Church leaders outline positions on Eighth Amendment
The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Rt Revd Dr Noble McNeely – along with former Moderator and minister emeritus of Lucan Presbyterian Church, Dr Trevor Morrow, and the Clerk of the General Assembly, Revd Trevor Gribben – has written to fellow ministers and congregations in the Republic of Ireland outlining the position of the church in relation to May’s referendum on abortion.
In their letter, which was sent on 25th April, the senior church figures said that, in light of the government’s clear intention to introduce unrestricted access to abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, if the Eighth Amendment is repealed, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland had concluded that “meaningful protection for the unborn can only be secured if the Eighth Amendment is retained in the forthcoming referendum.”
Describing the government’s proposals as “regressive, incompatible with human dignity and morally unacceptable,” the senior ministers explained that representatives of the Presbyterian Church had written to TDs and senators in January 2018 during the debate on the Oireachtas report on the Eighth Amendment.
DREAMING OF SURVIVAL, OR THRIVING?
On 22nd April, Bishop Harold Miller, his wife Liz and a party of people from Ireland attended a service in South Sudan. Justin Badi Arama was installed as the fifth Archbishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan, in All Saints Cathedral in Juba.
How much do you know about South Sudan? Could you find it on a map if you had to?
Here are five random facts about South Sudan:
1. A landlocked country in East-Central Africa, it is the world’s newest country, gaining independence in 2011.
2. It has a population of 12 million, with Christianity being the majority religion.
3. It has suffered ethnic violence and has been in a civil war since 2013.
4. It had the highest score on the Fragile States Index (this list assesses states’ vulnerability to conflict or collapse, ranking all sovereign states with membership in the United Nations.)
5. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office advise against all travel to South Sudan, stating: “If you have no pressing need to remain, you should leave if it is safe to do so.” Likewise, the Irish government advises: “The security situation in South Sudan is volatile and unpredictable, due to armed conflict, inter-ethnic violence and high levels of violent crime … We advise against all travel to South Sudan.”
Highlighting these facts is not intended to diminish this new country. Rather, it is to appreciate some of the challenges it faces as it creates a future for itself and its citizens.
We gain a valuable insight into the Anglican Church in South Sudan by looking at some observations made
by Archbishop Justin in his installation sermon. Firstly, he announced a decade-long focus on the Lord’s Prayer as a tool for making and teaching disciples. He wants Anglicans in South Sudan “to do the Lord’s Prayer and live the Lord’s Prayer in their daily lives.” Anglicans in that country, facing complex challenges that we can hardly imagine, still have the conviction that lived-out faith in Christ is the key to life.
Secondly, the profound challenge facing that war-torn country was named. Bishop Arama said: “In our country and communities, it is clear that the devil has seized the hearts and minds of our people with a spirit of tribalism, politics, division, hate and violence.”
He continued: “… our own politicians have made everything worse for their own citizens. Life for ordinary citizens is so hard and miserable … we are appealing to the opposition to put an end to this meaningless war and enable their citizens to experience what is God’s peace.” The politics of hatred and division are named, along with the consequences for ordinary people.
We must wonder at the level of resources – or lack thereof – available to the Anglican Church in South Sudan. Despite the circumstances, the Church in South Sudan has set out ambitious goals for the future – including the construction and improvement of church buildings, mission and evangelism, peace building and the provision of social services. It is aiming to thrive, not just survive.
In the week of our General Synod – or at any time – the faith, resilience and vision represented by the Anglican Church in South Sudan is worth reflecting on.
What might it inspire us in the Church of Ireland to?
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Letter to the Editor
THE CHURCH of Ireland is, at present, being introduced to the mysteries of GDPR – General Data Protection Regulations. One of whose features is the directive to destroy personal data which is no longer needed.
At the same time, we are hearing of the distress and confusion caused to members of the “Windrush Generation” and their families, as a result of people destroying personal
data – data which presumably belonged not to them, but to the people it concerned – which they wrongly thought was no longer needed.
As we become subject to these very extensive new regulations, can we be confident that we have got the balance right?
John Budd (Canon)
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