Former top TCD theologian enters UK debate on country’s place in the European Union, referring to national sovereignty as an ‘illusion’
In an article for Reimaging Europe, the former Head of the School of Biblical and Theological Studies in Trinity College Dublin and now Master of St Benet’s Hall in the University of Oxford, Professor Werner Jeanrond, has said that he “cannot help wondering what kind of a world those people long for who seek full sovereignty in our globalising context”.
Published shortly after Prime Minister David Cameron completed his hectic renegotiation of the country’s place in the EU and Cabinet members publicly took different sides in the debate on the UK’s future in the European Union, to culminate in a 23rd June ‘In/Out’ referendum, Professor Jeanrond’s article is firmly on the ‘In’ side.
Regarding the issue of national sovereignty, the German-born theologian expresses surprise that in the UK one of the strongest expressions of the call to reassert full national sovereignty “emerges from media controlled by non- British and non-European owners”, continuing: “Hence, those who daily urge us to claim back full sovereignty do neither share British nor European interests. Rather, they pursue their own particular power agenda under the pretence of leading Britain back to a long-
gone world of imperial glory and absolute self-determination.”
ST PATRICK’S DAY
The 17th March is celebrated around the world but it seems that, more often than not, it is a celebration of Irishness as opposed to a celebration of the life of a Christian saint who lived an incredibly tough life in following through his sense of vocation. Yet Patrick, in fact, transcends Irishness in so many ways, not least because he called people to look beyond both this world and themselves, to God. St Patrick’s Day is a day to celebrate the witness of Patrick and the Christian faith itself which has been known in this land down through so many centuries, the source of hope and consolation for generations of our forebears.
Christianity is increasingly being moved to the margins of national life in both parts of Patrick’s island. The Churches, which once held so much sway, are dwindling in influence and in terms of their own numbers. There is, in short, an overall decline. Yet, the Church is still here – perhaps even spiritually strengthened through the different denominations’ need to come together in such a context – and it has to seek the right way forward for renewal and a new appeal to the people of this land. In reflecting on such a challenge, one may recognise many themes with which St Patrick can be associated, not least sanctity, devotion, outreach and endurance.
Sanctity is the proper longing of every Christian person – that is, to grow in grace and holiness of life. This is what it is to draw ever closer to Christ. For Patrick, this goal was surely reached as he gave himself more and more in the service of God. Throughout his many travels, he was always seeking to be faithful, wherever he went.
In our modern day, we are also travellers, moving from one place to another for whatever reason. Yet this frequently frantic travelling cannot normally be termed ‘pilgrimage’, although we can, still, frame our minds so that in whatever it is we are doing, and for whatever reason it is that we are travelling, it is being done – and all our lives are being lived – to the glory of God. This is about adopting a particular frame of mind, about bringing God into the daily, lived experience.
Devotion is part of the holy life. That is, devotion expressed in prayer and action in the service of others. Devotion has been overly internalised, taking on connotations of over-piety. Yet, devotion is a truly broad concept and leads to a spiritual life characterised by reaching out to others in their need, be it spiritual or material. Again, this was certainly what devotion meant for Patrick – not a life of introverted piety but a life of prayer which, through prayer, was turned outwards from himself to the world around him. The Christian, St Patrick teaches us, is to reach out to others because God reaches out to us.
Endurance is a key Christian theme which is summed up so well in Patrick’s life – from his trials on Slemish to the many journeys he undertook for the sake of his own faith and, by God’s grace, in growing the Church in Ireland. To endure suggests, immediately, a context of adversity. Yet Christian endurance is not a passive waiting for whatever the storm is to pass but is about taking up the Cross and following the Lord faithfully. Such is the way to the renewal of Christianity, because nothing speaks louder than an authentic Christian life. St Patrick himself shows us precisely that.
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Letters to the Editor
Disastrous situation in Swaziland
SWAZILAND’S PRIME Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini has declared that the country is in a state of national disaster due to the effects of drought, hailstorms and the HIV/AIDS pandemic and is facing a serious humanitarian crisis from a deadly combination of the effects of global weather, land degradation, increasing poverty and HIV/AIDS.
Mr Dlamini added that all of these have negative effects creating “a web of extreme vulnerability reinforced by the collapse of family structures”.
According to the UN, almost 40 per cent of the Swazi population is now HIV infected. Therefore, the Kingdom is facing a desperate scenario which requires urgent national and international intervention.
According to the World Food Programme ( WFP), Swaziland has been facing a humanitarian crisis for a longer time.
The Kingdom, according to WFP, “has experienced three years of erratic rainfall, which have dramatically reduced agricultural output … and exhausted many people’s coping mechanisms”.
The UN food agency is already feeding more than 200,000 Swazis as part of its large emergency operation in Southern Africa. Given the worldwide negative publicity surrounding luxury spending by King Mswati III, it has however been difficult to raise funds for WFP operations in Swaziland.
Mandla Mdlulu, the Development Officer for the Diocese of Swaziland, said in a recent email: “I will tell you my experience that on January 20th I went to Growmore to quote for 50kg Mealie Meal it was E292.00 [Emalangeni, pegged to the Rand] and I went back on February 10th to buy it and the new price was E427.00; it is craziness. Thousands of tons of maize will have to be imported.”
