COI Gazette 16th September 2015

Church initiatives on handling of historic sex abuse cases


Last July, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby (pictured), announced that the Church of England would investigate sex abuse in the Church of England if the Goddard Inquiry did not look into it within six months.

The Goddard Inquiry is an independent inquiry led by Justice Lowell Goddard which will examine how “public bodies and other non-state institutions” in England and Wales handled their duty of care to protect children from abuse. It is expected to take five years to carry out its work.

Earlier, in the Gazette’s 12th June issue, we published a letter from the Chief Executive of the Kent-based Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service, Simon Bass, in which he commented on the publication of the Methodist Church in Britain’s Past Case Review (PCR) into abuse, Courage, Cost & Hope.

Mr Bass wrote: “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 Bishop of London’s recent Lambeth Lecture – delivered at Lambeth Palace on 30th September – was a very considerable survey of the Church in his diocese since the 1990s. It took the institutional problems seriously but also showed an openness to new ways and, indeed, an active commitment to new ways. While the lecture had a historical sweep, it was not simply about looking back; it was full of forward-looking vision.

Bishop Chartres said: “Under Capital Vision 2020, we are pledged to establish 100 new worshipping communities in the Diocese in the next five years. Some will be rejuvenated parish churches, but others will be in new locations. The latest statistics from the Greater London Authority, released in July, suggest that the capital’s population is growing rapidly. It now stands at more than 8.5 million (by contrast, Scotland’s population is 5.3 million). The Diocese of London accounts for just under half of this figure, with our neighbours in Southwark, Chelmsford and Rochester making up the total.”

The immensity of the missional challenge facing the Church in such circumstances is clear, and there are similar challenges in urban contexts in Ireland. In facing such realities, it is certainly true that many older ways of looking at ‘being Church’ are being superseded by striking new approaches. This is particularly true of denominationalism itself.

In this connection, Bishop Chartres commented: “As the prospects for institutional mergers fade, the opportunities for unselfconscious ecumenical work at the local level become clearer. In London, in many contexts we have entered a post-denominational phase. Very few of the hundreds of thousands of students studying in the universities of the capital arrive with any
clear ecclesial identity. They are looking for communities of faith that are vigorous and spiritually credible, without being too concerned about the denominational label.”

Where does all this leave the institutional Churches, which expend so much of their energies on their internal structures and so much of their financial resources on keeping old buildings up to standard?

The truth is, surely, that the Church will always be an institution of some sort and will always need leadership and organisation. This is true of any body of people, and perhaps all the more so when it is large in number. Then again, buildings can be an enormous expense, but they do provide a focal point for parish life and a common, sacred space. They have their own spiritual value of a lasting nature.

Getting all of this into perspective requires, however, a recognition that, at heart, the Church is not called to be a static organization with the aim of keeping everything as it has been, but is, rather, the living Body of Christ, called to live after the example of its Lord and Master, not jettisoning all that is past but seeing value where value truly lies and seeing the need for change where change is truly needed. Discernment is key here.

Bishop Chartres made the point tellingly: “Traditionalism is the obstinate adherence to the mores of the day before yesterday – the dead faith of living people. Tradition is the spirit-filled continuity of the Church’s life, through which the truth is communicated from generation to generation in fresh ways in order to stay the same. Tradition is the living faith which we share with dead people.” There is an undeniable and very important truth in those words for the Church in every generation. The Church must not be shackled to the past but must know how to draw on the past to live dynamically into God’s future.


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Letters to the Editor

The Anglican Church in North America

AS WAS pointed out by the Revd Trevor Johnston in last week’s Gazette (9th October), the Revd Rupert Moreton (Letter, 2nd October) is misinformed about the Diocese of South Carolina. It is, indeed, not affiliated with ACNA or any other group but is an historic Anglican diocese.

It was a founding diocese of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA, now known as The Episcopal Church ( TEC). It seceded from that body during the Civil War and applied for readmission after that conflict.

In 2012, in accordance with its own canonical procedures, it seceded from TEC. This was after years of unjust, unprecedented and uncanonical intrusions into the diocese by legal representatives of TEC, culminating in the deposition of the Bishop (uncanonical, since there was neither trial nor written  renunciation of orders).

The Diocese of South Carolina had already amended its canons in 2010 so that it did not recognize or accede to the new disciplinary canons which were passed in 2009 at the end of General Convention giving TEC’s Presiding Bishop greater powers (“swift pastoral response”) to remove bishops, powers which had previously belonged to Diocesan Standing Committees.

The Revd Chuck Owens is an episcopally ordained priest in good standing in his Diocese. The Rt Revd Mark Lawrence is recognized as a Bishop in good standing, the true Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, by the Global South Primates and the GAFCON Primates, representing the vast majority of worldwide Anglicans. These Primates have also declared themselves to be in “impaired Communion” with TEC.

The so called ‘instruments of Communion’ have no real binding authority over any member-Church, as shown by their complete failure to implement the Windsor report, though they once had great moral authority.

As far as the Church of Ireland is concerned, we decide who is in full communion with us: “The Church of Ireland will maintain communion with the sister Church of England, and with all other Christian Churches agreeing in the principles of this Declaration; and will set forward … quietness, peace, and love amongst all Christian people.” (Preamble and Declaration, The Book of Common Prayer, p.777, my italics)

Bill Atkins (The Revd), Armagh BT60

I AM happy to thank the Revd Trevor Johnston for correcting my error concerning the status of the ‘Diocese’ of South Carolina.

