COI Gazette – 14th December 2018

Caring for the planet – a mark of mission

14 Dec

This year, the Church of Ireland passed a motion at General Synod, the effects of which have rippled across Ireland and beyond. It was a motion to divest from all fossil fuels.

Synod decided overwhel- mingly that ending invest- ments in fossil fuel extraction companies by 2022 was necessary. This is because climate change is leading to disaster, both for people and for investments. It is a significant change that affects €16m of funds.

Climate change, caused largely by pollution from burning fossil fuels, is beginning to impact at home. We had a very wet winter last year followed by a record- breaking summer heatwave. Furthermore, around the world the poorest are suffering from storms, heat, drought and floods that in some countries fuel conflict and refugee crises.




For the last few weeks, millions of us have been glued to our TVs. Yes, it’s the annual showing of ‘I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!’

In case you are unfamiliar with the show, it is a reality TV series in which a group of celebrities live together in a jungle environ- ment for several weeks. They have no luxuries – including flush toilets! Anything more than basic food must be earned by successfully completing unmentionable challenges.

Subject to a daily public vote, the contestants compete to be crowned “King” or “Queen of the Jungle” by the end of the show. Apart from the fee, there is also the primetime TV exposure that can help many a career. Having said that – hats off to those who take part, as they often conquer their deepest fears.

The title of the show reminds us of some- thing that has been a staple of our recent culture – the desire for celebrity. In the run of Saturday night talent shows over the years “I want to be famous” appeared to easily trip off the tongue of contestants. It expressed a desire that seemed to be prevalent – the desire to be famous, to be known … to be a celebrity!

Perhaps the desire was more than just the wealth and attention that it could bring. Maybe some of it was/is rooted in a desire for significance – to matter.
We can argue that a desire simply to be famous is not the greatest aspiration to have. However, the desire to be significant – to matter – seems like a reasonable human desire. It is one that we all share.

One of the interesting things to notice in our evolving culture is that celebrity does not seem to have delivered what many hoped it might. In and off itself, it seems incapable of deliver- ing happiness or meaning. It can join the list of other things that have been presented as being able to meet the deepest of human needs.

The message of Christ coming into the world will soon be celebrated across the globe. It is a message that has power, precisely because it speaks to the deepest of our human needs – the need to be significant – to matter.

The essence of the message to our neigh- bours is the same as to ourselves. It is that we have significance because Christ felt we mattered enough to enter our world and become one of us. His desire for us to experience the love and forgiveness that the incarnation offers meets a need that celebrity or whatever else our culture offers simply cannot.

The Christian message is as powerful as ever because the need for humans to know they are significant – that they matter – is still there.


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Letters to the editor

THE 7TH December 2018 Gazette editorial on abortion is a timely Advent reminder that ‘the slaughter of the innocents’ continues in our midst. Dr Peter Saunders (CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship) estimates that the yearly loss of human life to abortion worldwide is 43 million. If around 57 million die from other causes, then approximately four out of every 10 human deaths globally is due to abortion.

It is very easy for churches and Christians to become fixated on controversies around marriage, divorce, family breakdown, gender, sexuality, illegitimacy, and promiscuity. Can these issues dominate our conver- sation to the point where we sometimes seem like an Old Testament fertility cult to outsiders? Can any genuine Anglican who believes the Apostle’s Creed reject the pro-life position? Is it possible to hear Luke Chapter One during Advent or Christmas services without feeling a tingle down the spine as verse 44 is read?

The maxim ‘knowledge is power’, attributed to Francis Bacon, most surely applies here. Might many women be reluctant to proceed with abortions if they had access to scientific or scan evidence that affirms the humanity of the unborn? Informed consent for procedures is a pillar of modern medical ethics; yet euphemisms for the destruction of the ‘unborn’ abound, such as ‘remove the pregnancy’, ‘gentle suction
method’, ‘TOP’, ‘termination of pregnancy’, ‘termination’. It would be technically true to say that terrorists were responsible for the majority of the 3600 lives ‘terminated’ during the Troubles. To say that these victims were ‘killed’ or ‘murdered’ by terrorists presents a fuller account of what happened. Semantics matter in the abortion debate too.

