Bishop speaks out to support civil marriage for same-sex partners
ONE of the Church of Ireland's most outspoken bishops has backed civil marriage for same-sex couples.
Dr Paul Colton, who is Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, said he supports a change in the law to permit same-sex marriage and hopes that one day his church will feel able to celebrate gay marriages with an official liturgy.
Speaking on BBC Northern Ireland's 'Sunday Sequence' radio programme, Bishop Colton said: "I certainly support civil same-sex marriage."
He also apologised to LGBT people "for the terrible hurt" many of them "have been caused by institutional religion".
The 64-year-old said he recognised that the Church of Ireland's definition of marriage, which was outlined at the church's recent general synod, restricts marriage to a man and a woman.
"I adhere to that discipline but that is not to say that everyone must be required to take the Church of Ireland's view of marriage," he said.
The bishop also said he was one of a significant minority within the church "that long to see the day when we can have a discussion on all sorts of other issues about the nature of marriage with a view to at least allowing the blessing of same-sex couples following their civil unions, if not their marriage in church, as is happening in other parts of the Anglican communion."
Bishop Colton, who in 1999 officiated at the marriage of David and Victoria Beckham at Luttrellstown Castle in Co Dublin, has been a long-time supporter of gay rights.
Last week, he was the guest speaker at the launch of Cork city's LGBT Awareness Week.
In his address, the married Anglican cleric recalled that in 2003 he accused the Christian churches of being "complicit in injustice to gay and lesbian people and the resulting human suffering".
He said the debate on gay marriage had moved so quickly that the Church of Ireland hasn't formulated a stance on next year's proposed referendum.
"It is a very divisive debate and it is something that we are going to have to work through," the bishop warned.
He also admitted that a lot of people have lost patience with the debate and that is causing people in some incidences to walk away and say they have had enough of it.
Of gay and lesbian members of the Church of Ireland, Bishop Colton said he knew from his ministry and from what other clergy were saying that some were angry with institutional religion and some were still actively involved in parish life, but "clinging on by their fingertips".