Digital era offers opportunities, Angela Merkel tells Kirchentag event in Stuttgart
Addressing this year’s Kirchentag – a German open Church convention – which was held last week in Stuttgart, German Chancellor Angela Merkel took the opportunity of affirming that the transformation of the digital era is to be seen first of all as offering opportunities.
She advocated her positive approach despite much scepticism, she said.
The rapid changes of the digital era could help in dealing with major issues, such as energy policy or demographic change or health, Mrs Merkel said, adding that the history of the Church had clearly shown the effect that media changes could have.
She pointed out that, without the printing press, the Reformation would not have spread as quickly as it did.
At the same time, Mrs Merkel warned that similar standards should apply to the Internet as otherwise in life.
One’s own freedom finds its limits where the freedom of others is violated, and that could not be otherwise in the context of the Internet, she said, while pointing to regulations for data protection. …
MULTINATIONALS AND TAX AVOIDANCE
Last week, the World Council of Churches reported that a coalition of organizations, including the WCC itself, is now calling for an overhaul of the global taxation system in order to help alleviate poverty. This is to be achieved through ensuring that poorer countries receive the taxes they would expect to receive were the multinational corporate world more straightforward about its finances.
The WCC gave one example to illustrate the current situation. It reported that the Kamoto Copper Company (KCC) – a subsidiary of Glencore, a mining and commodity trading giant – “systematically recorded losses in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 2008, despite strong production”. The report quoted a 2014 study presented at the recent WCC- organized International Conference on Peace and Security in the DR Congo, which traced KCC’s losses to “significant interest payments on debt made to five parent companies registered in tax havens”, concluding: “In short, though KCC registered losses in the DRC, its parent companies controlled by Glencore made considerable gains for its overseas investors.”
The WCC pointed out that the practice of shifting profits to offshore jurisdictions allows multinationals to avoid paying fair taxes on profit and dividends, and stated that, as a result, according to the quoted 2014 study, “Congolese citizens lost an estimated US$153.7m from KCC alone since 2009”.
Clearly, as the Church representatives indicated at the conference on the DR Congo situation, such finance “could have been used to build much-needed schools, hospitals and basic infrastructure in a
resource-endowed but poverty-stricken nation”. While corporations may move money in complex systems of transactions entirely within the law, it is a case of expertise in tax law being used to secure the interests of the corporations and with scant regard for the interests of the poorer countries in which they operate.
At the beginning of this month, the Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation (ICRICT) launched its declaration calling for the overhaul of the global tax system. The Commission’s Chair, José Antonio Ocampo, said: “This debate centres on equity … equity between capital and labour, equity between the rich and those living in poverty, as well as equity … between developed and developing countries. International corporate tax reforms should be considered from a global public interest perspective rather than … corporate advantage.”
The Independent Commission’s recommendations include taxing multinationals as single firms, increasing public transparency of taxes paid by multinationals, and establishing an intergovernmental tax body within the UN.
Next month, the Third International Conference on Financing for Development will be convened by the UN in Addis Ababa. The ICRICT declaration will be a challenging call to those involved and it is good that in that context the WCC has been to the fore in advocating for what are long overdue, internationally sanctioned taxation changes. Indeed, the Churches must ever lift their voices in support of the disadvantaged.
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- Archbishop of Armagh down on the farm
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- ‘Friends of Columbanus’ website launched
- Derry Cathedral presentation
- Long-serving choir member honoured in Diocese of Armagh parish
Musings – ‘This troublous life’ – Alison Rooke
Insight – Church21 relaunching – Paul Hoey
Letters to the Editor
The Church and human sexuality
MONG THE letters in 5th June Gazette was one from Dean Victor Griffin and another from Canon Horace McKinley, two men I respect.
I did receive an email offering me the opportunity of adding my name to a letter for publication in some daily papers but actually, for reasons more or less outlined by Canon McKinley, I chose not to sign.
The Church of Ireland in its wisdom hoped to try and prevent troubled waters by arranging a couple of conferences to consider Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief – and, of course, each one concentrated on homosexuality! By and large, we don’t do bedroom scenes very well, preferring to remain outside the door.
