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Two Anglican Communions?

In March 2004, the Rev. Dr. David Short from Vancouver spoke at a gathering of Irish Anglicans, where he sounded an ominous warning. Commenting on the Irish House of Bishops' Pastoral Letter on Human Sexuality, he warned that the kind of language used by the Bishops was the same as that used by the Canadian Diocese of New Westminster, shortly before it adopted rites for same-sex blessings. He predicted that within two years Church of Ireland clergy might well be performing same-sex blessings.

Since this warning was issued, the Archdeacon of Dublin, Gordon Linney, has called for the acceptance of same-sex unions in Ireland. As well as being reported in the national newspapers, his remarks were posted on the Dublin Diocesan website and on the Church of Ireland website. In the light of this apparently 'official' endorsement of his views, without any public rebuke from the House of Bishops, his remarks are beginning to look like the first steps in the fulfilment of Dr. Short's warning. Given that the Bishop of Cork in his Christmas 2003 address called upon the Church to seek the forgiveness of 'gay Christians' for the way the Church of Ireland has allegedly persecuted them, and that the Bishop of Limerick has publicly supported the appointment of the Gene Robinson, the openly homosexual Bishop of New Hampshire, it looks likely that the views of Archdeacon Linney will receive quite a sympathetic response by the more liberal members of the House of Bishops.

As the debate on the issue of homosexuality in the Church continues, it is becoming more apparent that there is a growing acceptance amongst the hierarchy of the Church of the validity of same-sex unions. As a result, many faithful, orthodox, Anglican churches in Ireland may well find themselves locked in opposition to their Diocesan Bishop, where that Bishop has accepted the viability of same-sex unions. If this is the case, these faithful Anglican churches will not only have to distance themselves from the views of their liberal Bishops, but also they may well have to follow the example of Dr. David Short and others in Vancouver.

Along with ten other churches in Vancouver, Dr. David Short's church has formed a coalition of faithful Anglican churches, the Anglican Communion in New Westminster (ACiNW), which has rejected the Bishop's authority. This may well be the case in Ireland within the next few years. Where a Diocesan Bishop ignores the plain teaching of Scripture on the sinfulness of homosexual unions, clergy and laity are entitled to question the authority of such a Bishop. Like many faithful, biblically-orthodox churches in the Episcopal church in America, they are entitled to seek alternative episcopal oversight. It may well be that if a Diocesan Bishop or the General Synod permits same-sex blessings to proceed in Church of Ireland churches, groups of faithful Anglican churches will even have to form an alternative Anglican communion in Ireland.

If they do so, the experience of the ACiNW is worth noting. Not only are these churches facing persecution from the Diocese of New Westminster, but more significantly they are officially supported by twenty-one of the Anglican Church's thirty-eight provinces, who have withdrawn their support from the Diocese. Irish Anglican churches, which uphold the biblical, and traditional Christian teaching on sexuality will find they are supported by their brothers and sisters in the worldwide church.

As voices are raised within the Church of Ireland, calling for the acceptance of same-sex unions, faithful, Christian people should not be afraid to take the necessary steps to ensure that their local church will maintain an Anglican denomination that is loyal to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This might mean the emergence of two very different Anglican communions in Ireland; one that is faithful to the Bible, and to the historic Christian doctrines of the Church of Ireland; and another that has abandoned biblical Christianity for a faith of its own making. Those who support the acceptance of same-sex unions belong to the latter, whilst those who uphold biblical and traditional Christian teaching belong (with the majority of the Anglican communion) to the former. Such a theological division already exists within the Church of Ireland, but within a few years this theological division may well manifest itself more openly in the concrete reality of two different communions. A growing episcopal support for same-sex unions will inevitably ensure that this will indeed be the future for the Church of Ireland.

07th Apr 2004

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