Bishop: Church of Ireland can never accept gay relationships

One of the foremost evangelical bishops in the Church of Ireland, Bishop Harold Miller, says that the Church can never support homosexual relationships, even if science later proves them to be "natural".

Speaking in an interview with Northern Irish publication News Letter this week, Bishop Miller said that the head of the Church of Ireland, Archbishop Alan Harper, had been wrong to assert that the Church may have to re-think its position on same-sex relationships if science proves that homosexuality is "natural" for some men and women.

"If you say that because you are born with a certain inclination then it is God-given and you should be free to follow that through in your life, it doesn't make any logical sense whatever," Bishop told the newspaper.

"You would then have to say that there are many different inclinations with which people are born - even if it is true that this is an inherent thing - and which people spend their lifetime trying to subdue.

"The fact that you are born with it doesn't make any moral judgement on the inclination. People fight to subdue inherently bad tempers, depressive streaks or lots of sexual inclinations. Some inclinations are good, some are not good and some are mixed."

Archbishop Harper said in an address at a conference of the mission organisation USPG, ""It has not yet been conclusively shown that for some males and some females homosexuality and homosexual acts are natural rather than unnatural.

"If such comes to be shown, it will be necessary to acknowledge the full implications of that new aspect of the truth, and that insight applied to establish and acknowledge what may be a new status for homosexual relationships within the church."

Bishop Miller warned that if the Church did a U-turn on the issue of homosexuality, it would lead to compromise in other contested aspects of human sexuality.

"I stood at the front gate of a Cathedral in America last month and read a notice saying 'Anybody going on the LGBT parade come to the Cathedral first and have your relationship blessed by the bishop'," he said.

"There's no doubt about it - it's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered for a start - so the thing has widened already and you have to ask: what does it mean for someone who's born bisexual to follow their inclination or inclinations?" he said.

Bishop Miller told News Letter, however, that such scientific revelations would not be sufficient grounds for altering the Church's position on homosexuality.

Proving that homosexuality is natural "makes no difference at all", he contested.

Bishop Miller is fresh back from the once-in-a-decade Lambeth Conference, which concluded on Sunday with the Anglican Communion intact but still deeply divided over the issue of homosexuality.

The bishop maintained that although the Communion had room for many different viewpoints, truth should still come before unity.

"We live in a wonderful Communion where you can disagree with each other. I don't think any of us knows at this point whether the Anglican Communion will ever be the same again," he said.

"It's worth holding together but it's not worth holding together at all costs - truth is more important than unity."

He stressed that opposition to homosexuality was not an attack on gay people.

"I don't think that there are any members of the Church of Ireland [that] are going out on some anti-gay drive or to harm gay people," he said.

Referring to assurances from Orthodox and Roman Catholic representatives at Lambeth that their Churches were facing the same issues, he said, "I think that the Anglican Communion is probably working through this issue on behalf of the whole Church and there are other Churches that know perfectly well that this is an issue but they have never been in a position to either admit it or mention it but are looking on to see how the Anglican Communion is going to resolve this," he said.

Bishops at Lambeth agreed to continue the process of drawing up of a covenant that will lay down structures of authority within the Communion, and establishing a Pastoral Forum to care for conservative parishes.

The Lambeth Conference "got better as it went on and where we ended up on the last day was maybe as good a point as we could have arrived at", Bishop Miller concluded.