However, we truly have our heads in the sand if we don’t look seriously at the changes which have happened to the ideal of marriage as the Church perceives it and how it is actually lived. Marriage was redefined a long time ago and will continue to be redefined.
As for human sexuality – it’s a minefield. Where are the conferences being held to see what the Churches can do to help tackle the problem of human trafficking into this country for the sex trade? Why is there such a demand?
Where are the guidelines regarding assisted reproduction? Do we have any thoughts on this? Surely our recent history has taught us that babies cannot be anonymous. They will grow to adulthood and will want to know ‘where they came from’.
I honestly believe that we’re reaching the point, if we haven’talreadypassedit,where respect for the miracle of each created person is being lost to consumerism. Unfortunately, the Christian message which does actually promote exactly this kind of respect is not being heard, probably because we’re afraid we’ll be told to keep our opinions to ourselves.
Ruth Gill (The Revd), Birr Co. Offaly
DERMOT O’CALLAGHAN (Letters, 29th May) quotes from Matthew 19: 4 and refers to Genesis 1: 27 and 2: 24 in support of his claim that Jesus’ comments on divorce “leave no room for same-sex marriage”.
He commits the logical error of argumentum ad ignorantiam, argument by appeal to the unknown, based on assumptions about what was not said.
He assumes that because the passages to which he refers do not actively support homosexuality, they must therefore condemn it. This conclusion does not logically follow.
Jesus’ comments in Matthew 19: 4 were made in the context of a hostile question-and-
answer test imposed on him by some Pharisees. They deal with the subject of divorce, chosen as a subject by the Pharisees. The passage says nothing about same-sex marriage; nor do the Genesis verses.
In the Belfast Telegraph on 8th May, the Revd Adrian Dorrian, Chair of the Church and Society Commission, told us that he believes “in the biblical definition of marriage being between a man and a woman for life”.
This comment is similarly unjustified. Nowhere does the Bible define marriage in that way.
Paul Rowlandson Londonderry BT47
Dean Gordon and the Church of Ireland
IT IS not entirely clear what my friend, the Very Revd Tom Gordon, is implying in his call for a “latitude formally to develop separate theological and pastoral identities” as between the Church of Ireland’s “Southern and Northern constituencies” (Gazette, 13th June).
However, as I understand it, such a move would be liable to set in motion a train of consequences which could divide the Church of Ireland into at least two separate Churches.
Actually, it could be worse than that, since any such schism would in all likelihood end up not only with divisions between jurisdictions, but with divisions between dioceses, divisions within dioceses, divisions between parishes, divisions within parishes, divisions even within families who today, for all their differences of opinion on not one but a variety of
issues, still share a “common life in the Body of Christ” within the context of a Church of Ireland which is, as its most fundamental constitutional document says, both “Ancient, Catholic and Apostolic” and “Reformed and Protestant”.
To which, like St Paul, one feels inclined to say, “Is Christ divided?”, and to recollect that our Lord Jesus Christ himself prayed on the night before he died that those who followed him would “all be One”.
One wonders whether we are in danger of forgetting that in the very Creed, the articles of which we rehearse at every Sunday Communion service, we affirm that the Church is of its very essence “one”, as well as “holy”, “catholic”, and apostolic” and that to depart from this is a betrayal of the faith we profess.
One of the great glories of the Church of Ireland is that it is a Church for this whole island, North and South. This unity has been maintained, hitherto, sometimes with great difficulty, as through all the years of the Troubles.
What I believe we need to do, by the grace of God, is to learn to live together more effectively, recognizing the comprehensiveness which is a particular characteristic of the great Church to which we all have the privilege of belonging.
In this Church, there must be room, not only for those who value our Catholic inheritance and those who emphasize that they belong to a Church that is Protestant and also Evangelical, but also for those whose tendencies may be liberal, conservative or radical or, indeed, all three – or any possible combination of all these characteristics.
Michael Kennedy (Canon), Armagh BT61
Child sexual abuse – Past Case Reviews
IF WE have learnt anything about child sexual abuse over the past few years, it is that it is endemic across society, including the Church, and that it takes place in every denomination.
