To all concerned Church of Ireland laity,
We are writing to you in relation to the civil partnership crisis that has arisen in the Church of Ireland. As you may know, this has been brought about by the actions of Dean Tom Gordon of Cashel and Ossory diocese, who with the full knowledge of his bishop, Michael Burrows, entered into a civil partnership in July this year. This story was made public by the Belfast Newsletter on September 3rd which also published (7th October) a recent interview with the Archbishop of Armagh, who confessed that he had been informed that a civil partnership was about to take place in the diocese of Cashel and Ossory. Astoundingly, he took no action to prevent this civil partnership from proceeding. Incredibly, in his interview with the paper, the Archbishop claimed there was nothing he could do and it wasn’t his diocese or province anyway! In other words, unilaterally, without debate, without consultation with the wider church, in the full knowledge of the division this issue has brought about in the whole Anglican Communion, and with no regard for the unity of the Church of Ireland or the division and pain this would cause, both the Archbishop and the bishop allowed this civil partnership to go forward. From all reports of this action, it seems they made no attempt to stop this partnership, issued no warning to this cleric, nor attempted to point out the consequences of his action. Furthermore, to compound the pain that the church has been experiencing, no apology or statement of regret for the pain that it has caused has come from the clergyman and bishops involved. The House of Bishops have met and have failed to apologize for the action of at least two of their number. Rather than exercise discipline, they have resorted to calling for a debate, essentially an attempt to engineer wider acceptance of the revisionist agenda into the Church of Ireland.
Members of the Church of Ireland need to make their voices heard at this time. This can be done in a number of ways:
1. Parishioners should contact their Rector to ask if they uphold the biblical and traditional Christian teaching on sexuality and agree with Scripture’s teaching on the sinfulness of all sexual relations outside marriage (one man and one woman in faithful life-long union).
2. Parishioners should also write to their bishop to express their deep sorrow that a serving cleric in the Church of Ireland has entered into a civil partnership with another man with the full knowledge of his bishop and the Archbishop of Armagh. They should ask where the bishop stands on this issue. They should also call on their bishop to do all in his power to uphold biblical and traditional Christian teaching and call the offending clergy and bishops to repentance and godliness.
3. Parishioners should ask their vestry to write a similar letter to the bishop.
1. Vestries should write a letter to their bishop outlining:
a). their sorrow that a civil partnership has taken place with the apparent approval of the bishop and the Archbishop of Armagh
b) the sinfulness of all sexual activity outside marriage (one man and one woman in faithful live-long union).
c). the inappropriateness of such an action which was done unilaterally, without consultation with the wider church; its sweeping away of 2000 years of Christian teaching; the deep divisions caused by same-sex partnerships in the Anglican Communion; and the pain this has caused the Church of Ireland
d). the need for clergy to live out and uphold their ordination vows especially in giving an example of godly Christian living.
e). a call for repentance and restorative discipline
f). a question asking the bishop where he stands on this issue and whether or not he believes all sexual relationships outside marriage are wrong and sinful.
2. Vestries should also make clear their unwillingness to financially support a system that endorses such an unbiblical and sinful lifestyle. Money is given in trust by parishioners to support the work of the Gospel, and the church in that work, not to promote ungodly teaching or lifestyles. Vestries therefore need to consider the following:
a). Does their bishop uphold a biblical and traditional Christian view on the sinfulness of sexual lifestyles outside of marriage?
b). If their bishop does not, then vestries need to consider how much of their money should be paid to diocesan funds, if any at all. Also, they should consider supporting and assisting their Rector in seeking alternative Episcopal oversight.
c). If their bishop upholds a biblical and traditional Christian view, then vestries need to know how much of their diocesan levy is given centrally into the Church of Ireland. Whether or not they receive an answer to this, they should consider withholding a portion of the diocesan levy until the situation in the wider church is restored.
C). Diocesan and General Synod members
a). Members of the Church of Ireland who are Diocesan Synod lay representatives need to make sure their voice is heard in Synod. If possible, they need to work with others to call on their diocese to uphold a biblical and traditional stance.
b). Members of the Church of Ireland who are General Synod members have a special responsibility to work together to ensure that the Church of Ireland legislates to uphold a biblical and traditional Christian stance on the sinfulness of all sexual lifestyles outside of marriage (one man and one woman in faithful life-long union) and that no-one engaged in such an unbiblical sexual lifestyle can be ordained as a minister in the Church of Ireland.
Reform Ireland is deeply saddened that serving clergy in the Church of Ireland have brought this crisis into the Church. We strongly believe that the Church of Ireland has an extremely important part to play in witnessing to the Gospel in Ireland, North and South, but can only do so if it is faithful to that same Gospel. We believe that it is time for everyone of us, both clergy and laity, to stand together to ensure that Christ is Lord of our denomination and that we are faithful to the Gospel. We acknowledge that we all are sinners in need of the saving, transforming grace of God, whether heterosexual or homosexual. We stand on the teaching of Scripture that the Gospel is for all and all can be transformed through faith in Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Christ loves sinners and died for them to bring them into his Kingdom to live faithfully for him. This is why we cannot condone or support the homosexual lifestyle for it contradicts God’s purposes for men and women, opposes the cross, makes Christ out to be a liar, and leaves people under the misery and enslavement of sin.
Reform Ireland therefore urges all faithful Christian people to uphold and promote Christ’s word in his church.