Saturday, 10 January 2015

Presbyterian Church in Ireland: No appetite to fulfil own pastoral guidelines on gay issues

Idaho sticker with the PCI's Union College in background
In today's Newsletter there is article which looks at why the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) is not looking to follow swiftly on the heels, or maybe not follow at all, the Church of Scotland in its acceptance of openly gay clergy. It comes under the heading "Presbyterian figures stress little appetite for gay Presbyterian debate".

Sadly I would have to concur. Long term readers will remember over 5 years ago I wrote about my own experiences as a gay Presbyterian. I also wrote about the PCI's own pastoral guidelines especially and have on a number of occasions shared my dismay the failure of the PCI to even honour the recommendations from those guidelines. For clarity I post them here:

Recommendations That the General Assembly -
  • 1. adopts the guidelines and advocates their use and practice within the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. 
  • 2. strongly state that attitudes and approaches within our congregations that, 'victimise or diminish human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex' are unacceptable. 
  •  3. encourage repentance for the occasions when persons with same sex attractions have been treated in ways severely lacking in grace within the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and that the Assembly encourage an attitude of grace and mercy to be actively shown to all who struggle with different aspects of their sexuality. 
  •  4. continue to encourage our congregations to 'Create an environment of love, acceptance, patience, forgiveness and grace.' 
  •  5. ask that the Board of Social Witness (BSW) to investigate the possibility of creating 'a safe space' for people struggling with their sexuality and that funding be sought to create such a safe space. 
  •  6. ask the BSW and Board of Youth and Children’s Ministries to cooperate in updating the 'Loving in the Real World' youth resource to include more instructive material on the area of same-sex attraction.
  • 7. encourage the possibility of the establishment of parents' support group/s to help parents who are struggling with the issues surrounding children who have 'come out'.

So not only have the PCI not been showing an appetite to get involved in the gay debate the Board of Social Witness have yet to report back about the possibility of creating a safe space within the church for these issues to be discussed, nor has any support group been set up. Nor can I find an up to date version of Loving in the Real World reflecting the points raised. So far from having to follow the Church of Scotland that seem lethargic when it comes to taking action on their own recommendations on the issue.

Indeed for the past seven years since they resolved to pass these Pastoral Guideline there has been a lack of action on these action points and any debate on the issue can at best be described as a monologue and certainly not a dialogue with those lesbian, gay and bisexual members who may still be sitting in their pews or those who, like me, have left as they no longer feel welcome or accepted (as in point 4).

All that aside, however, retired minister the Rev Donald Watts former clerk of the Irish Presbyterian Church’s General Assembly does say:

 "I think the much bigger debate is our acceptance of people who have a homosexual orientation within the church. 
"I think the clergy debate is a bit of a distraction from the much bigger issue."

I hope he is right, but for the time being I think the PCI find what they believe the bedroom practices of those with same sex attraction has been a distraction to even consider them as individuals, believers and humans. The debate on clergy in my opinion is just a red herring as to the inactivity of the PCI to get involved in this debate with anyone it actually impacts.

No comments:

Post a Comment