THE Portadown-born senior cleric who has entered a same-sex civil partnership with a distinguished organist and choirmaster, insisted this week that the union has been accepted by his superiors within the church.
Church of Ireland Dean, The Very Rev Tom Gordon – who started his church life in St Mark’s, Portadown – entered into a civil ceremony in County Galway, with his partner of 20 years, New Zealander Mark Duley.
He is the first serving Church of Ireland minister to undertake a same-sex civil ceremony since the law in the Republic was introduced at the start of 2011, although a retired cleric is thought to have entered a gay partnership.
The issue has caused division within the Church of Ireland with four evangelical groups this week demanding answers from the church authorities.
However, Rev Gordon said, “The partnership has not been given a blessing by the Church of Ireland, nor did we seek such a blessing. It is purely a civil matter.”
The Rev Gordon, Dean of Leighlin Cathedral, County Carlow, in the far south of the Republic – also a talented musician - said that their partnership had been widely known within the Church of Ireland. “Now that the law in the south enables same-sex partnerships, we felt it was a normal milestone to go through a civil ceremony,” he said.
“We do not regard this as a marriage, but a legal partnership where our rights are protected within the law. It’s a case of legal entitlement between two partners in aspects like taxes, pensions and inheritance.”
The Rev Gordon (53) and Mr Duley went through the civil ceremony on July 29 in a hotel near the village of Cong, where the famous film ‘The Quiet Man’ was shot in 1952.
Only family and close friends attended the ceremony, and there were between 150 and 200 guests at the reception in the grounds of their historic home near scenic Lough Corrib in County Galway.
Guests included a number of friends and church people from Portadown, staff and executives from RTE where the two men have worked extensively, friends, and members of the various congregations where they have served.
One guest said, “It was a wonderful, happy occasion. It is obvious that Tom and Mark are very highly respected within the Church of Ireland and in music circles. There was a large marquee in the grounds of their house, the food was superb, and the music especially was terrific. It was perhaps the best ‘wedding’ ceremony I have ever attended.
“There were several clergy and members of the Church of Ireland and well-wishers from his churches in Carlow and other parts of Ireland, including Portadown. They obviously think the world of the two men.”
Tom Gordon sang in St Mark’s Choir and also in Portadown Male Voice Choir for a number of years before moving south. He was educated at Portadown College and initially embarked on a career in music, being head of music at a secondary school in Dungannon.
He then entered the Church of Ireland ministry, and after serving for a short time in Northern Ireland, moved to the Republic. “Most of my service has not been with parishes,” he said. “Much has been within the counselling aspect of the church and I have done a lot of work in the religious department of RTE.”
He was producer of a Sunday service in Dublin conducted by Portadown Male Voice Choir in the RTE studios a few years ago, and recently was the preacher at a similar service for the TV station where the close-harmony choir, the Lowry Singers from the town, took part.
His path crossed with Mr Mark Duley in RTE 19 years ago. The Auckland University music first-class graduate is chorus master of the RTE Philharmonic Choir and made his way to Ireland, via Germany and Amsterdam. A masterful organist, he has given recitals and led concerts in various parts of the world.
He was director of music at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, until 2005 when he moved to County Galway, where he is organist and choirmaster in St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church in Galway city. The Portadown cleric served in Galway from 1995-2005 and doubled as organist at St Nicholas’. The Rev Gordon was installed as Dean of Leighlin a year ago by the Rt Rev Michael Burrows, Bishop of Cashel and Ossory,.
He added, “I refused it twice, but I was persuaded to accept the position and am looking forward to a fresh challenge. We have been open about our relationship.”
A spokesman for the Church of Ireland simply said, “It is a civil matter.”
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