Georgette Forney of Anglicans for Life (AFL) has been encouraging Anglicans in the UK and Ireland to consider remembering the unborn in prayer everyWednesday morning. Perhaps the AFL initiative is a positive strategy that the wider Church of Ireland (or individual members) should consider embracing this Advent? As a retired GP, I feel deeply ashamed at my past lack of knowledge about the horrific scale of worldwide abortion. I was staggered to hear the 43 million figure mentioned earlier this autumn.

The story of Mary and Martha speaks to us deeply when considering abortion. Did people who voted ‘Yes’, in the Referendum to remove the Eighth Amendment, take time in the busyness of life to really understand abortion procedures, or the miracle of human life in utero? While the Gazette editorial is to be commended for highlighting local abortion difficulties or controversies, we do well to consider the wider context, and the scale of tragedy that global abortion represents. James Hardy

Belfast, Co Antrim

Occupied Territories Bill

AT THE moment a bill is passing through the Seanad, proposed by Senator Frances Black. It proposes to ban goods from Israeli settlements. I suggest that this approach is counter- productive and unacceptable.

Banning goods from settlements causes the closure or relocation of businesses and factories that employ Palestinian workers and renders them unemployed. I cannot see how this is addressing poverty. Rather, it increases it.

In 2010, almost 35,000 Palestinians were employed by Israeli companies in the West Bank, supporting more than 200,000 Palestinians financially. Palestinians who work for Israeli companies earn on average twice as much as those who work in areas controlled by the Palestinian authority. Many Palestinian farmers rely on Israeli companies to export their goods to European markets.

Approximately 16,000 West Bank Palestinian business people have founded companies and factories in Israel and the West Bank settlements. This ban would undermine their efforts. It also goes against the
existing good Palestinian-Israeli cooperation. This bill can be seen by many as part of the general BDS campaign which is highly discriminatory and not, in its present movements, reflec- ting a Christian outlook.

Israeli settlements cover approximately 1.7% of all West Bank land. They are not an obstacle to peace though they are so often stated as such. The real obstacles to peace and prosperity are corruption and divided leadership, the incitement to violence and the lack of acceptance of co-existence.

The legality of settlements is disputed worldwide. There are as many lawyers who say they are totally legal as those who say they are not. Israel has demolished illegally built settlements, mostly Jewish. There are thousands of illegally built Palestinian homes, mostly in Area C, which, under the terms of the Oslo Accords, is supposed to be under exclusive Israeli control.

Most Jewish settlements are built on vacant state owned land, occasionally necessitating the purchase of Palestinian owned land and not the displacement of owners.
The whole issue should be seen in the light of the Oslo Agreement, which did not prohibit the building of settlements. It left their final status to be negotiated in what would involve ‘land swap’ and some dismantling of settlements. This was to be part of the peace negotiation between the two parties, and their outcome should not be predicted by the international community.

It behoves all Christian organisations to seek truth and honesty and look fairly at both sides of the argument, especially when it is political. No one is ‘entirely right’ or ‘always wrong’. In relation to Israel, we have to be cognisant of 2,000 years of persecution, mostly by the Christian Church, and the current rise in anti-Semitism in Europe and the US, and seeing our actions as part of the bigger picture.

My heart’s calling is to prayer, intercession and reconciliation. To that end, I have fairly recently travelled to the West Bank, Israel and Jordan with prayer and worship groups, and have lived and worked in the Middle East. AlisonBourke

Letterkenny Co Donegal

Christmas dinner is for Christmas day

IN THE Gazette of the 21st September the editorial focussed on what we can do about the hungry people in our world.

Many people today have to search dust bins or visit food centres to get food.

For many years, I have watched and thought about the examples we in the Church should set within our organisations. I am unsure if today some, if any, have a Christmas dinner before the actual day. If this does happen, we in the Church could give a lead by shouting
loud and clear that Christmas dinner should be special for Christmas day – only!

Look at the money that could be saved and given to the needy. Look at the obesity crisis, the modern scourge, that could be alleviated.

Let us take the lead and maybe other organisations outside the Church will follow.

Christmas dinner is for Christmas day. Give the money saved to the starving!
M. Donnelly

Donard Cottage Clough Co Down


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