COI Gazette – 18th November 2011

Front Page

Dean Robert MacCarthy welcomes President Higgins to St Patrick’s Cathedral (Photo: Paul Harron)

President Higgins attends St Patrick’s Cathedral for Remembrance Sunday service

In his first official engagement as President, Michael D. Higgins attended Evensong in St Patrick’s Cathedral last Sunday – Remembrance Sunday.

The Dean of St Patrick’s, the Very Revd Robert MacCarthy, welcomed the large congregation to the service which was organised jointly with the Royal British Legion (Republic of Ireland).

Members of the diplomatic corps were also present and a collection was taken for the Irish Poppy Appeal.



David Randall, author of the e-book, 1896: The First Modern Olympics, reflecting in a recent article in The Independent on Sunday on the current crisis in the eurozone and in Greece in particular, recalled that while in the year 1893 Greece was bankrupt, only three years later, it staged the first modern Olympic Games – after an interval of a mere 1,500 years.

The story he tells is indeed a remarkable one because, as everyone knows, hosting such an event is a mightily expensive affair. Indeed, the idea of reviving the Olympic Games originated outside Greece, and the Greek government of the day itself was reluctant to take on the challenge, for obvious reasons. Yet, when the country eventually did take it on, it was determined to stage the event without financial aid from foreign nations. Randall wrote of how collections were organized throughout Greece and of how these received a massive boost by the commitment of one wealthy Greek businessman based in Egypt, Georgios Averoff, personally to finance the rebuilding of the Panathenaikon Stadium – a massive project, which indeed was completed in time for the 1896 Games.

Fast forward to today: Greece is facing a financial crisis, as is Italy with its massive €1.9 trillion debt, and as are other eU states, of course including Ireland, which has nonetheless been making steady progress in its programme to rectify matters. Yet, one of the many questions that the whole eurozone crisis begs is just why the European Union institutions let things get to such a pitch: debts on the scale that are reported do not appear overnight. The institutions are swift to blame national governments, but the EU institutions themselves have surely been negligent if not, perhaps even worse, complacent. Moreover, the architects of the euro missed one fundamental point: a single currency really requires single fiscal governance. That is, no doubt, where the eurozone is heading, but it raises profound questions about democratic accountability, let alone sovereignty. The issues are huge, and the process of correcting the architecture will be long, drawn-out – and probably eventually will involve another referendum in Ireland.

The politics and economics apart, Randall’s story conveys a truth of fundamental importance. The spirit of the people is what will be most important in current circumstances, the readiness to face the sacrifices that austerity will impose, for the ultimate good of all. It is precisely here where the Church has a distinctly pastoral role to play. The Church, naturally, identifies with those who are protesting about corporate greed, but protesting is not enough. There is a burden to be borne by whole peoples and it is for the Church also, by word and deed, to bring hope and encouragement as individuals face their many hardships.

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Letters to the Editor

Civil partnerships controversy

It Is indeed regrettable that the Church of Ireland, like the wider Anglican communion, is divided on the issue of homosexuality – or, more precisely, on whether openly gay individuals are acceptable in the ordained ministry.

It seems that the church is in the middle of what Hans Kung calls a “paradigm shift”, with the ship going through some dangerously rough water as it moves from one sea to another, threatened by the rocks of biblical literalism on the one hand and over-adaptation to the secular world on the other. It will be some time before we come through it.

It is to be hoped that all of us, crew and passengers on the ship of the church for this difficult voyage, will remain true to our captain, whose core command is “that you love one another”, and not fall into rival factions trying to push each other overboard.

Changing Attitude Ireland, as most readers will know, is a group of Church of Ireland. Christians and friends, both heterosexual and homosexual, who believe that one of the variables in human nature as God created it lies in the area of sexual orientation. so we want people of the minority orientation to be respected and valued on a par with the rest of humanity.

Unlike the Revd Donard Collins, we believe that our Bishops have done well to announce a major conference on these issues for spring 2012, rather than feigning a common mind. The conference will not finally resolve all the issues, but at least it will encourage us to think prayerfully about them and each other’s sensitivities and, hopefully, move closer together.

In the meantime, I would argue that “the truth” which Mr Collins wants the bishops to “clarify” is not as simple as he suggests. The fullness of truth remains always in the eschaton and we must work our way towards it under the guidance of the spirit, in the light of scripture, yes, but scripture read with an awareness of its original context and our own very different 21st century context.

As to Mr Collins’ assertion that “our chief aim must remain God’s glory”, let’s remember that “the glory of God is man fully alive” (St Irenaeus of lyons). The glory of God must also be that his people love and seek to understand one another, however difficult that might be.

Ginnie Kennerley (Canon) Chairperson, CAI, Dalkey Co. Dublin

GIVEN THE fulsome praise publicly granted to the late John Stott, as the Gazette has reported, it seems a shame that similar tributes have not been so evident to another of the great theologians of our time, C.K. Barrett, who died recently.

Barrett’s works, especially his commentary on St John’s Gospel, remain lucid masterpieces and essential for any serious scholar of the New Testament.

Much has been written by some about the ‘mind of Christ’ in the debate over civil partnerships. If those who take a more narrow view on this subject were to study the works of those of barrett’s stature more closely, they might be somewhat surprised and, thus, the church at large might not be in such a pickle over the issues surrounding human sexuality.

