The motion could be a step towards liberalising the church’s approach to gay marriage.
Michaela Morgan

4 May 2017 - 1:27 PM  UPDATED 4 May 2017 - 1:28 PM

The Church of Ireland’s General Synod will meet this Friday to debate a motion proposing "sensitive, local pastoral arrangements for public prayer and thanksgiving with same-sex couples" at key moments in their lives.

The motion also seeks to acknowledge "injury felt by members who enter into loving, committed and legally-recognised, same-sex relationships, due to the absence of provision for them to mark that key moment in their lives publicly and prayerfully in church".

It will be the first time the synod has voted on a major LGBT+ issue since 2012, according to the Belfast Newsletter.

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Changing Attitude Ireland—a pro-LGBT+ group within the church—has released a statement urging members to support the vote on Friday.

"Given the increasing number of same-sex civil marriages in Ireland since last year’s Referendum, the matter of spiritual support from the Church for such unions has become urgent," writes the group's chair, Scott Golden.

However, a number of the clergy are fiercely opposed to the motion.

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"We believe this particular apology and exoneration is an important step forward – it’s an important reckoning with our past.”

Rev Dr Alan McCann of Carrickfergus has written a blog post ahead of the vote saying: “We are deluded as a Church if we believe that by embracing this sinful way of life we are going to fill our church pews each week.

“The very opposite is true. In my own parish, I have already lost families who no longer wished to belong to a denomination that could not be clear on the plain teaching of the Bible on sexual matters, and I fear that may well become and exodus in the future.”

While the Republic of Ireland legalised same-sex marriage following a 2015 referendum, Northern Ireland has been left behind as the Democratic Unionist Party continues to veto attempts to introduce legislation.