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Plea for unity over gay bishop argument

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Bishop of Cashel Michael Burrows at the Church of Ireland General Synod at the Radisson SAS Hotel
in Galway yesterday

Bishop of Cashel Michael Burrows at the Church of Ireland General Synod at the Radisson SAS Hotel in Galway yesterday

Bishop of Cashel Michael Burrows at the Church of Ireland General Synod at the Radisson SAS Hotel in Galway yesterday

The Archbishop of Dublin has urged Church of Ireland members not to split over the issue of ordaining gay men as bishops, which has caused a crisis for the world-wide Anglican Communion.

Speaking last night at the Synod's annual service in Galway, Archbishop John Neill also suggested that a resolution of the church's "gay bishop" crisis could be found when the world's Anglican bishops meet in July for their 10-yearly Lambeth Conference.

The crisis erupted in 2003, when a gay priest, Gene Robinson, was elected as Bishop of New Hampshire.

Bishop Robinson, who has not been invited to attend the crucial Lambeth talks, is due in Dublin next week to promote his controversial book, which argues for inclusion of gays and lesbians at all levels of leadership in the church.

Churches in Africa have threatened to secede, if the Anglican Communion gives the go ahead for the further ordination to the episcopacy of gay men, or even gay women.

But Dr Neill set the scene for what he hopes will be a positive outcome to the Lambeth discussions yesterday.

"In the Church of Ireland we have set a great store by the fact that we have been able to remain one in times of deep political division, and in spite of the fact that our ministry, North and South, is in a very different context," the Archbishop said.

"We must ensure that differing theological emphases and differing ethical judgements are not allowed to become matters for division."

Dr Neill acknowledged that the communion of churches to which the Church of Ireland belongs -- the Anglican Communion -- had been going through a very difficult few years.

Crisis

"A crisis such as that which Anglicanism faces in the lead-up to the Lambeth Conference of Bishops this summer can be viewed positively," he said. "It has enabled us to discover more of what it means to wrestle with the recognition of diversity and the call to unity which is of the very nature of the Church."

The archbishop also pointed out that members of other Christian communions had commented that the issues Anglicans were facing were there for all Christians, even if below the surface -- a reference to views within the the Catholic Church which do not agree with the Vatican's hardline.

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"It may well be our vocation to pioneer a way forward," added Archbishop Neill.

"Indeed it is only together that Churches today can really make a difference and seize the opportunities for service and mission that are there. "

President Mary McAleese will today become the first head of state to address the Synod.


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