Speaking at the Diocesan Synod of Cork, Cloyne and Ross in the Rochestown Park Hotel in Douglas, Co. Cork on Saturday 10th June 2017, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork, Bishop Paul Colton, noted the decision earlier in the week (8th June) of the Scottish Episcopal Church to amend its Canon on marriage, making same-sex marriages in church possible, while also recognising that there are ‘differing views of marriage in our church … and that we are a church of diversity and difference, bound together by our oneness in Christ’ (quoting phrases used by the Primus of Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Reverend David Chillingworth).
Bishop Colton suggested that ‘it may well be the Scottish approach represents a way forward for us too that recognises all integrities.’ ‘It is worth considering in our debate here Irelnd’, he said.
In this section of his Synod address, Bishop Colton said:
‘Change is signalled also by the decision two days ago, on Thursday, 8th June, of our sister Church in Scotland, the Scottish Episcopal Church, to alter its canon on marriage by removing the doctrinal clause which states that marriage is between a man and a woman. Clergy who wish to conduct same-sex marriages will have to opt in, and no priest is to be compelled to do so.’
‘As we saw at our own General Synod recently arising from a private members motion, there are many in the Church of Ireland who are anxious to debate such issues here too. Equally many are determined that this is not a matter which is up for debate at all. There is a debate, and, however tentatively, it has, in fact, started.’
‘That such things are open to debate in this Church has always been the case. If there had been no questioning or discourse, the Reformation itself would not have happened, nor would many other developments have unfolded over the centuries, in ministry, in liturgy and in belief, the most recent examples being our change in approach to suicide, to the marriage in church of divorcees, and also the ordination of women, and there are many others.’
The Most Reverend David Chillingworth, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, who is from Ireland and ministered for most of his life here, said:
The new Canon itself affirms that there are differing views of marriage in our church. Nobody will be compelled to do anything against their conscience. We affirm that we are a church of diversity and difference, bound together by our oneness in Christ …
‘The reality is that there is such diversity and difference throughout the Church of Ireland too. Those differences and that diversity cannot be ignored. We will have to engage with one another to find a way forward. There are in the Church of Ireland ‘differing views of marriage’, and ‘…we are a church of diversity and difference, bound together by our oneness in Christ.’ It may well be the Scottish approach represents a way forward for us too that recognises all integrities. It is worth considering in our debate here.’