AS the Church of Ireland faces a vital annual Synod in Dublin next week - with the ‘gay’ crisis hanging over its future - a local cleric has insisted that the homosexual lifestyle has no place within the church.
The Rev Neville Hughes, Rector of Mullabrack and Kilcluney, Markethill, insisted that the Church of Ireland “must hold fast to the principles of the Scripture that marriage is a life-long bond between a man and a woman, and that the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality are clear”.
Writing in a church publication on ‘Faith and Sexuality in the Church of Ireland’, Rev Hughes - a former curate at St Mark’s in Portadown - states, “I believe homosexuality to be a lifestyle choice, and while I would not approve or condone such a choice, I respect the individual to make that choice.”
He added, though, that it had no place in the church, and that he hoped the Church of Ireland would resolve the issue.
“I do not want to see my church split,” he said. “But many evangelicals could not remain in a church that condoned same-sex partnerships for the sake of ‘inclusiveness’. The law of the land may pass statutes to allow same sex so-called marriages, but the churches must stand fast to the Scriptures.”
The Church of Ireland was plunged into the crisis a year ago when senior cleric The Very Rev Tom Gordon - a former parishioner of St Mark’s, Portadown - entered a same sex civil partnership with New Zealander Mark Duley, in line with the new law introduced in the Republic of Ireland.
Rev Gordon is Dean of Leighlin Cathedral in County Carlow and Mr Duley is a distinguished musician and is organist at St Nicholas’ Collegiate, Galway - they met 20 years ago when they both worked for RTE religious broadcasting and went through the civil ceremony in Cong, County Mayo, near the house they shared in County Galway.
The union had the full support of Dean Gordon’s Bishop Michael Burrows who attended the after-ceremony reception, along with parishioners in Carlow and friends from Portadown.
The House of Bishops has been trying to hold the lines between liberals like Bishop Burrows and evangelicals like the Deanery of Kilmore here in County Armagh, where 12 rectors, including Rev Hughes, signed a document calling for adherence to traditional Biblical teaching.
Dean Gordon is giving no interviews, although he told the Portadown Times in September last year that there were no problems within his own parish, highlighting the differences between the deep south of Ireland and the more traditional Northern Ireland.
The issue is bound to be aired at next weekend’s Synod in Dublin, although no definitive decision will be made in a church which is slow to come to any conclusions.
Rev Hughes said, “It will probably be placed on the agenda for future meetings, but the church must sort this out, and adhere to the Bible. I do not want to see the Church of Ireland that I love splitting because of this.”
The Portadown Times tried to contact Bishop Burrows, but he was unavailable for comment.