House of Bishops’ statement avoids the real issue
The statement issued on the 5th October by the House of Bishops following their special meeting to consider the present crisis in the Church of Ireland over the civil partnership of a serving cleric and his bishop’s approval, is sadly disappointing and completely inadequate. It utterly fails to address the real issue. It is not good enough for the House of Bishops to say that they met because of ‘current disquiet in the church caused by disagreements on the matter of human sexuality.’ The real issue is that a cleric entered into a civil partnership with the full knowledge of his bishop. This is the source of the problem and the cause of subsequent disquiet. The action of the bishop and the cleric is completely ignored and that is not acceptable. The fact that there is no specific mention of the real issue can only imply that the House of Bishops have effectively endorsed the actions of both Dean Tom Gordon and Bishop Burrows.
Amazingly, there is not even an expression of regret by the House of Bishops that one of their own has thrown the Church of Ireland into such ‘disquiet’. There appears to be no attempt to address the civil partnership and the action of the bishop. This obviously is a deliberate ploy to shift the focus away from the sinful actions of these clergy to a debating forum. This a gross dereliction of duty by the House of Bishops to restore godly discipline to the church. Indeed, this failure to address the action of the Dean and the bishop effectively prejudices any proposed future conference, for it sends out the signal that such civil partnerships are acceptable and gives the green light for other clergy civil partnerships.
Instead of taking a clear biblical stand, the House of Bishops are to issue a pastoral letter to manage a debate in a future conference. Not only is the debate prejudiced to find in favour of homosexual partnerships, but also the debate itself is over. People have effectively made up their minds - certainly Messrs Gordon and Burrows have. No amount of debating is going to change this. Secondly, this conference has ‘no teeth’ - it is not a special General Synod and therefore has no legislative power. This must certainly suit the revisionist bishops as it doesn’t allow any decision to be made. Rather, whilst allowing everyone to have their ’say’, there is now a chance to ’stage-manage’ a slow process of acceptance of the revisionist agenda into the Church of Ireland.
If a conference is to be held, the Dean and the Bishop should immediately stand down from pastoral responsibilities otherwise the outcome of the conference must surely include an acceptance of the present situation. Furthermore, whilst a conference may give a chance for people of different views to air their viewpoint, one wonders how it can possibly strive ‘to discern the mind of Christ’ when the mind of Christ is clearly expressed in his Word! The issue of whether or not homosexuality is a valid life style for a Christian is not a matter of the interpretation of Scripture, but of the authority of Scripture. There is only one valid standard of Christian living to which all Christians are called and there are no exceptions for any particular group. God’s Word is clear that all sexual lifestyles outside of marriage (one man and one woman in faithful life-long union) is sinful and wrong.