Clerics unite against civil partnership

Dean Tom Gordon.
Dean Tom Gordon.

TEN local Church of Ireland clergy have come out strongly against the civil partnership involving a Portadown-born senior cleric.

In a joint statement issued to the Portadown Times, clergy from the Rural Deanery of Kilmore said the union between The Very Rev Tom Gordon and Mark Duley had given rise to “hurt and sadness” within their respective congregations.

The clergy, who underlined that marriage in the eyes of the church comprises “a lifelong commitment by one man and one woman to each other”, said many within their parishes find themselves unable to accept same-sex unions.

The eight parishes of Kilmore, St Mark’s, Portadown, Drumcree, St Columba’s, Milltown, Tartaraghan, Annaghmore, Kilmore/St Saviour’s (Dobbin) and Richhill, met on Tuesday night after which they issued a statement. This has been backed by the Rector of Seagoe, Rev Terence Cadden.

Mr Gordon insists that the civil partnership has the approval of his superiors, but evangelical groups within the Church of Ireland are continuing to demand answers about why such a union was permitted.

The Kilmore Deanery said they had no alternative but to outline their views, given the absence of a resolution from the Church of Ireland hierarchy.

They said, “Recently the Northern Ireland press and the Portadown Times, have reported that the Very Rev Tom Gordon, Dean of Leighlin, has entered a civil partnership with his long-term male partner of 20 years.

“While such civil partnerships are permitted in civil law, the fact that this one involves a serving clergyman has given rise to much distress, hurt and sadness to many Church of Ireland people from our parishes within the Rural Deanery of Kilmore.

“This has placed us in a position where we feel we must make some kind of statement by way of reassurance and support to our parishioners.

“To fail to say anything would allow the picture reported by sections of the media, and exaggerated by the uninformed, to stand, by default.

“The matter of Very Revd Tom Gordon’s civil partnership on the one hand is a matter for his and his partner’s individual conscience, but it is a move which many people of the Church of Ireland are unable to accept.

“In the absence of a resolution to this matter determined by the whole Church of Ireland, we the serving clergy of Kilmore Rural Deanery, wish to reassure our people that the recent development has not changed the Church’s position on marriage, nor has it accepted that a sexual relationship outside marriage is in keeping with God’s intention.

“We, the undersigned, wish to assure our people that we believe the teaching of the Church of Ireland on marriage is consistent with Scripture. Marriage is understood by the Church to comprise a lifelong and exclusive commitment by one man and one woman to each other. The statement issued by the Archbishop of Armagh on September 7 affirms this position.

“We welcome and endorse the statement issued by the Archbishop Alan Harpur, in which he also said, “The Church has no provision or proposals for any liturgy for the blessing of civil partnerships and there are no authorised public rites of blessing for same–gender relationships.’

“We trust these words are sufficient to reassure our people, and all fellow Christians, that there has been no official departure from the Church of Ireland’s position on this matter.

“In the light of all that is happening at this present time on this issue, we devote ourselves to prayer for the unity of our Church and its continued faithfulness to Holy Scripture; for the guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit on our Archbishop, Bishops and leaders of our church.”

The statement is signed by Canon Bill Adair (St Columbas’), Canon Jim Campbell (St Mark’s), Rev Dorothy McVeigh (Annaghmore), Rev Gerald Macartney (Milltown), Rev Malcolm Kingston (Kilmore and Dobbin), Rev David Coe (Richhill), Rev David Hilliard (Tartaraghan), Rev Gary Galway (Drumcree), Rev Carmen Hayes (St Mark’s) and Rev Elizabeth Cairns (St Columba’s).

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