Duncan Pollock (The Revd)  Bangor BT20

BELFAST RECENTLY played host to the MtV awards, complete with Jessie J, Justin Bieber and lady GaGa – but why was our wee province chosen to showcase the world’s best musical talent?

Mainly, I believe, because we are seen as a success story: a country which has experienced pain and violence, yet now a country which brian May (lead guitarist of Queen) praised for its “new beginning of peace”.

This peace has come about through two deeply- divided sides having had enough of death and destruction to put our faith in something new and place our hope in democracy. However, this democracy has only succeeded because our politicians have learned to live together in their differences.

They do not necessarily accept each other’s opinions, but they do accept their right to hold them – they do not forget the pain and violence often carried out in the name of what is represented on the other side of the debating chamber, but they accept that the ‘other side’ has as much passion and conviction in its beliefs as they do.

This learning to live together in difference is what our newly-found local government is built upon. This is what has forged the peace and what holds it together, the notion of working together for the common good and focusing on what unites and working together, while accepting the differences. This is what brought MTV and the watching world to Belfast.

It is therefore tragically ironic to me that, at a time when the world views our country as a success story of coming together, we in the church seem destined to split apart.

While our politicians are getting to grips with negotiation and dialogue with people to whom they once were so diametrically opposed that they couldn’t stand to be in the same building, we in the church are making plans to divorce our brothers and sisters who sit on opposing sides of the human sexuality debate!

It is not for the church to be directed; rather, it is the role of the church to direct. However, unless we in the Church of Ireland make a concerted effort to work together in our differences, determined to show the world how we can live together, even in disagreement, then the only example the MTV generation can look to for inspiration and direction is stormont – and what a dereliction of our Gospel responsibilities and a pathetic reflection on all of us in the church if that is their only hope.

Martin Montgomery, Waringstown BT66

WHILE All 66 books of the bible are canonical (letters, the Revd Alan McCann, 4th November), this does not necessarily mean that every verse is of equal and uniform significance in every circumstance.

In practice, we all exercise a degree of selectivity; and as the Gospels probably bring us closer to the words and deeds of Jesus than any other of the writings, it seems natural enough to give them a privileged place, as we see in the liturgical tradition. I don’t think we need be over-anxious about the exegete who prefers, say, Matthew to Obadiah.

I think Mr McCann is probably correct in assuming that Jesus shared the common negative opinion of homosexual relations of his 1st century Jewish milieu. An important question, however, is: to what extent are we bound by that milieu?

For instance, Jesus appears to have shared the common belief that illness was the work of evil spirits: are we obliged to do the same? For me, the question is not, ‘What would Jesus have said, if he had encountered the issue’ or, ‘What would Jesus say if he came back now’, but, ‘What do we, the followers of Jesus, say to the issue, given both our 21st century milieu and our experience of Jesus and the Gospel?’

I notice with appreciation the very careful way in which Mr McCann manages both to deny the connection between homosexuality, incest and paedophilia, while implying that accepting the one might well lead down the slippery slope to the others. ‘brutus is an honourable man’, as Mr shakespeare might say.

However, there are signs of hope. I was much encouraged by a line in the Revd Alan Millar’s rebuke of poor bishop Mayes. He referred to “all those faithful souls who have, in deep faith and conviction, expressed their views on one side or the other of the debate” (my emphasis). If we can agree that people with different views on this matter are nonetheless “faithful souls” acting out of “deep faith and conviction”, then maybe we will be able to avoid the dreaded dialogue of the deaf.

David Oxley (The Revd) The Rectory, Finglas Dublin 11

St Patrick’s Cathedral

I WISH to correct any impression that may have been given by the coverage of the st Patrick’s cathedral proposals (Gazette, 11th November) that I am opposed in principle to the development of the ecumenical witness of st Patrick’s.

I do, however, continue to regret that the chapter, which constitutionally speaking is the responsible body, was not consulted prior to the matter being put in the public domain by the Dean.

There is, in fact, an excellent precedent for church-sharing in that, for a considerable period in the cathedral’s history, hospitality was offered to the Huguenots (who worshipped in the lady chapel of the cathedral).

Speaking in an entirely individual capacity (as only one person among 28), I would suggest that realistically any future church-sharing arrangements would have to be based on the following preconditions:

(1) that the status of st Patrick’s as a National cathedral of the church of Ireland be fully maintained and its worship and witness, including its priceless musical and liturgical heritage, be recognized and upheld. this would normally include the three/four church of Ireland services on sundays and the twice-daily celebration of the Divine Office on weekdays, sung by the world-famous st Patrick’s cathedral choir, together with the weekday celebrations of the Eucharist.

(2) that the ownership of the property as established by the Irish church Act of 1869 continue to be vested in the Representative church body on behalf of the church of Ireland. this would absolutely exclude any ‘handing over’ to any third party whatsoever.

(3) that the details of church-sharing be worked out in conjunction with any ecclesial bodies which might be interested on a basis of mutual recognition and esteem. there would appear to be a ready-made ‘slot’ for such additional services every sunday evening from, say, around 5.30pm onwards – provided that staffing could be provided and costs met by the ecclesial users – and, likewise, almost every weekday from, say, 7.30pm. this would not, of course, preclude very occasional use on sunday mornings or afternoons or other suitable times.

Michael Kennedy (Canon) Lisnadill Rectory, Armagh

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