participants from a wide range of different perspectives, focusing on complex and sometimes contentious issues. The climate was one of respectful dialogue, all the more valuable for its structured mixing of people who have not before come together or conversed in such depth.
The format included a range of facilitated seminars on themes as diverse as the welcome provided to gay people in church to recent changes in legislation to whether or not there can be ‘agreeable disagreement’ over gay clergy. It further involved listening to the direct experience of gay Christians and to parents of gay children. There was a clear appreciation of the integrity and principled positions of those expressing different views. It has become clear that there is a breadth of opinion in the Church of Ireland on these matters but also a strong sense of the cohesiveness of the Church. While it is acknowledged that there are still difficult issues for us as a Church, there is not an atmosphere of division.
The intention of the conference was one of enabling open discussion, rather than one of articulating policy or making decisions. We observed a common desire to welcome all people to participate in the life of the Church, whilst accepting that there are no easy answers to difficult questions. In response to the Holy Spirit, the Church seeks to witness to society – with humility – rather than simply reflect current popular opinion. The conference comes at a time when there are live cultural and political debates relating to ‘same-sex marriage’. Within this context, the Church’s position on marriage as being the union of one man and one woman remains constant.
In conclusion, we ask those who have attended to reflect on what they have heard and experienced and to continue the process of talking to each other in their homes, parishes and communities.
The Most Revd Alan Harper, Archbishop of Armagh
The Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson, Archbishop of Dublin
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