Wallace Benn, the Bishop of Lewes, attended a meeting on Monday evening of Church of Ireland clergy increasingly unhappy at their church’s response to a minister’s same-sex partnership. He is chairman of the advisory council to the GAFCON primates. The News Letter says there are no details about where the meeting was held or how many were present, but that Bishop Benn did address the meeting.
There are rumours that some parishes may seek alternative episcopal oversight, one reason why Wallace Benn was invited, since he is a key figure in the Anglican Mission in England, a group which has alternative episcopal oversight and potential schism on its agenda in England.
Archbishop Alan Harper, the Primate of Ireland, has already said that Irish bishops would not welcome any “intrusion” by episcopal colleagues from outside Ireland.
In an editorial the Church of Ireland Gazette says that church is in “quite alarming circumstances”. The Gazette raises concerns about the length of time which the church plans to take to decide its position on the issue and warns that it must learn from the bitter divisions which have opened up in other parts of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
The editorial said:
“It is not an exaggeration to say that, as a result of this whole scenario, the Church of Ireland’s very unity is imperilled. For that reason, it is somewhat concerning that the bishops refer to a need for yet further study and research on related biblical, theological and legal issues, because such could be a charter for years-long argumentation. We need to study such matters, but we also need to do so expeditiously.”
The editorial adds that in other Anglican churches the gay debate had seemed “interminable”. It says that the Windsor Report, which in an attempt to ease tensions led to the Anglican Covenant, had bought more time “but more time turns out to have been precisely not what was needed”.
“Now, the communion has reached breaking point and we have two primates’ meetings and a whole new Anglican church in north America. The dragging on has been because, of course, the Anglican Communion cannot legislate for the communion as a whole.
“However, the Church of Ireland can legislate for the Church of Ireland, and so a clear regulation of the issue before us is needed urgently if we are not to find ourselves in a situation resembling that of the Anglican Communion in all its woes.
“The Church of Ireland probably can contain itself for the process which the bishops have outlined, but it will be difficult.”