COI Gazette – 13th April 2012

EU must reconnect with its citizens, Irish Council of Churches told

Bishop Richard Clarke (left) hands over office as ICC President to Fr Godfrey O’Donnell of the Network of Orthodox Churches in Ireland. (Photo: M. McCullagh)

Bishop Richard Clarke (left) hands over office as ICC President to Fr Godfrey O’Donnell of the Network of Orthodox Churches in Ireland. (Photo: M. McCullagh)

The Irish Council of Churches – part of the Churches in Ireland Connecting in Christ grouping – held its 2012 Annual Meeting on 29th March at Taney Parish Centre, Dublin.

An act of worship was led by the Revd Bernie Daly in the parish church. Taney National School Orchestra and Wesley College, Dublin, Senior Choir took part in the service, while pupils from Holy Cross National School and Taney National School had painted pictures on the theme ‘Working together for God’.






The Bishop of Clogher, responding to last week’s finding of a viable bomb outside the home of Ulster Unionist Councillor Harold Andrews at Rosslea, Co. Fermanagh, was surely right to stress not only the “monstrous” nature of such an action as planting the bomb but also the overwhelming desire of people right across the whole of Ireland to build “a new sort of society”.

The Church, indeed, stands against terrorism and for a future in this island that is truly shared. That term, ‘shared future’, cannot be allowed to become just another platitude. The future for all of us must be indisputably and categorically shared, so that the rancorous divisions that have been so much part of our past are firmly relegated to that past. A ‘shared future’ means a future in which all recognize the same fundamental values of common decency, respect and – as Lord Bew pointed out at the Church of Ireland’s recent commemorations conference – the principle of ‘consent’ as far as political and constitutional affairs were concerned (Gazette report, 6th April). These are all things that the Church appropriately underscores, not least because they lie at the heart of the peace process in the cause of which, as recent years have witnessed, so many have worked so tirelessly for so long.

The action of placing that viable bomb outside Councillor Andrews’ home sends one back to the 2008 report on the views and experiences of Border Protestants, Whatever you say, say nothing. It was compiled for the Church of Ireland Diocese of Clogher by David Gardiner and had been commissioned by the 2005-2008 Hard Gospel Project. One of the particularly striking findings in that report was the fact that most interviewees had seen republican violence in Border areas as having been intended to drive them out, a perception that the BBC reported Mr Andrews as expressing last week.

However, Mr Andrews also spoke, more hearteningly, of how well both communities in the area were now getting on. The would-be peace wreckers do need to be identified and brought to justice, for all our sakes and for the sake of future generations, and the spirit that Mr Andrews described as characterizing his local community today is the kind of spirit that the Church must always seek to encourage and support.



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Columns and Features

  • Focus on Mission and Ecumenism – Ecumenical mission gathering looks ahead to the 2013
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  • Musings – Alison Rooke – At Peace




Letters to the Editor

Same Sex relationships

The Revd Colin Hall-Thompson (Letters, 23rd March) tells us that the Scriptures are “very clear” in condemning gay relationships, but neither of the scriptural references he cites supports his claim.

Romans 1: 26, 27 appears to be a criticism of certain heterosexuals who engaged in homosexual activity, contrary to their heterosexual nature. It says nothing about people who are by nature homosexual.

The Harper Collins Study Bible comments on these verses: “Some think that Paul here condemns homosexual acts by heterosexual people (i.e. unnatural means ‘unnatural for them’) … it is questionable whether Paul thought of homosexuality as a condition or disposition.”

Genesis 1: 27ff says nothing about homosexuality. Mr Hall-Thompson’s claim is based on a logical fallacy, argumentum ad ignorantiam, argument by appeal to the unknown, based on assumptions about what was not said.

He quotes the injunction “Be fruitful and increase in number” (Genesis 1: 28) as if procreation were the sole purpose of marriage, but common sense tells us that it is not. Marriage Service One in the Book of Common Prayer gives three distinct reasons for matrimony: procreation, the avoidance of sin and “the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other”.

Procreation is not essential to Christian marriage and gay marriage is a development of Christian doctrine on marriage.

Paul Rowlandson, Londonderry, BT47

Clergy Pastoral visiting

For many generations, there has been in the Church of Ireland a close and valued relationship between her clergy and people. This relationship has been highly valued by both clergy and laity. It has been built up to no small degree by the practice on the part of the clergy of what I can only describe as routine pastoral visiting.

Observation and anecdotal evidence leads me to fear that this custom is in some respects no longer valued and implemented in some places, which I believe is a mistake and very sad.

Now I know well that parochial and extra-parochial duties and responsibilities take up a great deal of clerical time, but I am convinced, having served for 40 years in large, urban parishes, that it is still possible to devote much time to what has sometimes been derided as ‘door knocking’, but which I prefer to think of as the pastor caring for the souls of those committed to his or her care – sharing in their hopes and fears, getting to know them as persons, no matter what their depth of commitment to Christ and his Church and, as opportunity arises, sharing with them the insights of the Gospel and, when appropriate, praying with them.

Furthermore, the benefit is not one-sided. Again and again, the visitor leaves a home feeling spiritually blessed and uplifted and often grateful for the sheer depth of spiritually discovered in unexpected places.

Jesus had a great way of dealing with people, not only in large numbers but also with individuals. I submit that systematic visitation of his people in their homes by the clergy provides opportunity to carry on Jesus’ ministry of loving care.

It is a privilege that should not be lightly set aside.

Jack Mercer (Canon), Groomsport, Bangor, BT19


Westminster Internet surveillance plan

I am astounded at the clamour from the liberal chattering classes over the Home Secretary’s eminently sensible proposals to force Internet Service Providers to afford police and security services untrammelled access to customers’ email and web browsing records.

Access of this sort is invaluable in combating crimes and moral turpitude, such as tax avoidance, immorality and conspiracy to frighten the horses.

Ever eager to assist, I have resolved to forestall any legislation by forwarding copies of all my email direct to Mrs May at and would urge your readers who have nothing to hide to do the same.

John Eoin Douglas



Book Reviews

  • BEING A CHAPLAIN Authors: Miranda Threlfall-Holmes and Mark Newitt. Publisher: SPCK
  • SEEING THE GOOD IN UNFAMILIAR SPIRITUALITIES Author: Gethin Abraham-Williams Publisher: Circle Books Price: £9.99



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