COI Gazette – 10th February 2017

European Anglican diocese explores ‘Brexit’ implications

The European Parliament in Strasburg

The European Parliament in Strasburg

The Church of England’s Diocese in Europe has begun exploring the implications that the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union might have on Britishnational clergy deployed to the continent.

At present, as members of the EU, British nationals – including clergy – can travel, reside and work in any of the other 27-member states without requiring visas or work permits. That may change when the UK leaves the EU.

There are also questions about whether the reciprocal healthcare arrangements for citizens of EU member states will also continue to apply to British nationals once the UK completes the withdrawal process.



Until the recent appearance of Dr Alan Acheson’s Bishop John Jebb and the Nineteenth-Century Anglican Renaissance, it was difficult to find more than passing references in Church of Ireland historical writings to the great Bishop Jebb’s mentor and confidant, the lay theologian, Alexander Knox. He is, for example, given just under one page in the massive three-volume History of the Church of Ireland, edited by Alison Phillips. Yet, the level of interaction between Knox and Jebb is indicated in the Thirty Years’ Correspondence, published in 1834 and dedicated to the then Archbishop of Canterbury. The late Bishop Peter Barrett contended that Knox, with Jebb, “deserves an honoured place alongside the better known figures of the Reformation and Caroline periods … and well represents what could tentatively be described as a restrained Hiberno-Catholicism in distinction to the post-Tractarian developments of Anglo-Catholicism” (Alexander Knox: Lay Theologian of the Church of Ireland, in Search, Spring 2000).

It is for his emphasis upon the Catholic aspect of Anglicanism that Knox is regarded as one of the forerunners of the Oxford Movement, and there are indications that his writings were studied by no less than John Henry Newman, who compared him with Coleridge. Yet there is no doubting Knox’s entire loyalty to the Church of his birth and upbringing and he embodied many of what may be regarded as the best features of the Anglican tradition.

This is apparent in his extensive writings, published as The Remains of Alexander Knox, by J.J. Hornby, in four volumes. He regarded the Anglican Church (which from 1800 comprised a United Church of England and Ireland) as a reformed Catholic Church and he stressed the need for adherence to the Apostolic Succession, the Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion.

Knox stressed the importance of the mystical tradition in Christianity and saw the liturgy as encouraging inward religion. From his friend, the great evangelist and founder of Methodism, John Wesley, he learnt the value of frequent communion. His influence on Bishop Jebb is all the more remarkable when one becomes aware that he had no university education or formal theological training. Yet, he is described as a man of profound learning in the Classics, in literature in general and “in the ancient tongues of the Scriptures”. In this sense, Knox was a worthy successor to those great figures from the 17th century, the depth of whose scholarship earned for them and for the tradition of Anglicanism that they represented, the epithet of stupor mundi – the wonder of the world.

Knox contended that the Anglican Church was neither Calvinist nor Augustinian but eminently and strictly Catholic, and Catholic only, and was to be regarded as a reformed branch of the Church Catholic. He also contended that the English Church (as he called it) was the only representative of the spirit of the Greek Fathers and that it should aim at union with the Greek Church.

Like John Wesley, Knox admired mystical writers such as Thomas à Kempis, and de Sales. His eucharistic theology has been described as that of “moderate realism”. He maintained that, as the treasures of grace are communicated to people by the agency of the Holy Spirit through the incarnation of Jesus Christ, so too are these graces communicated by the agency of the Holy Spirit in the Eucharist.

This editorial is one in a series of occasional reflections on figures in Church history, following a chronological sequence as they appear

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Letters to the Editor

Church of Ireland ‘quango-land’

I AM becoming increasingly concerned by the amount of red tape and time consuming paperwork that is emanating from the central Church as well as from the plethora of teams and committees that have sprung up in recent years.

In the past week alone I have been told that one body is doing and audit of parishes while another invites me to fill in a questionnaire, to which my response is an emphatic ‘No!’

I’ve had enough and my ire is increased by the sense that all this monitoring is symptomatic of deeper issues in the Church and needs to be seen alongside an increased desire to bring discipline to bear upon clergy.

There seems to be a sense that our leadership is of the collective opinion that we are not to be trusted in the ordering of our daily lives and ministry and that therefore as much data as possible needs to be gathered to bring pressure upon us to conform to someone else’s template of ministry.

