International Anglican-Jewish Commission meets in Ireland for first time
The purpose of the Anglican- Jewish Commission is “to deepen the understanding of the two traditions, particularly in a theological perspective, in an open and honest dialogue”, the Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Michael Jackson, told the Gazette last week at the conclusion of the commission’s seventh meeting, which was held in Dublin and was the first in Ireland.
Dr Jackson co-chairs the commission with Chief Rabbi Cohen, but on this occasion Chief Rabbi Rasson Arousi was Acting Co-Chair. In a joint interview along with Dr Jackson, Jerusalem-based Rabbi David Rosen, who is a former Chief Rabbi of Ireland and who translated for Chief Rabbi Arousi during the commission meeting, stressed the connection of the theme of memory with “building trust and relationships”.
The commission met in the Taca Hall at Terenure Synagogue and Archbishop Jackson underscored the importance of the welcome the commission had received from the Jewish community in Dublin. Rabbi Rosen observed that this had enabled the commission to be “contextualized”.
The Anglican-Jewish Commission provides an important point of contact and dialogue between the Anglican Communion and the Jewish community (report, page 1). Co-chaired by Archbishop Michael Jackson and Chief Rabbi Cohen – but at its Dublin meeting last week, Chief Rabbi Arousi was Acting Co-Chair – the commission has been in existence since 2006 and, clearly, extremely good relations have been built up over what is a relatively short time in such processes.
The evident warmth of the dialogue, which nonetheless does not avoid difficult issues, is a tribute to the Co-Chairs in particular; leading such a group is bound to be far from an easy responsibility. So, it was good, and appropriate, that the commission held its latest meeting in Dublin, where Archbishop Jackson could introduce his colleagues on the commission to many Irish Church people and representatives of other faiths here, and it was especially welcome that the commission was received by President Michael D. Higgins.
At the reception at Áras an Uachtaráin, President Higgins spoke movingly on the themes which the commission had chosen for its Dublin meeting: memory, community and identity. The President referred to the commission as itself being a source of “support, scholarship, reflection and friendship” among its members and said that such a group gave leadership for the development of tolerance, respect and understanding in an “interconnected world”, in which the right to religious freedom was fundamental.
Referring to what he described as “an appalling return to racism in parts of Europe”, President Higgins warned that there was no room for complacency on the issue in any country of the world. It was, indeed, ironic that only the next day there was a racist attack on the home of Minister for Justice Alan Shatter. Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dáil of anti-Semitic material and a substance, which subsequently was declared harmless, having been delivered to Mr Shatter’s home by post. Mr Kenny also stated that a “stream of similar material” had been delivered to the Department of Justice. These actions are truly deplorable and the Chair of the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland, Maurice Cohen, has understandably expressed abhorrence of the action. In his address to the commission, the President described its chosen three themes as “wonderful topics” and referred to the importance of “de-constructing” memory, placing the past in context. However, he also rightly stressed that doing so was not just to “fix up” the past for the present, but was also for the sake of future generations. In this connection, he referred in particular to the Holy Land and its “unholy conflict”, and there are of course many resonances for us in Ireland with such observations.
President Higgins, clearly looking forward to his visit to London, saw identity categories as “best when they are open” and it was at this point that he made a particularly notable and, actually, deeply theological statement: “Unlimited hospitality is in fact located in the Divine.” Such an insight, which speaks of God’s generous love, led the President, and surely leads all of us, to a sense of humility in offering, as we must surely do, hospitality to others and in particular those who are different from us.
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Letters to the Editor
Christianity in North Korea
May I begin by congratulating the Gazette on an excellent editorial last week on the plight of Christians in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK/North Korea). As someone who has an interest in the oppressed Church and geopolitical relations, I would add the following observations.
As stated in the editorial, DPRK is one of the most isolated states on earth, with exceptionally high levels of repression of its citizens. Indeed, since the new leader, Kim Jong-un, became the head of state, the situation appears to have worsened, with Stalinist purges in the elite and in the arts.
Malnutrition and starvation are problems faced by many of the population and the regime elite are resorting to high levels of corruption to survive from day to day. The state is isolationist and yet it appears that the huge black market is bringing in western culture and media to the elite in Pyongyang and beyond. The favourite commodity is in this area appears to be soap operas from the United States such as Dynasty and Dallas. DPRK observers maintain that the key to unlocking the isolationist state is two-fold.
First, as China becomes more and more a world trading nation and a diplomatic power, its associations with DPRK will become an international embarrassment. A small trading partner such as DPRK, even as a buffer to South Korea and with a communist heritage, has little emotional connection to the modern Chinese state. Second, DPRK is thought to be akin to Romania in the latter days of the Ceausescu regime. The leader may be publicly acclaimed but loyalty is a matter of selfpreservation.
With the levels of corruption and increasing purges, the balance of probability is that many would wish to see change but fear the wrath of the oppressed. The armed forces of DPRK and the overt brainwashing of the population still may not be sufficient to quell the human spirit.
Into this mix, the Gazette editorial noted, is a struggling, persecuted Church. It is unfortunate that the worldwide Church has failed to mobilise its moral authority over DPRK in a manner such as it did over apartheid. Should ‘made in China’ products be a focus for measures of boycott, as those made in South Africa were under apartheid?
The Church in DPRK has many martyrs and has had them for generations, in the modern era dating back to the Japanese occupation. Yet, the flower of faith is still alive and the Gospel is not forgotten. Let us pray that it may soon be free to be a light to the world and no longer be forced to be placed under a bowl. The Kingdom of Heaven is already theirs.
Mark Watson (The Revd) Trory Rectory Ballinamallard Co. Fermanagh
The 39 Articles
Jonathan Pyle, in his letter of 28th March, is unhappy with the 39 Articles. For many years, I have heard people wax hot about the Articles, as if in their entirety they were a collection of religious rants against other Christian traditions.
A quick study, however, on page 778ff. of The Book of Common Prayer will show that, far from being negative diatribes, they are principally made up of some of the most positive and essential statements of Christian faith to be found anywhere.
They start with a clear statement of faith in the Holy Trinity (Article 1), deal with such matters as justification by faith in Jesus Christ alone (No.11), of Christ alone being without sin (No.15), refer to lay people being entitled to receive communion in both kinds (No.30) and state that bishops, priests and deacons are allowed to marry (No.32).
Of those considered to be offensive, Article 31 rejects “the sacrifices of Masses” as a concept that promotes the continuous re-sacrificing of Christ, which is a practice that infers Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice on the Cross was imperfect. Also rejected is the saying of Masses for the dead which implies that the living can influence what happens people after death. Even allowing for the historic strong language of the 16th century, we still reject such intentions.
Also maybe considered offensive is Article 19 which refers to the Church of Rome as having “erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith”. Again, it was not only our reforming forebears who rejected errors, we have rejected more recently introduced “matters of Faith” such as the Dogma of Papal Infallibility (1870), the “modern” Marian Dogmas of the Immaculate Conception (1854) and the Assumption (1950). We also continue to reject the concept of Purgatory, the Adoration of Images and Relics, the Invocation of Saints as being contrary to the Word of God (No.22) and we still reject Transubstantiation (No. 28).
No sworn oath of acceptance has been required of clergy since 1865. Instead, clergy are simply asked to “assent” to the Articles as part of the Church’s historic formularies. As they stand, I would have no more difficulty in “assenting” to them today than I did 26 years ago at my ordination.
Peter T. Hanna (The Revd) Mount Windsor, Farnahoe Innishannon, Co. Cork
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