The Managing Director of Luyengo Fresh Produce, Tiekie de Beer, said: “The planting season in Swaziland for commercial and subsistence farmers is in November and December. Hardly anything was planted last year due to the severe drought conditions. Whatever was sown later will
not survive due to the ongoing scarcity of water and also because we are heading into the winter now. The impact of all this will be felt when harvest time comes in April.”
Tiekie expects that only about 10 per cent of the normal requirement will be harvested and added: “To compound the difficulties, much of Swaziland’s income comes from sugar production, but that also has suffered with irrigation now stopped on 30 per cent of the cane fields.”
The United Society, together with many Church of Ireland parishes and the Church of Ireland Bishops’ Appeal, is working closely with the Diocese of Swaziland to provide emergency water, water tanks and bore holes.
The Diocese does not have the resources to meet the demands upon it in these extraordinary circumstances and we will continue to work with Bishop Ellinah and support her and her team.
Linda Chambers – The United Society Egan House St Michan’s Church Church Street, Dublin 7
Protecting children online
SOME GOOD NEWS came from the UK government recently in the fight to protect our kids from online pornography.
A public consultation has been launched over plans to implement age checks on pornography websites. This follows a manifesto commitment that “all sites containing pornographic material” must check that users are over 18.
Here’s what they say:
• “We need to stop children accessing material which is doing them harm.’’ – MP Karen Bradley, Minister for Preventing Abuse, Exploitation and Crime
• “Just as we do offline, we want to make sure children are prevented from accessing pornographic content online which should only be viewed by adults.” – Baroness Shields. Minister for Internet Safety and Security
• “As a matter of urgency we must prevent children having ready access to content rated over 18 as it can give them a warped view of sexual relationships.” – Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive
How would it work?
It is expected the appointed regulator would have the power to force internet service providers to block sites that did not perform effective age checks and that providers who do not co-operate would be fined.
Age checking is used effectively by the online gambling industry. Options include confirmation of credit card ownership to checking a user’s details with the electoral register.
Although promising, it may be five years before we begin to see real results with this proposed legislation.
The World Wide Web was launched in the early 1990s, so it is sad that it has taken over 25 years to get to this point. As always, the responsibility remains on parents and guardians to teach and protect their kids when using the internet.
Matthew Blain ProtectYourKids.org.uk
52 Limestone Meadows Moira Co. Armagh BT67 0UT
Episcopal letter on same-sex marriage
AT THE beginning of December, every member of the clergy in the Church of Ireland received a FAQ from their bishop concerning same- sex marriage.
Each letter was the same, indicating agreement from our House of Bishops, but the letters were sent and signed by each bishop to their diocesan clergy signifying their personal agreement with its contents.
Below is a summary of a letter sent by Reform Ireland to the House of Bishops in response to their pastoral letter.
While the letter from our bishops appears to encourage mutual respect and attentiveness – principles we applaud – it exhibits two disturbing characteristics. First, our bishops make the Church of Ireland its own primary authority and source of unity. Second, they assume an imminent departure from Christian teaching regarding human sexuality.
Our bishops’ letter calls on the authority of the canons, rites, ceremonies and liturgies as the basis for our doctrinal and moral teaching. Our Anglican tradition holds that such things are valuable only as they conform to Holy Scripture.
Sadly, the letter completely neglects Scripture and so departs from the stated principles of our foundational documents to which the Preamble and Declaration of the Church of Ireland refers and which each bishop and presbyter has vowed to teach and uphold.
The benefit of these Anglican documents is their agreement with Scripture. Apart from their agreement with Scripture they have no Christian authority and cease to be identifiably Anglican.
As our bishops seem to abandon the authority and clarity of Scripture it is tragic but unsurprising that the letter, by use of temporal markers such as “while” and “currently”, implies an imminent departure from the clear Scriptural teaching on sexual behaviour.
Thus, we must understand this letter as an agreed episcopal departure from Holy Scripture as the primary authority and the basis of our beloved and confessional Anglican tradition. Our bishops instruct us to resign ourselves to an inevitable parting from orthodox Christian teaching.
Reform Ireland has called on those bishops who hold to the orthodox teaching of Scripture on this issue within the House of Bishops to follow the lead of Cranmer who repented of his signature.
While the pressure of collegiality is strong and many may be angered by such bravery, please remember that the faith we have received and the support that we offer in Christ is stronger than the power of those who depart fromHolyScripture.
We beg our bishops to lead us in correctly handling of the word of truth, to call Christian people to godly restraint – to put godly truth over the principle of collegiality or unbiblical unity. This will be costly in this age but we are working for the riches of the Kingdom that is yet to come.
The full text of our letter may be found at Reform Ireland Facebook Page and at: http://www.reform-ireland.org
Alan McCann (the Revd Dr), on behalf of Reform Ireland The Rectory 20 Meadow Hill Close Carrickfergus Co. Antrim BT38 9RQ
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