COI Gazette – 15th June 2012

Archbishop of Canterbury tells of retiring Archbishop Harper’s ‘real wisdom and profound integrity’

Archbishop Alan and Helen Harper

Archbishop Alan and Helen Harper

The Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd Alan Harper, last week announced his intention to retire with effect from 1st October.

Archbishop Harper, who is 68, has been a bishop for 10 years, having served as Bishop of Connor from 2002 to 2007, when he became Archbishop of Armagh.

A successor will be elected by the House of Bishops in due course.

In a statement to the Gazette, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said: “Archbishop Alan Harper has served the Church of Ireland with distinction, courage and insight, and I have found him a colleague of real wisdom and profound integrity. I am grateful to have had him as a fellow-primate in the work of the Anglican Communion, and appreciate all he has done to strengthen our fellowship and our vision.





This 125th anniversary year of Mothers’ Union in Ireland has been marked by a series of special events during the month of May and all concerned are now looking ahead to the thanksgiving service in Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin next September. There is no doubt that the role of Mothers’ Union in parishes throughout the Church of Ireland cannot be underestimated. Members contribute to the life of the Church in so many ways, quite apart from the priority that is given to supporting marriage and family life.

One of the many things that is admirable about Mothers’ Union is its outward looking nature. While branches have their own programmes running through each year, there is always a focus, not least through prayer, on the organisation’s work further afield, often in distant lands. Mothers’ Union has a special sense of the universal Church, as well as being so deeply involved in parish life at home.

Each of the five Objectives of Mothers’ Union has far-reaching implications: to promote and support married life; to encourage parents in their role to develop the faith of their children; to maintain a worldwide fellowship of Christians united in prayer, worship and service; to promote conditions in society favourable to stable family life and the protection of children; and to help those whose family life has met with adversity.

The founder of Mothers’ Union, Mary Sumner, the wife of the vicar of Old Alresford in Winchester Diocese, was particularly aware of the special challenges of bringing up children in the England of the 1870s. She took action by gathering mothers together for mutual support, and so Mothers’ Union was born.

There is no doubt that many families are in need of the kind of support that Mothers’ Union today sets out to provide and, for sure, many stories can be told around the world of Mothers’ Union’s influence for good in individual families, often under great pressures of one kind or another.

Mothers’ Union is a fellowship with a purpose and its presence enhances the fellowship of the wider Church in each parish and diocese. The example of Mothers’ Union members has inspired generations to greater love for Christ and his Church, and the organisation itself, over 125 years in Ireland, has enriched the Church of Ireland immeasurably. It is hardly possible for the rest of the Church to say a big enough ‘thank you’.

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Letters to the Editor

General Synod resolution on human sexuality

Gay and lesbian Christians, both partnered and celibate, have been deeply alienated by last month’s General Synod resolution on human sexuality. The undersigned members of Changing Attitude Ireland (CAI ) deplore this and we hope we are not alone in seeking to develop the more open approaches shown to be needed at the Cavan Conference.

Countrywide exploration of issues relating to homosexuality, and concerned listening to those who cannot identify themselves as heterosexual, are now essential. The importance of such listening was underlined back at the 1998 Lambeth Conference, but the Church of Ireland has failed to honour the commitment made then.

It is regrettable that the word ‘listening’ is not included in the 2012 resolution on human sexuality; neither is the word ‘homosexuality’ mentioned. The promise to listen respectfully to gay and lesbian people has been softened to “willingness to increase our awareness of the complex issues regarding human sexuality” and “a commitment to love our neighbour”.

It is not enough to ask the Standing Committee to “progress work” on the issues. If this is all that is asked, the necessary widespread study, discussion and mutual listening will never get off the ground. These must be given priority if those whose life partnerships have been declared not “normative” are to feel welcome in the life of our Church, as the resolution suggests they are. We urge our bishops and all in leadership positions to take immediate steps to ensure that real listening to gay and lesbian Christians takes place at diocesan and deanery levels without further delay.

CAI is seen as a campaigning organisation, but we prefer the word ‘educational’; we also aim to offer personal support to LGBT Christians and to assist in the process of dialogue which now risks being sidelined. We hope to hear from groups or individuals regarding these issues, as well as from those who have suffered rejection or discrimination. All such enquiries will be treated in strict confidence.

We have welcomed a number of new members to CAI since last month’s General Synod. Most are heterosexuals supporting the LGBT bid for equal treatment and respect. We would welcome many more new members. Application forms are to be found at: www. changingattitudeireland. org.

Mark Gardner (Canon) Ginnie Kennerley (Canon) Charles Kenny (Canon) Gerry Lynch Darren McCallig (The Revd) Richard O’Leary Brian O’Rourke (The Revd) Sandra Pragnell (The Revd)

Belfast BT9

I refer to the resolution recently passed by the Church in General Synod which reiterates a definition of marriage as follows: “The Church of Ireland affirms, according to our Lord’s teaching that marriage is in its purpose a union permanent and life-long, for better or worse, till death do them part, of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side …”

I am a barrister and have practised law in this part of the country for over 30 years. Applying the most basic rules of statutory interpretation, this definition of marriage does not, and cannot, include a form of marriage contracted by a divorced person whose former spouse is still living.

I am such a person and, consequently, I have a number of questions as follows in relation to my status in the Church should I remarry whilst my former spouse is still living:

1. If I live in a union not recognised by the Church, will I be regarded as a person living in open and notorious sin?

2. As a person living in open and notorious sin, will I be excluded from the sacraments of the Church, particularly the Eucharist?

3. Will I have to resign my position on the select vestry of St Anne’s, Shandon?

Tim Bracken, Cork

Note: Following an enquiry by the Gazette to the Church of Ireland Press Office for clarification on the subject raised by Mr Bracken, the following brief statement was issued to us: “It is the understanding of the Archbishop of Armagh that the resolution passed at General Synod does not in any way affect the status of those who remarry after divorce as covered by the totality of Canon 31.

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Audio Interview

In the second of two short interviews with the Gazette editor, Canon Ian Ellis, for Soul Waves Radio, Canon Patrick Lawrence asks about the Gazette and the editor’s work. Visit (Interview 26). Soul Waves Radio, directed by Miriam Gormally, supplies local and community radio stations in Ireland.