(Photo: Reuters/ Toby Melville)
Aimed at easing tensions brought on by the ongoing religious debates on homosexuality and same-sex marriage, the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of Ireland announced Thursday they will hold a major conference to finally make a decision about their position on the controversial issues.
After a three-day meeting that ended this week, the 12 bishops say they committed to work together to find some common ground and work out their disagreements about homosexuality within the church.
The conference of bishops is set for early 2010.
It is obvious to see that there are strong disagreements among the bishops when reading their statement. It says the meeting between them was “frank,” “painful” and careful.”
Some legal scholars agree that same-sex marriage and homosexuality is sinful and without excuse. Others agree that the church leaders should decide on each case. However, most bishops say they hope that some agreement will be forthcoming.
“We met over three days in an atmosphere of prayer and worship to reflect on current disquiet in the Church caused by disagreements on the matter of human sexuality. We acknowledge that this tension is a cause of distress to many,” the bishops announced in a released statement.
“The conference will provide an important opportunity to learn from and listen to one another as the Church strives to discern the mind of Christ.”
Despite setting a date for a major meeting on homosexuality, some “disillusioned conservative and evangelical members of the Church of Ireland are planning their own meeting next week on the issue,” reports the U.K. News Letter.
“Some people will be relieved that there now is some space, but others wanted a clearer outcome from the residential meeting,” Canon Ian Ellis, editor of The Church of Ireland Gazette, wrote in the Gazette.
“However, we’ve got what we’ve got, and that is the start of a process that will be focused and will not be slow.”
Most of the discord in the church stems from when a senior Church of Ireland minister made public his same-sex civil partnership, the first for an Anglican clergyman in Ireland.
The Reverend Tom Gordon, and his partner of 20 years, announced this summer that their relationship was a “normative milestone,” according to media reports.
There have been several ministers from the Anglican Church in England involved in same-sex partnerships.
But the worldwide Anglican Church is still divided on the issue of same-sex relationships and marriage, according to its statement of faith.
Tensions within the Church of Ireland are also evident because the bishops have never been able to agree on an official church opinion on homosexuality and same-sex marriage unions.
In a letter written by the bishops in 2003, they announce that “society is experiencing the breakdown of national, community and inter-personal relationships on a scale that none of us has experienced before.”
“In the case of homosexuality, social attitudes range from complete acceptance through indifference to complete rejection.”
The letter continues to say that Christian tradition maintains an attitude of unacceptance and at times harsh condemnation toward homosexual behavior.
“At its worst this has led to the demonizing, demeaning and oppression of those who, by inclination or in practice, have found themselves attracted to others of the same sex.”