Hasten slowly – though no tangible signs that the Anglican supertanker is turning

So those who had expected murder in the cathedral on either Thursday, Friday or Saturday, even on all three, were predictably disappointed. What they got instead was . . . sex!

In this morning’s Irish Times, Patsy McGarry looks at the parallels between the Church of Ireland’s May 1982 Synod meeting which tackled the issue of women priests and the May 2012 Synod which has been dominated by the issue of gay priests.

The traditional marriage motion played a game of hokey cokey, withdrawn one day and reintroduced another.

The Irish Times reports that the Bishop Paul Colton of Cork, Cloyne and Ross explained to Synod that “in his 14 years as bishop he has not yet attended a meeting of bishops where sex was not discussed”.

He regretted this, as there were so many other important things to be done, such as proclaiming the gospel, tending to the sick and dying, and teaching children.

Even his 83-year-old mother had noticed. “All you did in Cavan was chat, chat, chat about sex and now you’re going to Dublin to chat, chat, chat about sex. I wish ye’d get on with it,” she said. Bishop Colton added, promptly, “With the work of the church, of course!”

The News Letter’s Sam McBride summed up the vote:

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.

Saturday’s vote came after an attempt to remove the Press was rejected. The synod voted for the motion by 245 votes to 115. Clergy voted by 81 to 53 and laity by 154 to 60. A series of amendments to the motion were defeated before the final vote.

The motion — which was implicitly a rejection of civil partnerships or gay marriage — has been welcomed by evangelicals, who see it as a restatement of the church’s orthodox teaching. But liberals are largely unhappy and have claimed that it could lead to a “witch hunt” against gay clergy.

Interesting split between clergy and laity.

The motion will allow next year’s Synod to return to the subject with the Standing Committee able to bring recommendations for further discussion. And outside Synod, the debate will continue. Back to Patsy McGarry:

Where they see a setback, older heads will recognise another step on a road to change where the motto must always be a simple “hasten slowly”. It is, of course, the Anglican way. It is how our Anglicans sustain their remarkable capacity to repeatedly do what so few others can do here in Ireland. As Archbishop of Armagh Most Rev Alan Harper put in one of his many wise asides on Saturday, it is that capacity “to agree to disagree, agreeably”.

Adds – The Belfast Telegraph’s article this morning wonders whether the Church of Ireland’s position on marriage “could cause division along North-South lines, as well as between liberals and conservatives”. Alf McCreary also includes reaction from Gerry Lynch who points out:

Nobody says that my love life is not ‘normative’ when the collection plate is passed round, or when I come in on a Saturday to get the church ready for Sunday, or spend time with distressed people who often turn up at a city centre church.

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