Members of the Anglican Church of Ireland are being asked to consider whether the Church should change its mind on homosexuality as it has in the past on women, slavery, contraception and the remarriage of divorcees.
A new Church of Ireland report, A Guide To The Conversation On Human Sexuality, asks whether the Church has imposed on its interpretation of scripture "an inadequate analysis of human sexuality".
It also suggests that an "an idyllic vision of modern family life" might have been imposed.
The report suggests that "the moral logic underpinning the negative portrayal of same-sex eroticism in Scripture does not directly address committed, loving, consecrated same-sex relationships today."
The report also quotes St Paul in Galatians 3: "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus."
It says: "As the Church has changed its views on slavery, women's ministry, remarriage of divorced persons in Church, contraception etc, can we welcome members of the LGBT community as full members of our Christian community?"
The General Synod Select Committee on Issues of Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief, which sat and heard evidence over more than two years, found that the witness from parents with children searching for their true sexual identity "was particularly powerful, indeed, almost overwhelming".
All-Ireland Primate and Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Richard Clarke, said the report contained an enormous amount of advice: "We are encouraged to use the Scriptures reverently and humbly, and helped in finding ways in which we may do this. We are also given practical guidance on how to approach dialogue with those who hold different viewpoints from ours."
Dean John Mann, chairman of the select committee, said: "There are conflicting views voiced in the guide, but there is also 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."
Mann added that the committee viewed their role in the broadest of terms, as having a remit to discuss a range of issues concerning human sexuality. But they realised they had to focus on the "presenting issue" of same–sex attraction.
This was because this issue, beyond all others, "is what is divisive for the Church and causing most hurt and uncertainty amongst its members".
The realised they should not fear "a potentially creative and transforming encounter with those with whom we differ," Mann said.
The guide was launched yesterday in Dublin and in St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast, this afternoon.
It comes the week after the leaders of the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion met in Canterbury in an attempt to avoid schism over the issue of homosexuality. The Primates agreed to take action against The Episcopal Church of the US by suspending its voting rights on some Anglican Communion committees.
Dr Clarke said the actions taken, described by the Archbishop of Canterbury as "consequences" rather than sanctions, were the result of "a determination to walk together, albeit with some at a safe distance from one another." The Episcopal Church and the conservative Primates of the Global South have been at odds since the Americans consecrated an openly gay bishop in 2003.