Byline: BILLY KENNEDY
SENIOR Church of Ireland clerics are closely observing developments in the Episcopal Church of America over the controversial appointment of a homosexual bishop.
All-Ireland Primate Archbishop Robin Eames is deeply concerned that the row could seriously split the Anglican communion, which includes his own Church of Ireland.
American Episcopal leaders delayed a vote this week on whether to confirm the Church's first openly gay elected bishop, the Rev Gene Robinson, after alleg- ations emerged about the im- propriety of his behaviour.
The wrangle over the prospective New Hampshire bishop has serious ramifications for the unity of Anglicanism, with bishops in Australia accusing leaders of the American Episcopalian Church of "turning away from the Bible" - a view shared by many in the Church in Africa, Britain and Europe.
Dr Eames - the most senior Anglican Primate, second only to Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams - is engaged with his House of Bishops in a deep discussion on the issue of homosexuality within the Church of Ireland and the hierarchy is expected to pronounce on the issue over the coming months.
However, unlike the Episcopal Church in the United States or the Church of England, there is no chance of an openly gay cleric emerging as a candidate for senior status in the Church of Ireland now or in the foreseeable future.
The same would apply to the other main Churches in Ireland - Roman Catholic, Presbyterian and Methodist.
A reliable Church of Ireland source said that while his Church was very accepting of homo- sexuals as parish members and as part of humanity, the generally-held view on the ordination of clergy was in line with the traditional interpretation of Biblical scriptures.
"There may be a small lobby within the Church who would want us to go down the road of ordaining homosexual priests but this would not have general approval," he said.
At the Church of Ireland general synod,in Dublin in May, Dr Eames said the hierarchy was aware that homosexuality was a crucial issue for some people, either because they had a view that they wished to advance or because there were issues they faced in their daily lives. …