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Church of Ireland rejects same-sex equality plans

The Church of Ireland has voted to reject measures intended to recognise same-sex relationships within the church at the annual General Synod.

A proposal, which states that the Church “acknowledges the injury felt by members of the church who enter into loving, committed and legally-recognised, same-sex relationships” was voted down by members of the Christian church.

The General Synod voted 176 against and 146 for the motion, which was drafted by Leo Kilroy.

Kilroy stressed that “many brothers and sisters” in the church are LGBT, and the current approach by the church was “hurting” them.

“Advances in civic society in recent years have seen LGBT people achieve many rights and legal protections, but many lesbian and gay people continue feel gravely hurt by the Church,” Kilroy said.

While same-sex marriage is not permitted by the Church of Ireland, the proposal called for greater acceptance of LGBT clergy members and pastoral recognition and support.

Kilroy stressed that the motion was not trying to change the issue of same-sex marriage within churches.

“This motion is not asking for marriage in the Church,” he explained. “I understand that many of you hold the Church’s definition of marriage dearly.

“This motion is careful to protect Canon 31. It is simply calling for permission to develop ways to publicly and pastorally support and celebrate lesbian and gay people at important times in their lives,” Kilroy added.

The majority of those who voted against the bill were from churches in the Northern part of the country, where same-sex marriage is still illegal despite it being legalised in the Republic of Ireland in 2015.

A number of figureheads in the church said that they felt “bullied” for holding beliefs that deny equality to LGBT clergy members.

Reverend Alison Calvin of Kilmore said: “It’s not fair that my deeply held convictions are portrayed as those of a narrow-minded bigot.”

The General Synod was also set to vote on plans which would have offered gay “thanksgiving” services.

The motion would have directed Bishops to “investigate a means to develop sensitive, local pastoral arrangements for public prayer and thanksgiving with same-sex couples at key moments in their lives”.

Following the collapse of the government in Northern Ireland, the DUP has laid down a ban on same-sex marriage as a ‘red line’ in the country’s ongoing power-sharing talks.

The DUP is required to form a new power-sharing government with second-largest party, Sinn Féin – but talks have repeatedly stalled.

Sinn Féin’s named equal marriage a “key issue” in the talks to form a new power-sharing government, but the DUP has refused to give any ground.

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