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CofI Primate defends decision on US Church

By Sarah Mac Donald - 18 January, 2016

Archbishop Richard Clarke, Church of Ireland Primate of All Ireland.

Archbishop Richard Clarke, Church of Ireland Primate of All Ireland.

The Church of Ireland Primate of All Ireland has defended the decision by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion to restrict the US Episcopal Church’s involvement for three years.

The censure was supported by a two-thirds majority in a bid to avoid a schism within the Anglican Communion worldwide.

The 38 bishops and archbishops who attended the crunch meeting in Canterbury also voted to reaffirm marriage as between a man and a woman.

A statement issued by the Anglican primates said the Episcopal Church would “no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity” for a period of three years.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence programme, Archbishop Richard Clarke, who attended the Canterbury meeting, said people need to read the statement “very carefully rather than the headlines that have been put on it”.

“Those who wanted to push – as they’re entitled to do – an agenda about gay marriage, wanted to say ‘look the Americans have been sanctioned, they’re being humiliated’,” he said.

But Dr Clarke added, “The reality is they haven’t.”

He said the first decision the primates made was “We wanted to stay together, we wanted to walk together, while leaving enough breathing space, or faith space, so that hopefully we can grow together”.

He recognised that it would be construed as kicking the issue into the long grass.

Asked if he himself might change his own views during the course of the three years of reflection, Archbishop Clarke responded that he was “always open to changing (his) mind” in either direction.

“This is an issue for the global communion.”

“My own view is that I believe in equality absolutely and completely” he stated and added “I don’t believe that God is homophobic,” Archbishop Clarke said.

“I have to be open to the working of the Holy Spirit” but he said same sex marriage seemed to him to be a departure from his inherited understanding of marriage as between male and female.

“But as far as the Church of Ireland is concerned that would not be a matter for any individual but a matter in the first instance for the General Synod of the Church of Ireland to make that decision.”

Asked how divided the Church of Ireland is on this issue, Archbishop Clarke said he hoped, “We might work at ways in which we might find some form of pastoral accommodation that would be true to the scriptures and to our understanding of the Scriptures and would be true to our understanding that every human person is made in the image and likeness of God and is equally loved by him and must be equally loved by us.”

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