The road wound through spectacular hills as it drew closer to the northern border. Crowds of people moved in both directions; on foot, sometimes on bicycles. Huge, lumbering trucks, heavily overloaded and breathing black smoke occasionally slowed the progress. The reverie was broken by a voice from the back of the car.
“What is the Church of Ireland’s position on homosexuality?”
Before an answer was possible, the driver answered. “They don’t have one. It would split the church, so it is simpler to say nothing”.
A dismissal of the Church of Ireland, or a cue to avoid a leading question?
The leaves of the trees at roadside were a shade of green unlike any that one might find in Ireland.
Dismissal or evasion, the answer was true. There is no answer to the question; there is no clearly enunciated position.
The person who arrived at this address with the search term “gay Church of Ireland priests” will have gone away disappointed. Whether a gay rights campaigner, a stern conservative evangelical, or a just an interested bystander, there is no answer to the question.
But is the question so important?
There is a complete imbalance in our preaching of the Gospel.
Jesus talks a lot about money and very little about sex, but where is the church’s condemnation of wealth? Where is the church’s condemnation of buildings costing millions while children starve? Where is the condemnation of the Prosperity Theology embraced by many African churches which is completely contrary to Jesus’ teaching on discipleship? The bishop of the city from which we were travelling had a brand new jeep, something far beyond the pocket of a Church of Ireland priest, gay or otherwise; where is the church’s condemnation of such avarice and greed?
The silence from most evangelical leaders is deafening.
Ah, they will say, “we do not favour the blessing of sin.”
Turning the Gospel into a matter of personal morality; turning aside from the values of the Kingdom of God; ignoring Jesus’ teaching on peace and justice; saying people can be Christians without grasping what that means for ethical living; aren’t these sins condoned by evangelicals? A very traditional cleric in the North used to say that the Church of Ireland “preached the disembowelled Gospel”
Being honest, there seem more important things in the world than what people do in their private lives. The conservative mainstream in the Church of Ireland really does not want to hear about sexual habits. Discussing people’s sexuality is not just uninteresting, it has become boring.
Jesus describes the last judgment in Saint Matthew Chapter 25; the sheep and goats are separated on the basis of public morality, on how they responded to the poor and the homeless and the hungry. When that judgment takes place, what will Jesus make of the African bishop with the new jeep, or the one who rides around in a black limousine?
Don’t be looking for gay Church of Ireland priests. Do something more interesting with Google; maybe ask instead about the sheep and the goats and who will survive the separation.