Teams of hand-picked people are brought together to draw up policy and there is a growing suspicion that this is a tactic used to get around the proper channels in place in our Church.

Training days, courses and hectares of forestry bombard us with the next ‘must have – must do’ approach and resistance appears to be futile.

We are called dinosaurs and deemed to be trouble if we raise questions or challenge the ‘new wisdom’.

One of the great joys of our ministry has always been that rectors have tremendous freedom to organise our ministry as we see fit within the generous boundaries of our Church and with due deference to episcopal oversight.

A survey from the Church of Ireland Marriage Guidance Council asks: “Do you think that the Church of Ireland should insist on Marriage Preparation for couples, as other Churches do?”

That the question is being asked predisposes me to think that out there lurking in the quango-land of our Church’s leadership is the preconceived notion that the answer is selfevidently ‘Yes’.

Well, my answer is “No”. I have thought it through and I feel no desire or need to explain myself to anyone other than my Bishop should he ever ask me.

The rise of the digital world has led many to think that ministry is simply staring at a screen and number crunching.

If I need help I’ll ask and if I notice my neighbour struggling, I’ll take them out for coffee and see if we can help each other. Please, just leave me alone to get on with it.

A.P.S. Synnott (The Ven.) Skreen Co. Sligo

Irish Church Missions

THE Gazette issue of 3rd February reported a letter sent to various bodies and individuals by Mr Derek Leinster regarding the victims of abuse at Bethany Home.

I am confident that Mr Leinster has been informed on various occasions that Irish Church Missions had no responsibility for the administration or management of Bethany Home.

Over the years individual ICM members, like others from different Protestant denominations, were involved in a private, voluntary capacity but not as in any way representing our society.

We have every sympathy for Bethany victims, as for any who have suffered abuse as children, but Irish Church Missions had no involvement in the running of Bethany Home.

ICM welcomes the findings of Northern Ireland’s Historical Institutional Abuse report regarding Manor House Home that there is no evidence of systemic physical or sexual abuse of children by staff.

That Bethany Home is being included in the investigations of the Mother and Baby Home Commission in the Republic is good news for the victims and for those individuals and organisations who have been unfairly accused of responsibility for abuse.

Brian Courtney (Canon) Carrickfergus Co. Antrim

Informal prayers

I WAS intrigued to read the report on the English bishops’ recommendation on same-sex marriage, which mentioned that “current advice … allows clergy to provide informal prayers for those marrying or forming a civil partnership” (Gazette, 3rd February).

This indicates a glaring omission in my theological knowledge. No-one ever told me about informal prayers! What are the rules for these? Is it ok if I wear my dog collar, or would a T-shirt, jeans and flip-flops be more appropriate? Does God answer them only after he’s got through the list of formal prayers? If I translate them into Shakespearean language, would it make them formal? How about if we go outside church into the garden?

Michael Cavanagh (The Revd) Kenmare Co. Kerry

The migrant crisis

IT WAS heartening to see the headline, “BACI 2017 Lent study aims to shine biblical wisdom on the migrant crisis” (Gazette, 3rd February), particularly as we have learned of developments preventing people from Syria seeking sanctuary in the USA.

Leaving a home, a job and gathering a few belongings to flee, either alone or with a family, is something borne out of desperation.

We should not be content to sit back and wait to see what happens, but as people of faith, who would seek to welcome the stranger into our midst, we ought to let our voices sound, and words become actions, however small those actions may be, as we try to encourage those in authority to welcome the voiceless into safety on this island.

Katharine Poulton (The Very Revd) Kilkenny Co. Kilkenny

I AM deeply shocked by the deafening silence of our bishops concerning refugees, migrants and Islamophobia.

Unlike the bishops of the Church of England, our bishops are failing to witness to the Gospel and to defend the modern day anawim – the vulnerable, marginalised, socio-economically excluded, the ‘non-persons’ of our world.

I respectfully ask that our bishops now proclaim the Gospel publicly, to our government and people, witnessing that all are called to welcome all strangers or be judged by God for failing to serve Christ in the homeless, stateless and persecuted. It is time for our bishops to fulfil their ordained role and do justice, show mercy and show leadership in humbly walking with God.

Jason Melia-O’Brien Bennekerry Co. Carlow


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