with friends like these…
‘Therefore, I want to pay a particular and personal tribute to my colleagues in the House of Bishops, not only for their committment to providing means by which the Church of Ireland may address what are experienced in all the churches as difficult and potentially divisive issues, but also for their committment to modelling and sustaining a spirit of unity in the Church of Ireland.’
So spoke the Archbishop of Armagh in his opening address to the General Synod of the Church of Ireland to a packed church of clergy, laity, and ecumenical observers. Little did he know a few hours later his words would look completely foolish as two of his bishops displayed anything but unity within the House of Bishops and modelled quite a different spirit to the Church.
Significantly, one of the bishops at the centre of the homosexual row, Michael Burrows, whose unilateral actions instigated the greatest degree of disunity the Church of Ireland has seen in the modern era, was one of those whose remarks led to the motion, affirming the traditional Christian belief in marriage as outlined in Canon 31, being dismisssed:this, despite the fact that the House of Bishops themselves had as a body brought the motion to the General Synod in the first place!
What a shambles! It was even applauded - at least by those keen to introduce homosexuality as a valid Christian lifestyle in the Church of Ireland. It begs the question what unity is there in the Church of Ireland and what sort of behaviour are the House of Bishops modelling? Certainly, the question arises why anyone should ever trust their words again?
For many of us, the shambles on display at the General Synod, gives no reason to trust that the Church of Ireland will remain faithful to the Gospel and the Lordship of Christ over his church. Probably, it has confirmed that the time has come for faithful Anglican churches, clergy and people to look for alternative episcopal oversight apart from what’s on offer in the Church of Ireland.
The Gospel is too precious, souls are too precious, and the Church of Ireland is too valuable, to follow the ‘lead’ of the present occupants of the House of Bishops - with few exceptions.