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The traditional marriage motion played a game of hokey cokey, withdrawn one day and reintroduced another.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

    As far as I’m aware, Christ had very little to say on the subject of sex and sexuality, so why are his various churches so obsessed by it?

  • Newman

    Could I respectfully suggest Gerry that you read the gospels.on the subject…Jesus had plenty to say on sexuality including divorce and lust..St Matthew would be a good start. What Churches are “obsessed with”, as you put it, is an attempt to rewrite sexual norms based on a secular and relativist approach to morality.

  • Rory Carr

    Christ did indeed have something to say on divorce in Matthhew (V as I recall). He urged that a man not put away his wife for any reason other than adultery. He did not say if a woman might reciprocate in kind. But we do know that she could not. A wife was obliged to endure her husband’s consorting with harlots and had no recourse in rabbinical law. Indeed, to this day, the girls outside Stamford Hill Railway Station feed a roaring custom from ultra-orthodox Hasidic Jewish men as they are obliged by religious custom to refrain from sexual relationships with their wives during her menstruation. Very understanding one might think. He also cautioned against lust and the ensuing blindness of the spirit thereof.

    He did not however dwell on specific relationships and there is nothing in the Gospels of which I am aware which allows for a blanket condemnation of any particular sexual act where harm neither ensues nor is intended.

    But perhaps my recall is again less than it might be and, if so, I am sure that Newman will be happy to correct me.

  • Gerry Lvs castro

    Excellent reply from Rory — other than the divorce and lust references, I wasn’t aware of anything specific pertaining to consensual sex, but if Newman can provide quotes, we’ll stand corrected.

    ‘Rewriting sexual norms’ — great quote Newman. Because obviously things were so much better when adulturers were stoned, homosexuals jailed and old men could marry 12 year old girls.

    It’s fair to say that even before the veil was lifted on the RC church’s attitude to child rape, what consenting adults did in their bedrooms was absolutely none of their business. But the very idea that such an organisation still aspires to pronounce on morality is little short of breathtaking.

  • Newman

    Rory…interesting as the example you give as an egregious example of male hypocrisy.. Christ came to explain and fulfil the law which was to be written on the human heart. Outward observance was insufficient ..what he retired was inner transformation so that one avoided mere legalism and understood the purpose of the law…to be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect…. to be conformed to the image of Christ..image from the greek ikon meaning character.Other parts of the New Testament are replete with references to avoiding sexual misconduct and spell out in detail what has developed into the teaching of the Church. The modern tendency to distinguish between the teaching of Christ and that of for instance St Paul on the matter is its own kind of technical argument…which has been rejected by the Church since St Peter. To confine any definition of sexual morality to consenting adults who do not wish to harm each other is a rather novel interpretation of the teaching of Christ (if I may say so!)

  • Rory Carr

    Other parts of the New Testament are replete with references to avoiding sexual misconduct and spell out in detail what has developed into the teaching of the Church.

    There you go, I know my powers of recall were suffering from a touch of the Ruperts.

    Can you perhaps direct old forgetful fogies like me to just a few of those many “references to sexual misconduct” with which the Gospels are as you say, “replete”, Newman. Especially any juicy bits on sexual misconduct mano a mano to keep us in the zeitgeist so to speak.

  • Newman

    Rory I am not a great fan of the scriptural bullet method of discussion but as you ask I will dig out..you will have to give me a little time

  • Neil


    some good advice here:


    If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel.

    Among other things…

  • Neil

    Not gay related btw just a bit kinky.

  • Rory Carr

    Pity we don’t know what God thinks about all of this.

    And not one religious out there who might tell us what it is that God thinks. I suppose it’s that innate sense of modesty that accompanies advanced spiritual enlightenment that prevents them from speaking out.

  • Newman

    Rory starter for 10..Mark 7:21;Mat 15:9
    Acts 15:20 and 29 Romans 1:29 1st Cor 5:1 ;6:13;6:18;10:8;7:2 Gal5:19

  • Rory Carr

    Matthew 15:9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

    It strikes me, Newman tah you might care to take note of this verse as it seems to me that from all the other verses which you have selected you appear to have extrapolated from their condemnation of lust, promiscuity etc a blanket condemnation of loving sexual acts between two human beings of the same sex, yet nowhere is this stated. I expect that historical usage impels you to equate “fornication” with homosexual acts but that comes, I would suggest, from your mind (or the minds of other men who have influenced you).

    But why listen to me – I am the sort of guy who takes his Christian interpretation from fictional characters – Don Quixote, Huckleberry Finn and Zorba the Greek (above all Zorba who after confessing to murder, arson and rape in his youth in the wars against the Turks now says, “I no longer ask if a man is Turk or Greek, I only ask, ‘Is he a good man or a bad man?’, and, I swear by all that’s holy, the older I get, I do not even ask that, all I ask is, ”Is he a man?’ ”

    Live and let live.

  • Newman

    Interesting thought Rory, but I think its a case of having one’s cake…. Loving sexual acts are clearly set within a particular framework in the New Testament. That framework is the marriage of a man and a woman. It needs to be lifelong and committed because, inter alia, their union may result in children. I don’t think one can simply rewrite the scriptures and come up with all sorts of novel interpretations of something that has always been accepted. I think St Paul would have been surprised if he was asked if Romans 1 was only referring to male prostitution.

    I appreciate the sentiment at the end…the older I get the more grey I find, and one recognises that there all sorts of pastoral dilemmas but hard cases make bad law.. One still needs a moral compass otherwise there is no truth and ultimately no hope. To reduce philosophy to whatever doesn’t hurt anyone else and “live and let live” has its attractions..but though it may act as a hedge against prejudice or intolerance there is nothing of substance in the core of the philosophy which is why it by definition descends into moral relativism.

  • An interesting resource for this discussion would be to read the motions (both withdrawn and the eventually debated one) which are available on the COI’s website:


    I am nothing, if not heartened, to see the central points which read:

    “…the Church of Ireland affirms:

    – A continuing commitment to love our neighbour, and opposition to all unbiblical and uncharitable actions and attitudes in respect of human sexuality from whatever perspective, including bigotry, hurtful words or actions, and demeaning or damaging language;

    – A willingness to increase our awareness of the complex issues regarding human sexuality;

    – A determination to welcome and to make disciples of all people.”

    It’s encouraging that these points survived intact throughout all the changes to the motion.

  • Newman

    I agree