The recent publication of the Methodist Church in Britain’s Past Case Review (PCR) into abuse, Courage, Cost & Hope, together with the Church’s “full and unreserved apology” to survivors of abuse, emphasises that abuse is an issue for all Churches.
The Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS) therefore calls on every denomination to undertake similar PCRs immediately.
Churches should examine how every case of suspected child abuse, and every allegation, was dealt with, according to today’s standards of best practice.
The stark figures from the Methodist PCR reveal that it took three years to complete and found no less than 1,885 safeguarding concerns that stretched from the 1950s until today.
The Review’s 23 recom- mendations included changes to policies and procedures, better communication with complainants and improved training. It also recognised the need for a more comprehensive, cultural commitment towards safeguarding children.
Having policies and procedures in place, no matter how good, is not enough if they are simply left in a drawer and forgotten about. They should be living documents.
The Church of England concluded a similar review in 2010, but it is now revisiting it to include examining the files of deceased clergy.
Undoubtedly the Church of IrelandSafeguardingTrustwill analyse the Methodist PCR to see what lessons can be learnt. The really courageous people are the victims of abuse, for being prepared to come forward in the first place.
CCPAS hopes and expects that all Churches and faith groups will now undertake PCRs. Survivors implore them, society demands them and, as followers of our Lord Jesus Christ, it is imperative that we follow his example in protecting the young and the vulnerable.
Simon Bass (Chief Executive) Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service PO Box 133 Swanley Kent BR8 7UQ
The marriage referendum result
I WAS in Dublin city centre on Saturday 23rd May, attending an unconnected event, when the results of the 34th amendment to the Irish Constitution were announced.
The sheer jubilation was astounding and unexpected: hoards of people flooded on to the streets and a party atmosphere took grip of the capital. People were literally dancing in the streets.
When the gardaí tried to manage the situation as best they could, the crowds began cheering the gardaí – leaving the gardaí somewhat perplexed about what to do next.
It was an infectious, spontaneous and very moving celebration.
On later reflection, one thing that has struck me is how the LGBT movement has done something very profound. Over the last two decades, a group who, for years beforehand, were marginalised and forced to hide an intrinsic part of themselves had the wounds which a homophobic society inflicted upon them healed.
They were encouraged to rebuild the self-confidence which in many cases was stolen from them. Many of the religious amongst them were enabled to see God in their own image once again – that Churches should resist this seems very wrong.
As a ringing endorsement of this decades-long struggle, the Irish electorate affirmed that gay people should have the same access to civil marriage as heterosexual people.
These acts – healing wounds, encouraging self-confidence, nurturing God-given characteristics to flourish, affirming a once marginalised group as full and equal members of the community – are markers that one might think should belong to the Church. In this instance, Churches have been found wanting and we should all be grateful that the LGBT movement stepped up to offer people solace, assurance and hope.
Of course, I accept that others will see this differently and that there is still much deliberation on this subject to be had, in both Churches and society more generally, and that this deliberation should be respectful of, and inviting to, all participants.
Yet, I cannot help but wonder what the atmosphere would have been like in Dublin on that Saturday night had the result gone the other way.
There would have been no massive cheer, no spontaneous delight, no dancing in the streets. A once marginalised group who asked for acceptance and equal treatment before the law would have felt rejected.
The streets of Dublin would have seemed empty by comparison, like all too many a cavernous church building.
I am not suggesting that Churches should measure their performance by popularity, but I am suggesting that they have something to learn from the hope and idealism which was on display in Dublin that Saturday.
What was being celebrated that night was love: love between gay partners for each other, love for gay friends and family members, and love for Ireland’s gay citizens.
It was a key Gospel value, love, which was being honoured and celebrated.
Robbie Roulston, Straffan Co. Kildare
WHAT IS going on in relation to the same-sex marriage debate is like Peter, having stepped out of the boat, looking at the waves and starting to sink.
We need to keep our eyes focused on Christ and stop looking in judgement at each other.
Marriage in the Christian Church should be about marriage of people who believe and trust in Jesus.
If we focus on that as being our top criterion, we will be doing well.