That it is not a member of ACNA – which, in spite of the Revd Dr Alan McCann’s assertion, does not belong to the Anglican Communion – is, of course, a reflection of the fact that any formal association would undermine its case in ongoing litigation concerning property.

The Episcopal Church’s name change is, of course, entirely unrelated to the South Carolina case.

Mr Johnston knows nothing of my current status in any province, but it must be recorded here that the public expression of an opinion by an Anglican priest about a matter of Anglican polity cannot be construed as interference, whereas the extension of an invitation to a representative of a schismatic body involved in distressing litigation with a Church with which the Church of Ireland is in full communion certainly can.

Both Mr Johnston and Dr McCann would appear to think that it is for them to define what makes an Anglican.

I admit to being a little old-fashioned, but I still look to the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral in these matters. For the moment, at least, it remains the foundational document of the Anglican Communion; it stands as a rebuke to those who seek to undermine our communion with our fellow-Anglicans.

Mr Johnston and Dr McCann should look to their consciences in this matter.

Rupert Moreton (The Revd) Vanamokatu  Joensuu

IT WAS disappointing to read in the letters page of the Gazette the letter from the Revd Rupert Moreton (2nd October) which implied that the visit of the Revd Dr Chuck Owens to Derry and Raphoe was in some way an “interference” into the Church of Ireland.

I was present at the ordination service at which Dr Owens preached and I saw no evidence of “interference” whatsoever, rather, a thoughtful, thought- provoking and sensitive message which must have been very encouraging to the young man being ordained.

Two days later, our parish hosted a visit from Dr Owens, who came to speak to us about his ministry in the Church of the Cross and to offer us some helpful advice in preparation for our Diocesan ‘Year of Opportunity’ in 2016. Two days later again, I was present at a meeting of the clergy of our rural deanery at which Dr Owens spoke.

On all these occasions, my impression of Dr Owens was that he was a gentle, godly man with a deep faith and a passion to reach out to the unchurched and to bring them to Christ.

I and others in our diocese have learned much from Dr Owens’ visit and have been greatly encouraged and blessed by his ministry to us.

It does not matter to me, and it shouldn’t matter to any of us, that his diocese has issues with The Episcopal Church. What goes on in America is a matter for the Church there. The only thing that is important to us here in Northern Ireland is what he had to say to us.

We all (if we are humble enough to admit it) have a lot to learn about ministry and it is good to take wise counsel from whatever source we can. In a ‘Year of Opportunity’, let us not see a visit from a brother in Christ from another country as interference, rather, let us take every opportunity to discover new ways and fresh ideas to reach out and share the Gospel with those beyond the current reach of what Mr Moreton refers to as the “Church’s polity”.

Ivan Dinsmore (The Revd) – Newtownstewart Co. Tyrone BT78

The state of the Church of Ireland

IT IS with great sadness and disappointment that I write this letter, having returned to Northern Ireland after 39 years away serving in the Church of England in Germany, England and Greece and the Church of Ireland in Donegal and Cork.

I have to echo the sentiments expressed by former deans among others in these columns and privately to me by retired and serving Archdeacons and Bishops and practising lay folk lamenting the present state of the Church of Ireland, particularly here north of the border.

The Church which I love and loved from early days in Sligo as a child, confirmation candidate, then ordinand and later deacon/priest seems to have disappeared from the face of the Earth, particularly here in Ulster and Co. Down.

The balance of word and sacrament, which was so much the mark of Anglican Church worship within the Church of Ireland and acted as a bridge between Protestant (Presbyterian, etc.) and Catholic (Roman Catholic) branches of the Christian Church here on this island, seems no longer to matter or be observed.

We live now in a liturgical wilderness here on the Ards peninsula, with four serving clerics, four parishes with 10 churches, yet on Sunday, the Day of the Resurrection, the sacrament of Holy Communion is only offered to the faithful in all four parishes on the same Sunday, the first Sunday in the month, and on the second Sunday in one or two of the churches (though this is not always the case).

On all other Sundays, the Body of Christ, the Community of the Resurrection, is not able to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, The Eucharist/Thanksgiving Service, Holy Communion, and Jesus’ own words, “This do in remembrance of me”, seem no longer to matter to this new ‘Free Church of Ireland’ that is developing here in Northern Ireland.

It is staggering that, after 45 years in the ordained ministry of Christ’s Church, one is denied the opportunity to join with the vast majority of Christians of all denominations worldwide on a Sunday to celebrate the joy of the Resurrection and grow close to Jesus in the sacrament of Holy Communion and receive the spiritual strength for the week that lies ahead.

Clearly, this must be the mind of the Church of Ireland here in Ulster/Co. Down, but not the mind of Christ for his Body, the Church, in other parts of the world, as they break bread Sunday by Sunday to the joy of all.

One is left with the question as to what future there is within the ‘New Church of Ireland’ for faithful Christians of the worldwide Anglican Communion? Who can offer them a spiritual home and safe haven among the storms of life?

Does anybody in authority within the Church of Ireland at the present time see any need to keep these Christians within the fold or are those in authority merely hirelings and not shepherds of the flock?

Ronnie Clark (Canon), Cloughey Newtownards Co. Down


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