Anglican motion on sexuality and marriage a prelude to the fight over Harper’s succession?

To most of us who don’t count ourselves as Anglicans, the Church of Ireland is something of a mystery… But in advance of any future departure of the current Archbishop of Armagh’s departure, all hell seems to have broken loose at last week’s Synod (over sex, as Alan notes below), as various factions compete for pole position.

It’s not as though there’s a huge slate of candidates. Beyond Harper himself there is a long/shortlist of just eleven candidates from the twelve dioceses.

The tensions seem highest between liberal Bishops Michael Burrows of Cashel & Ossory and Paul Colton of Cork, Cloyne & Ross (who alone of the twelve opposed a conservative restatement of the Irish church’s views on sexuality and marriage) and the evangelical Bishop of Down & Dromore Harold Miller; probably the most committed conservative and who’s diocese is one of the most populous in Ireland.

The figures on the final vote were pretty conclusive, but show a fairly high degree of dissent: Clergy for 81 , against 53 – Laity for 154, against 60 (more detail at Thinking Anglicans).

The News Letter reports, that the motion, sponsored by the Oxbridge educated Archbishop of Dublin and Glendalough Michael Jackson:

…was the first time that the church had openly debated homosexuality since the News Letter revealed last September that the first serving Church of Ireland cleric had entered a civil partnership.

Yesterday a liberal Dublin minister blamed conservatives from Northern Ireland for having “suddenly appeared” on Saturday to vote through the motion.

But the leading evangelical bishop, Harold Miller – who seconded Saturday’s motion – dismissed that and said: “Anyone who wanted to be there could be there.”

The motion — who said that “faithfulness within marriage is the only normative context for sexual intercourse” — was only discussed on Saturday after tense behind-the-scenes meetings following Archbishop Alan Harper’s refusal to allow it to be discussed because of a point of order on Thursday.

Slugger understands that tensions were running high during the debate and that substantial pressure was applied by the yes camp… And there is some speculation amongst liberals that the degree of politicking involved is with a half an eye to winning support ahead of any future election of a new Archbishop of Armagh…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty