At the launch on 7th February in the Good Book shop, Belfast, of “Moving Forward Together: Homosexuality and the Church of Ireland” guest speaker and leading Church of Ireland lay woman Lady Brenda Sheil called on members of the Church to make time to study and reflect on the issue of same-sex relationships. She said that the new book would be a valuable contribution to this process and that she hoped that it would be widely read.
The Church of Ireland will be holding a special national conference on the subject on 9-10 March. It follows the controversy in the Church following the civil partnership of Dean Tom Gordon.
Canon Ginnie Kennerley who co-edited the book with Dr Richard O’Leary said it has been produced to assist in the discussion and mutual listening within the Church of Ireland in advance of the Church’s special conference on sexuality. She described that the book is written in straightforward language and that the short pieces cover scripture, church teaching and the personal stories of gay and lesbian clergy and laity. Some of the contributors were present and spoke at the launch including the Ven Gordon Linney, retired Archdeacon of Dublin. The Ven Linney stated that “The issue of human sexuality presents huge difficulties for everyone, but the imperative of the Gospel is inclusive and accepting love”. On Civil Partnership and the Church of Ireland he added that “If the Church is prepared to acknowledge civil partnerships involving other gay couples, then it must apply to clergy”.
Contributors include the leading theologians Dr Nigel Biggar, Regius Professor of Moral & Pastoral Theology in Oxford and Dr Andrew Pierce from the Irish School of Ecumenics and the Bishop of Cashel & Ossory, the Rt Revd. Michael Burrows.
Dr Alan Acheson a well known Evangelical and former headmaster of Portora Royal School, in his chapter explains that he was prompted to intervene in the debate after listening at General Synod “to several hard-line speeches that made me ashamed that fellow Evangelicals could be so cruelly judgemental of and bitterly hostile to homosexual partners striving to live loving, faithful lives in Christ“.
Dr Elizabeth Butler a retired medical consultant who is the widow of Bishop Arthur Butler of Connor Diocese in her chapter writes on the election of openly gay USA Bishop Gene Robinson that “I cannot believe that Our Lord would withhold his blessing from many of the (gay) individuals that I have met during the past twenty years. Therefore, how could I reject a Bishop, simply on the grounds of sexual orientation?”.
The book will also have a launch in Dublin on 9th February at Trinity College Dublin chapel where the guest speaker will be Judge Catherine McGuinness who was recently apointed to the Council of State by the President of Ireland. In her preface to the book Judge McGuinness described it as aiming at “opening our eyes and ears to a more rational discussion of the position of gay people in the Church of Ireland”.
The book is published by Changing Attitude Ireland and costs £4/ 5euro.