Dean of Leighlin, Rev. Tom Gordon said the referendum shows north/south divide
Could the first casualty of the marriage referendum be the Church of Ireland? A prominent cleric in that community certainly thinks there should be a clear north/south divide in the wake of the result.
The Dean of Leighlin Rev. Tom Gordon said the referendum presented the Church of Ireland with “a last-ditch opportunity for its own ‘reality check’”.
“If the Church of Ireland in the Republic is to survive,” he writes, “it may be time for us to reflect on the seismic differences which now exist between the Church’s Southern and Northern constituencies,” he says writing in this week’s edition of the Church of Ireland Gazette.
Rev. Gordon, who provoked controversy when he entered a gay civil partnership, describes Ireland’s Anglicans as “held captive by a conservative agenda”, which he says has caused an almost total collapse in numbers from the Republic seeking to enter ministry, severely disabled ministry in rural parishes, and has caused demoralisation through the closure with scant consultation of the Church of Ireland College of Education.
Recent statistics paint a bleak picture for the Church of Ireland, which had two bishops publicly support same-sex marriage. Weekly church attendance had plummeted to just 15%. Of that 15%, just 7,540 (13%) were under 30.
Arguing that the referendum’s result shows that “Church pronouncements on traditional morality – however forcefully maintained – are the ultimate turn-off in a now transformed republic”, Rev. Gordon insists that the distinctive theological cultures of the provinces of Armagh and Dublin are now so different that each should be allowed formal space to develop their own “theological and pastoral identities”.
“To do otherwise,” writes Rev. Gordon, would be to hasten the demise of the Church of Ireland, “most certainly in the South”, where, he says, census figures show that the Church of Ireland has “dramatically declining numbers”.
The Anglican Primate Archbishop Richard Clarke appeared to pour cold water on moves towards separatism at the recent General Assembly when he insisted that “schism is not in the mindset of the Church of Ireland”.