COI Gazette – 24th August 2012

‘Nuclear weapons morally abhorrent’ says Canon Comerford, Irish CND President

At the Hiroshima Day commemorations at Merrion Square, Dublin, are (from left) Dr David Hutchinson-Edgar, Cllr Clare Byrne, Kojiro Uchiyama and Canon Patrick Comerford.

At the Hiroshima Day commemorations at Merrion Square, Dublin, are (from left) Dr David Hutchinson-Edgar, Cllr Clare Byrne, Kojiro Uchiyama and Canon Patrick Comerford.

“The notion that any State could claim to be interested in democracy, peace, stability and progress while promoting, developing or threatening to use nuclear weapons is not just beyond credibility – it is morally abhorrent,” according to the President of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Canon Patrick Comerford, who was speaking at this year’s recent Hiroshima Day commemorations at Dublin’s Merrion Square.

“There is no morality in a political system that depends for its survival on the threat to destroy the survival of all,” the Church of Ireland Theological Institute lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy told the gathering.



In a striking article in the Business pages of The Irish Times last week (14th August), Professor Steven Ozment – Professor of History at Harvard and author on the Reformation – set Germany’s approach to the current eurozone crisis in the context of the country’s Lutheran historical tradition. He urged a looking beyond popular “reductionism” that characterises German attitudes in terms of “the fatal legacy of the Weimar era, the years of promising democracy that began in the defeat and humiliation of the First World War and ended with the Nazi takeover in 1933”.

Professor Ozment instead pointed to the formative influence of Martin Luther and his charitable philosophy that emphasised helping the poor while expecting them, after “timely recovery” from their poverty, to repay what they had received and in their turn to help others in need. He commented of Chancellor Angela Merkel – herself the daughter of a Lutheran clergyman – that “her politics draws from an austere and self-sacrificing, yet charitable and fair, Protestantism”.

There are some Church of Ireland links today with the German Protestant Church – the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland (EKD) – but there is no formal bilateral link similar to the Meissen Commission, formed following the signing of the Meissen Agreement in 1991, between the Church of England and the EKD. The Celtic Anglican Churches share one Observer place on the Meissen Commission in a rotating arrangement, but keeping that body essentially bilateral helps to retain its focus and to root responsibility for the relationship firmly within the two Churches.

The Church of Ireland should now be considering forming its own direct relationship with the EKD, which is largely Lutheran but also contains a considerable strand reflecting other continental Reformers’ theology. One important reason why we should do so, on however limited a scale, is that it would extend our relations with Lutheranism, which currently tend to be dominated by our participation in the Porvoo Communion, of which the EKD is not part.

However, even though a relatively modest level of engagement with the EKD would be envisaged, funding would no doubt be an issue, given the straightened times. Indeed, funding is an ongoing issue regarding our existing ecumenical commitments, including our involvement in the Porvoo Communion. Yet some creative thinking could now be encouraged towards the setting up of a new, special fund to help both sustain and develop our ecumenical relationships, as well as the General Synod’s whole range of activities, all of which are facing serious financial constraints. A new ‘General Synod Support Fund’?

The report of the Representative Church Body to this year’s General Synod highlighted the difficulties by referring to the outturn for 2011 as showing a reduction in funds “in excess of €12m”, commenting: “This loss of value diminishes the capability of General Funds in future to support the activities of the wider Church.” Moreover, the Clergy Pensions Fund is under immense pressure. Last year, the General Synod heard that the Pensions Fund had faced “significant funding challenges” and this year was informed that over 2011-12 its solvency position had deteriorated further. Radical proposals to cope with the difficulties are expected at the General Synod next year.

It is clearly time for the Church of Ireland centrally to try to find new and additional ways of raising funds of very significant proportions. In today’s world, there are many and exciting ways in which the Church of Ireland can reach out and grow in every sense, but constant cutting back hampers the work of the Church and creates a downward, demoralising spiral.

The Church of Ireland needs new money, but it will only come if there is real spiritual commitment to the task and if the Church is prepared to do really new thinking, ‘outside the box’, on the subject. Certainly, it cannot be done simply by adding more and more to parish assessments. On the other hand, there is much talent in the Church and a carefully appointed central team of capable people with vision and appropriate expertise could arrive at proposals with potential, proposals that would naturally include the issue of numerical growth but would also be wideranging in scope and new ideas.

Professor Ozment’s article pointed to the deep influence of Luther’s theological and moral legacy. The tradition to which Luther gave his name is now a diverse body of Christians, but it is a tradition with which the Church of Ireland has much in common and with which we should develop deeper links. Indeed, this challenge highlights the need for the Church of Ireland to find new income to support its already wide-ranging commitments, as well as new initiatives that enhance the Church’s life and further its mission.

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Letters to the editor

Clergy under criticism

I was interested to read the letter written by Archdeacon R. Clayton Stevenson regarding the clergy pastoral visitation (Gazette, 10th August).

I cannot understand why so many of our clergy do not give the proper priority to pastoral visiting. Social visits are not the same.

I am told by many parishioners that if a rector is seen coming out of a house, the next person to arrive is the undertaker. This should not be the case.

There is a mission field in our rural parishes today – numbers and interest in spiritual matters are declining. Surely this provides a tremendous opportunity for our clergy to visit homes pastorally at least one or twice yearly, and, indeed, more often if possible.

My wife and I have been married for 54 years and we attend church every Sunday. During those years, we have had two pastoral visits by two rectors who were officiating in the parish during a vacancy. A portion of Scripture was read and prayers were used from the Prayer Book. All clergy should give pastoral visiting in the homes of their parishioners the priority it requires.

W.S. Eric McElhinney Tirhomin Milford Co. Donegal

I agree wholeheartedly with the Ven. R. Clayton Stevenson’s letter (Gazette, 10th August) stressing the importance of clergy visiting their parishioners. I was also fascinated by the Very Revd Brian Moller’s reminiscence of 50 years ago, in the Gazette the same week.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no accountability either to the bishop or the select vestry regarding visiting by rectors.

I paid my weekly visit to my 91-year-old mother yesterday. Out of the blue, she said to me: “What would you say if the rector had called?”

As she is in her new location 13 years and has not had a pastoral visit, I said: “I’d probably have a heart attack!” “Well, it is a good job he didn’t, then,” she said. How sad.

Lilian Webb 66 Roseville Naas Co. Kildare

‘Those were the days’

I was very pleased to see the service, ‘The Churching of Women’, mentioned in the article by the Very Revd Brian Moller entitled ‘Those were the days!’ (Gazette, 10th August).

I wonder if anyone has recently read the service. In its wording, it is very affirming of women: “ … it has pleased Almighty God of his goodness to give you safe deliverance, and to preserve you in the great danger of Child-birth”.

It also encourages the woman to give “hearty thanks unto God”. As a mother, grandmother and childminder for 16 years, I say a fervent ‘Amen’ to that.

It is still with pain and peril that we are granted the gift of children, but giving “hearty thanks” is the least we can do.

Joan Hill (Mrs) 10 Milebush Close Carrickfergus BT38 7RX


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