In what is believed to be the first civil partnership involving a serving Church of Ireland priest, the Very Rev Tom Gordon, Dean of the Cathedral of St Laserian, Leighlin, in the Diocese of Cashel and Ossory said that the ceremony had taken place at a registry office on July 29.
Rev Gordon said that he “hadn’t really” thought about the reaction to his decision to enter a civil partnership. When asked whether he had spoken to the church prior to his decision and whether he had received support from the church, the Rev Gordon said: “I’m a very, very transparent person. I would be surprised if this came as a surprise to anyone and I suppose that is as far as I would really want to comment.”
A spokesman for the Church of Ireland declined to comment in detail, saying that it was a “civil matter”. It is understood that there was one other case previously, which involved a retired Church of Ireland minister who entered a civil partnership.
Generally the Church of Ireland has been more conservative than the larger Church of England, which has seen several clergy enter civil partnerships since the new unions were created by the government in 2005 but requires them to affirm that they will remain celibate in the partnerships.
The Rev Gordon is a former lecturer at the Church of Ireland theological college in Dublin and is coordinator of religious programmes involving the Protestant churches for RTE. In January 2009 the Church of Ireland Gazette reported that the Rev Gordon was one of two staff at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute who were “leaving their posts this year ‘by mutual agreement’ between the church and themselves”.
A report on the diocesan website said that the service of installation as Dean of Lieghlin was conducted by Bishop Michael Burrows and the preacher was the Rev Dr Adrian Empey, former principal of the Church of Ireland Training College.
Bishop Michael Burrows who installed Tom Gordon as Dean is seen as being one of the church’s most liberal bishops. Prior to being appointed a bishop he said that he regularly gave communion to practicing gay couples.