COI Gazette – 13th Jan 2012

Front Page

Archbishop of Cape Town challenges Robert Mugabe over Church persecution

The Primate of Southern Africa last week called for the President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, to end police persecution of the Church there after more than 80 clergy were ordered to leave a retreat centre.

The Most Revd Thabo Makgoba, the Archbishop of Cape Town and Primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, issued a statement after police in Zimbabwe stopped a retreat of 80 clergy at a school 50 miles east of the capital, Harare, over claims that the prayer gathering was not given police clearance under sweeping security laws.



The controversy surrounding some of the recipients of this month’s New Year honours on account of donations by the individuals concerned to the Conservative Party is entirely understandable. Even Sir Christopher Kelly, Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, intervened in the public discussion to indicate that some of the honours had posed the threat of bringing the whole system into disrepute.

This is not a new concern; in fact, it seems to surface quite frequently. Some people have suggested that the fuss will blow over and that things will simply proceed as before, but the more that controversy is created, the more likely it becomes that one day some action will indeed be taken.

The honours system brings recognition to many and adds some joy to public life, but there are also good reasons why the Republic of Ireland has avoided adopting a similar system; in fact, the Irish Constitution prohibits the State from conferring ‘titles of nobility’. However, in the uK, the honours system is not going to go away and, indeed, it would be a pity to see the long tradition disappear. However, a way needs to be found of avoiding any hint whatsoever of ‘cash-for-honours’. Moreover, the practice of awarding peerages should be changed, at least by detaching it from the honours list.

The future of the House of Lords is currently being debated, with the Government wanting a mainly elected second chamber; we featured the topic in an interview with Bishop George Cassidy last year in the 22nd July Gazette (following, earlier in the same month, an interview with Maurice Manning on the reform of the Seanad, which is also a current issue). Certainly, some reform of the House of Lords is due, but involvement in the business of government should not be regarded as an honour award; if peers – or some of them – are not to be elected, there should be an appointments process quite separate from the honours rounds.

The House of Lords does good scrutiny work and the right people are needed for the purpose, but such appointments are much more serious than what is commonly call a ‘gong’.

Home News

  • New Communications Officer for Dublin and Glendalough
  • Archbishop of Dublin concludes ‘unique’ year-long Bible reading marathon
  • Archbishop Jackson welcomes Republic’s Department of Education initiative
  • Archive of the Month’ initiative launched at RCB Library
  • Lunchtime lecture to focus on faith and religious education
  • Major community engagement by Northern Ireland faith groups

World News

  • Papua New Guinea and the Southern Cone approve the Anglican Covenant
  • Anglican Health Network in Australia
  • Report shows Christianity shifting to Africa
  • Dissident’s book reveals ‘secret history’ of Christianity in China

Letters to the Editor

Civil partnerships controversy

I RESPECT the belief of Paul and Margaret Rowlandson (Letters, 23rd December) that one of their daughters was born gay, and I would not presume to comment on her personal circumstances. I do wonder, though, on what basis one can be sure that a particular infant is ‘gay’ from birth (rather than from early childhood).

The evidence suggests to me that same-sex attraction is generally more likely to be triggered by random experiences, often in early life (not chosen by the child and usually not attributable to the parents).

The Rowlandsons refer to scientific statements by the American mental health guilds and label my views (scientifically) “unorthodox”. I prefer to focus on arguments from the evidence, not least because these authorities sometimes appear to be driven by politics rather than science.

Dr Jack Wiggins, a past president of the American Psychological Association, writing in a testimonial prefixed to the book, Destructive Trends in Mental Health: The well- intentioned path to harm (ed. Rogers H. Wright and Nicholas A. Cummings, Routledge, 2005), laments that “in mental health circles today misguided idealism and social sophistry guarantee that good science and practice

will not go unpunished”. The detail of the scientific material is indeed complex, as the Rowlandsons say, but non- scientists should not be put off. Dermatoglyphic asymmetries (which the Rowlandsons mention) are to do with fingerprints, and monozygotic and dizygotic twin studies (which they also mention) are about identical and non-identical twins. If one identical twin has a particular skin colour, the other does too – always. By contrast, if one is homosexual, the other usually is not.
This simple fact means that it’s not ‘like the colour of your skin’. Ordinary people can understand this and have a right to question scientific ‘orthodoxy’ when it tells them the opposite. This is not being ‘anti-gay’. Open discussion of science is good for everybody; that is why I have suggested that it be added to the Spring Conference agenda.

Paul Rowlandson and I have had a mutually respectful conversation by email during the past few months and I hope it may continue.

Dermot O’Callaghan

Hillsborough Co. Down BT26


WHAT FIRST attracted me to the Church of Ireland was its tolerance and inclusiveness, especially acceptance of me as a full member of the parish family without demanding I convert formally. Eventually, I did formally join the Church and one important reason for this was that I could no longer live with integrity as a gay man in the Roman Catholic Church, and I felt that I could within the Church of Ireland.

Over these 15 years of pilgrimage as an Anglican, I always felt empowered to accept myself unconditionally for what I am – a gay man and a Christian. My faith has been deepened beyond measure by the love and prayerful example of my devoutly Anglican partner. I cannot deny that I consider him the greatest gift God has given me, or could give me, on this earthly pilgrimage.

I recently heard someone mention the word ‘schism’ in connection with the current debate on homosexuality. It is horrible to conceive that one might be the cause of schism in the Church one loves. It is a singularly unpleasant time to be gay and an Anglican. The tenor of the debate on homosexuality across the Anglican Communion has been horrifying – self- righteous, arrogant and judgmental. The Church of Ireland has not escaped the ugliness.

For those who cannot accept me for what I am, I continue to pray that God might turn your hearts. My anger is directed towards those who occupy the ‘middle’ ground in the debate – those who always tell us ‘soon’, but never ‘now’. Why so silent when the faith and identity of gay Christians are being attacked? Why allow people to tell us that if we don’t turn into something we can’t ever become, our salvation is a fraud?

If you’re going to crucify gays to preserve the unity of the Church, that’s fine; I can accept it. Push me away to the fringe of the Church if you want. I trust in Christ as my Saviour; to be at the fringes of his dwelling is privilege enough and as I remember Scripture, it’s where he preferred to hang out himself.


Belfast BT15

Features & Columns

  • Insight – Philippines typhoon – an inter-faith and inter-agency response
  • Soap – Down At St David’s
  • Musings – Alison Rooke – Responsibilities

Book Reviews

Authors: Benjamin Gordon- Taylor and Simon Jones Publisher: SPCK

SEASONS OF GRACE Author: Ann Lewin Publisher: Canterbury Press

Author: John Pritchard Publisher: SPCK


Authors: John Atherton, Christopher Baker and John Reader Publisher: SPCK

Author: Nick Mayhew Smith Publisher: Lifestyle Press

News Extra

  • New NIMMA book on mixed marriages
  • Centre for Celtic Spirituality evening on Book of Kells and Armagh