Jonathan Pyle, Birr Co. Offaly
I WAS baptised as a member of the Church of Ireland some 50 years ago. While I am no longer a practising member, I maintain a loose connection due, I suppose, to family loyalties – and a sense of nostalgia!
I also value and appreciate having being brought up and educated in what I consider to have been a less oppressive environment.
Over recent weeks, I and many of my friends in the gay community have avoided most of the coverage and debate surrounding the referendum, as we found much of the rhetoric to be both offensive and hurtful.
The results were beyond our wildest hopes and brought a deep sense of joy and relief. I surprised myself with both how emotional I felt and the realisation of just how important acceptance and support are.
However, the statement issued by the Church of Ireland had for me the effect of a slap across the face. It could best be summarised by saying: “You may believe you are equal, but you’re not really.”
Of all the statements made, I found this to be the most hurtful and sickening. It would have been far better if the hierarchy had applied the maxim of the least said the soonest mended or, indeed, had made some effort to be conciliatory.
Those abiding qualities of faith, hope and love didn’t even merit a mention.
It is rather ironic that the teachings of Jesus Christ, namely tolerance and love, now appear to be better represented by Irish society at large.
The inevitable consequence of maintaining hierarchal structures in organised religion is that the hierarchy can lose touch with reality. However, in the words of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, speaking on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church: “The Church now needs to take a reality check.”
I would respectfully suggest that the Church of Ireland by doing similar may discover why its pews require dusting and its coffers require filling.
I have no doubt that the hierarchy of the Church of Ireland have many articles of canon law and theological arguments to support the statement issued and stance taken.
My position has been formed by what I believe to be true in my heart and best illustrated by the following: My late mother played the organ in a small country church for many years. My sister and I were expected to sing along as part of her practice routine, so many of the hymns remain with me to this day. One in particular springs to mind now and presents the simplest argument of all –
All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small, All things wise and wonderful, The Lord God made them all.
To the majority of the people of Ireland, for your support and acceptance, I say: “Thank you”. To the Church of Ireland, for your vitriolic, hurtful statement, I ask, on that final, faithful day of reckoning, when the theologians have tired and the liturgical conferences have ended and you are asked, “Why did you not treat all my children equally?”, what will you respond?
Caroline Forde, Bandon Co. Cork
Changing times in the Church of Ireland
AS ONE who is in my ninetieth year, a devout member of the Church of Ireland all my life, one who receives great spiritual strength from the sacrament of Holy Communion and private prayer, I feel compelled to put pen to paper and through your publication make my innermost feelings public.
Over the past number of years, having reflected on the Rock from whence I am hewn, I regret the dramatic changes which have overtaken my beloved Church so much that I often consider whether it can truthfully continue to use the title ‘Church’, which means a united, stable organization.
It is, I feel, becoming more like a ‘sect’ with more and more ordained clergy, without challenge, following their own personal agendas without any regard for the whole body of Christ described as ‘Church of Ireland’.
One just has to read your publication of 15th May to find ample evidence of this.
Our Archbishop of Armagh, with whom I have met in both sad and joyful family occasions and for whom I have the highest regard, must surely have had sorrow in his heart as his comments on the choice of rebuilding the Church or closing our doors hit the headlines.
The former conservatism of clergy and people is rapidly being overtaken by an extreme approach of individualism, as witnessed in a previous Gazette, when four clergy openly acknowledged that they promote ‘sideshow’ dimensions in our Church.
The recent referendum here in the Republic has emphasized the separation between Church and people. Sadly, our Church of Ireland members could not be given guidance on how to vote, with all the hidden consequences which supporting a ‘Yes’ will bring.
It appears that the reason for advice not being given is ambiguity in the Canon referring to marriage [Canon 31], thus giving many clergy opportunity to support ‘Yes’.
Could we not have learnt from the very simple approach of our Puritan forefathers who, from what I have read, put procreation as the first principle of marriage, followed bycompanionship.
We must pray that something good will emerge from our Primate’s despair and that this will come about when clergy and people together get back to the basics of our faith.
This unity can bring strength and be found in Scripture, the Creeds and the traditional full use of our Book of Common Prayer.
The Glebe Donegal Town
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