The Church of Ireland’s Select Committee on Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief launched its Guide to the Conversation on 18 January 2016 – a new resource designed to assist members of the Church in the ongoing process of listening, learning and dialogue on the issue. The Guide outlines the process to date along with contextual essays and contributions from different viewpoints.
The Guide was launched in Church of Ireland House on 18 January, Dublin, by the Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke, and in the Northern Province on 19 January in St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, also by the Archbishop of Armagh.
The Archbishop said: ‘I commend the Guide warmly. It contains an absolute wealth of material on a huge variety of issues. We are encouraged to use the Scriptures reverently and humbly, and helped in finding ways in which we may do this. We are given practical guidance on how to approach dialogue with those who hold different viewpoints from ours.’
The Very Revd John Mann, Chairman of the Select Committee, explained that its members initially considered taking a broad approach to human sexuality before deciding to concentrate on same-sex issues, in the light of current debates and recent legislation. In advance of today’s launch, he said: ‘Following a number of meetings and residential sessions, the Select Committee sought theological and biblical guidance, as well as beginning a wide-ranging listening process whereby organisations and individuals were given the opportunity to express their views and experiences in a safe and confidential manner.’
Dean Mann continued: ‘The Select Committee has not sought to present the Guide as a solution to difficult issues arising from sexuality in the life of the Church. There are conflicting views voiced in the Guide but there is plenty of material to make the thinking person reflect, challenge preconceived notions, and give them a voice for their concerns or the confidence to search out further guidance.’
Study modules will also be available to encourage discussion and personal reflection. Dean Mann concluded: ‘These will help all who sincerely seek to engage with the issues and to understand all whose relationship with the Church is affected by their sexual orientation.’