COI Gazette – 17th April 2015

Porvoo Communion double blow to Europe over its market economy and Lisbon Treaty

At the heart of the EU economy - the European Central Bank in Frankfurt (Photo: E. Chan)

At the heart of the EU economy – the European Central Bank in Frankfurt (Photo: E. Chan)

An Anglican/Lutheran Porvoo Communion consultation report has launched a ‘no holds barred’ critique of the market economic system that lies at the heart of the European Union and records fundamental criticism of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty.

The report of the Porvoo Communion’s Consultation on Economics and Ethics – held last November at the Evangelische Akademie in Bad Boll, Southern Germany – claims that “Europe is still under the illusion” that it has a social market economy.

The report, Perspectives on Economics and Ethics: Behaviour under scrutiny, which was only recently released to the Gazette, includes the trenchant criticism of the Lisbon Treaty that its terms do not amount to a social market economy “in the original sense”, since the European treaties established the principle of an open market economy with free competition.

The Bad Boll report goes on to declare that “even the classical social market economy was built on maximum growth”, adding that the capitalist system “cannot be considered an enduring one”.

For more – Check the text of the Bad Bull Report check out  this link




At the end of March, Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler and a Muslim, won Nigeria’s Presidential election, defeating the serving Goodluck Jonathan. Mr Buhari had lost the previous three elections, but on 28th March he represented an opposition coalition, the All Progressives Congress, and won the day.

The Economist has sung Mr Buhari’s praises, condemning the defeated President’s record: “One big reason to cheer is that Mr Jonathan has been such a dismal failure … His administration has woefully failed to defeat an insurgency by Boko Haram, an Islamist extremist group that has tormented Nigeria’s north-east over the past few years. Mr Jonathan tried to improve farming and provide electricity to all, but proved unable to rebuild much of Nigeria’s hideously decrepit infrastructure. Above all, he was unwilling to tackle corruption, the country’s greatest scourge and the cause of much of its chaos.”

However, religion journalist Fredrick Nzwili has commented that not all Nigerians are happy with Mr Buhari’s election, given his past human rights record as President many years ago, from 1984 to 1985. Mr Nzwili wrote for Religion News Service: “During that time, he imprisoned journalists and opposition activists without trial and executed drug traffickers by firing squad.”

However, there is hope that, in the African continent’s largest economy and most populated nation, Mr Buhari can make a difference where Mr Jonathan failed. Mr Nzwili recalls, that during a campaign rally, Mr Buhari criticized the insurgents for attacking churches and mosques and killing schoolchildren in their sleep while shouting “Allahu akbar”, Arabic for ‘God is great’. He adds that Christian leaders hope the new President can quickly tackle Boko Haram and quotes the Secretary of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri, Fr John Bakeni: “The first task: The people want Buhari to deal with insecurity, then corruption.”

Journalists Heidi Vogt and Patrick McGroarty, writing from Nigeria, noted in last week’s Wall Street Journal that, in a country ethnically and religiously divided, “the challenge looms large”. They added that President Jonathan had been defeated “despite his promises to wipe out Boko Haram and graft”, and that failure by Mr Buhari “could result in disillusionment for the country’s young, poor and jobless, among whose ranks Boko Haram has recruited to feed its insurgency”. That is a sombre warning, but the Churches have a particular role to play in this extremely fraught and dangerous situation. That role is, at least in part, to model how difficult relationships can be handled. It is something the Churches are learning more about through the difficulties that they face, in their own life, on many fronts.

Certainly, Mr Buhari faces an extremely challenging time, but many hopes are pinned on him being able to turn what has been nothing less than a tidal wave of at times extremely brutal lawlessness. Because the task is so difficult, and so urgent, the new President will need both wisdom and determination, as well as the prayers of the Church.


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Home News Feature

Faith traditions’ academics and leaders confer in favour of a ‘Yes’ vote in next month’s Marriage Equality referendum in the Republic. The Revd Patrick Burke reports for the Gazette


World News

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Letters to the Editor

Growing the Church

MEMBERS OF the Church of Ireland may or may not regard themselves as being “born from above” (John 3: 7) and perhaps many do not understand the concept.

I suspect that, strangely, many clergy may not be sure about the concept, but it is, of course, central to the true meaning of being a Christian.

This is not about semantics, but, rather, the breath of life within the Church, the Spirit which gives it vitality for growth and renewal.

A stumbling block has been how to change anything, as we don’t want to upset existing parishioners.

There is a solution, and that is to take the focus off the traditional Sunday service as the way to grow the Church and start to bring people (including new people) into a more intimate relationship with each other and the Lord through small groups, once a week, perhaps on Wednesday evenings.

A group might consist of just two or three people and it could start with a course designed simply to understand the Gospel and thereby bring the members of the group closer to faith.

When they have finished the course, they could start another on discipleship, empowering them to apply their faith to everyday life.

Concurrently, other small groups could start up as more people wish to engage.

Clergy do not need to run these courses; lay people with no experience can lead them and they can be hosted in people’s homes.

I have learned more in the past year than in the preceding 49 years, thanks to looking outside the Church of Ireland for teaching. There are excellent resources out there that we should be using (including video format for those of us who are not very academic).

I think the Church of Ireland should designate one parish as a pilot project to be completely free to explore where the Holy Spirit wants to lead us.

The result, I believe, will be a Church that is alive, renews faith, sees gifts of the Spirit manifest and sets an example of how to help people not just cope but prosper in God- centred lives.

What have we got to lose?

Jonathan Pyle

Crinkill House Birr Co. Offaly

The Church of Ireland and the NI Conscience Amendment Bill

I WAS extremely distressed at the letter of Dr Richard O’Leary (Gazette, 13th March) pointing out the lack of response from the Church of Ireland to Paul Givan MLA’s Freedom of Conscience Amendment Bill, during the consultation period.

By contrast (Gazette, 20th March, page 4), the Roman Catholic Bishops in a statement ask: “Will those who sincerely continue to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman be forced to act against their conscience?”

In essence, what is the case for the Freedom of Conscience Amendment Bill?

It is necessary simply to protect Christians on those occasions when they are asked to endorse or facilitate behaviour or beliefs contrary to their strongly held religious convictions.

This is in line with Articles 18 and 19 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights:

Article 18 – “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion … and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

Article 19 – “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

The above makes the case that a Freedom of Conscience Bill is needed for Northern  Ireland to protect Christians so that they are no longer asked to choose between equality law and their conscience.

For example, where the Christian believes from the Bible that same-sex marriage or civil partnership is wrong under ‘conscience’, he or she could have the opportunity to opt out. However, there is no issue in providing goods or services to people, regardless of their sexuality as such.

Legal protection is only required in cases where a Christian believes he or she would become complicit in sinful behaviour.

Ian McClelland, Jordanstown BT37

Republic’s marriage referendum

I WRITE regarding the same- sex marriage referendum to be held in May, and Bishops Glenfield and Doran and their group calling for a ‘No’ vote (Gazette report, 20th March).

The Church of Ireland is correct in affirming the Church’s understanding of marriage as between one man and one woman, but is also correct in recognising that the State has a duty and responsibility to legislate for its citizens. We are encouraged to vote according to our conscience.

For anyone to say that children ideally need a father and a mother to sustain family life is not borne out by the facts. How many children whose mothers died when they were babies have been lovingly reared and taught by their  fathers? Also, these days, many ‘house husbands’ are mainly responsible for childcare.

Life evolves all the time and I have no desire to thwart the wish of same-sex people to marry and find happiness – so I will be voting ‘Yes’ in May. Margaret Barrett

Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin


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