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Press Releases / The referendum result is now out. What is your response? Interview with the Archbishop of Dublin on Whit Sunday

Archbishop Michael JacksonQ: The Referendum result is now out. What is your response and have you had any response from anyone as you have been out and about in the diocese today Whit Sunday?

A: First, may I set the context?

I took the opportunity and had the privilege of being at Dublin Castle on Saturday evening as the results of the Referendum were being announced constituency by constituency. It was clear that the voice of the people of the Republic of Ireland had spoken, as is appropriate in a modern democracy. It was also clear to me that the reaction of the crowd gathered in anticipation of a final outcome was reflective, calm and responsive. The scene was as follows: there were people of all ages, there were families and individuals, friends, acquaintances and the occasional dog. There was an air of conviviality and companionship on the part of all of us who gathered in increasing numbers to witness what was a genuinely historic day in the life of the Republic. Referenda draw all citizens into a civic engagement in issues pertinent to the shape of the State in a thoroughly democratic way.

A significant majority situation brings with it a fresh responsibility to a numerical minority. Inherited roles have, in a significant sense, been challenged radically. Subsequent public utterances by those involved have been courteous and have continued the spirit of respectful dialogue. I was deeply conscious of this creative tension as I blended with the friendly crowd on a Saturday evening outside Dublin Castle. My role as archbishop of Dublin requires that I engage with the people of the city and the people of the Province of Dublin. This was part of the energy and excitement of such engagement by being part of the crowd at Dublin Castle on a sunny May evening.

Q: How did you find that people reacted to the result of the Referendum?  

Already there has been a number of reactions and people have shared them with me. One is that people welcome the openness of a civic society to give dignity to people who for many years have felt excluded from civic belonging. This has involved painfully the abnegation of who they know themselves to be and are perceived to be by others.  Another reaction, related to the new civic space resulting from the outcome of the Referendum, is the discussion which will now have to be held, as a matter of some urgency, with honesty, integrity, respect and compassion around what constitutes family. This was always going to be an outcome of the Referendum in that it was a Referendum of Constitutional proportions. The urgency of this conversation has been heralded already by politicians who facilitated the discourse preceding the Referendum. This provides both an opportunity and a challenge to all churches. It also chimes with the words of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin which speak into the situation of all of us, that the church now has to engage in a reality check.

As members of the Church of Ireland, this draws us right back into the agenda of The Hard Gospel Project. Voices excluded for whatever reason deserve attentive listening and respectful response. It is for this reason that we are deeply grateful that an initiative that at one point may have seemed particularly pertinent to Northern Ireland, the Six Counties, now makes a fresh contribution to the self–understanding of the Church of Ireland in the Twenty–six Counties.  It is for this reason that I would suggest that the Referendum in fact facilitates the Church of Ireland in exploring at its deepest level the Resolution of the General Synod of 2012 in its entirety.

Many people remember only the fact that this Resolution asserted afresh, by the most comprehensive Synodical agreement, Canon 31 of the Church of Ireland, to the effect that marriage is between a man and a woman. It is important to remember, in light of the recent Referendum, that we are pledged and honour–bound to do justice to the totality of the scope of the full Resolution:

“The Church of Ireland welcomes all people to be members of the Church. It is acknowledged, however, that members of the Church have at times hurt and wounded people by words and actions, in relation to human sexuality. 

Therefore, in order that the Church of Ireland is experienced as a ‘safe place’ and enabled in its reflection, the Church of Ireland affirms:

·       A continuing commitment to love our neighbour, and opposition to all unbiblical and uncharitable actions and attitudes in respect of human sexuality from whatever perspective, including bigotry, hurtful words or actions, and demeaning or damaging language; 

·       A willingness to increase our awareness of the complex issues regarding human sexuality;

·       A determination to welcome and to make disciples of all people. 

The Church of Ireland is mindful that for all who believe ‘there is no distinction’ and that ‘all have sinned and come short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:22 – 23) and are in need of God’s grace and mercy. We seek to be a community modelled on God’s love for the world as revealed in Jesus Christ. We wish that all members of the Church, through the teaching of the scriptures, the nourishment of the sacraments, and the prayerful and pastoral support of a Christian community will fulfill their unique contribution to God’s purposes for our world.

The General Synod requests the Standing Committee to progress work on the issue of Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief and also to bring a proposal to General Synod 2013 for the formation of a Select Committee with terms of reference including reporting procedures.”

The Church of Ireland, through a Committee of its General Synod, is already engaged in an in–depth process of listening and reflection inspired by the Resolution of General Synod 2012 and following through on The Hard Gospel and its findings to date. What is now incumbent upon us is to take fresh cognisance of part 2 of that Resolution. As members of the Church of Ireland who have spoken in a personal capacity ahead of the outcome of the Referendum have suggested, this is now a matter of pressing urgency if we in the Church of Ireland are to fulfill our responsibility of care to all those who look to us in hope of a fresh expression of the love of God in the Season of Pentecost.

As I stood outside Dublin Castle on Saturday evening, I could not but be reminded of the Ash Wednesday Collect: “Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing that you have made and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may receive from you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” 

Michael Jackson, archbishop of Dublin 

Whitsunday 2015

Category: Press Releases
Posted: Monday 25th May 2015
Added By: Lynn Glanville

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