US Presiding Bishop calls for reconciliation after divisive electoral campaign
In a message issued on the day following last week’s US election, but which was recorded before the results were known, the Presiding Bishop of the US Episcopal Church, the Most Revd Michael Curry, focused on the words of the American Pledge of Allegiance: “I pledge allegiance to the ag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Bishop Curry said that while that Pledge is taught to children, it is meant for American citizens as adults and for the country as a whole.
He said that all Americans would live with the results of the election but would also all live together as fellow- Americans in a time for national reconciliation.
THE TRUMP TRIUMPH
The election last week of Donald Trump as President of the United States confounded the expectations of pundits, pollsters, media and establishment figures alike. Indeed, when Mr Trump first announced that he would run for the Republican Party’s nomination, the odds for him actually winning the White House were reported as 100/1. So, like the Brexit vote in the UK, the result of the US election comes as a shock to the system. Added to the Republican Party’s success in the Presidential election are its successes in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Moreover, the future of the US Supreme Court is now firmly in conservative hands, with one vacancy and two judges of retirement age. The Trump triumph is indeed remarkable.
Of course, it was in many ways an unsavoury kind of campaign, with both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton having to face trenchant criticisms of their personal characters. For that reason, it was especially welcome to hear Mr Trump, shortly after his victory was clear, not only pay tribute to Mrs Clinton and her campaigning efforts but also declare that it was now the time for America “to bind the wounds of division”, saying that he would reach out to his opponents for their guidance and help, and promising to be a President for all Americans. While those might be considered by some to be simply the right kind of thing to say, they show that while supremely capable of political bombast, the future President is also a man who can be conciliatory.
Political analysts all have their suggested reasons for the shock result. However, perhaps one key factor came from outside both campaigns – the 24th October announcement of huge increases in premiums for Obamacare, the signature, Democrat-led health
insurance programme which Donald Trump during his campaign had so vehemently criticised, but on which he nonetheless showed a willingness to compromise following his post-election meeting with President Obama at the White House.
Precisely what the new President Trump will do in terms of policy naturally remains to be seen. However, he has voiced very strong views that point clearly towards American isolationism. Nonetheless, because he was such a supporter of Brexit, even having Nigel Farage speak to his supporters during the campaign, one can anticipate that the special relationship between the UK and the US will continue, or even deepen further, despite some apparent concerns in London about the spectre of a new American protectionism.
It is intriguing to observe that, as reported on our page one, exit polls showed that 81 per cent of white evangelicals in the US voted for Donald Trump. Yet, The Washington Post noted that Mr Trump’s candidacy had caused “a huge divide among evangelical leaders”; in comments to Evangelical Focus, Philip Yancey, one such figure, expressed dismay at how evangelicals could stand behind him.
With ‘Not My President’ protests having been seen in the streets of many American cities and with so much uncertainty about just how far the new President Trump will take many of his freewheeling election declarations, the United States stands nervously at a crossroads. It is to be hoped that the best of Mr Trump’s self-confessed Christian faith will come increasingly to the fore, thereby giving the American people – and the world – yet another Trump surprise.
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Letters to the Editor
IN REPLY to Dr Kilroy’s letter in the Gazette of 4th November, first let me say I never wrote “condemns” in my reference to Bishop Empey in my letter of 28th October. What I did write was that I was saddened to read his letter and went on to give my reasons.
Dr Kilroy wants us to read the Bible in a “cultural context”.
The context of the Bible today is as a relevant as it ever was. The problem is that today’s liberal secular context is the means by which many attempt to judge the Bible.
In other words, the Bible is being treated as subordinate and answerable to today’s standards and not the other way around.
Dr Kilroy refers me to two documents. May I respectively refer him to the Statement from the Global South Primates and GAFCON Primates’ Council Concerning Same- sex Unions which was issued on 6th October last. These bodies claim to represent the majority of Anglicans around the world.
Peter T. Hanna (The Revd) Innishannon
RECENT ISSUES of the Gazette have been awash with correspondence on the issue of human sexuality. My fellow Select Committee member Dr Gilroy, (Letter, 4th November) encapsulates the central issues at stake in the Church’s debate and, with respect, some of the mistakes regularly made.
1) He asserts that it is a matter of “reflective scholarship” which places “love, justice and dignity” at the centre of the discussion, somehow eclipsing the consistent teaching of the whole Bible on sexuality. His forcing of a false dichotomy between these characteristics and a traditional, orthodox approach to sexuality is a typical fallacy. Indeed, it is difficult to be convinced by any endeavour which juxtaposes the values he outlines against the exclusivity of two-gendered marriage.
2) Dr Gilroy derogates the biblical texts which speak of the exclusivity of heterosexual marriage and those which treat all other forms of sexual practice as sinful, expressing our rebellion against God. He does this by dismissing them as mere “clobber” texts. Ironically, in doing this he is creating a ‘clobber’ method by this type of argumentation, restricting (moreover, preventing) any serious engagement with these texts.
3) All texts are written with a historical background – including this one. To pit historical background against the text in the way that he does becomes a tool to falsify or reduce the text itself. There is no admission by Dr Gilroy that our knowledge of the historical background is limited and subject to wildly varying interpretations, forcing (in some cases) a working solely based on conjecture and supposition. Honest scholarship will admit to these serious limits. How much do we know, really?
4) To equate same-sex relationships with the issues of women’s ordination and slavery is a basic confusion of categories and a false trail, though many have attempted it. Principally, absolute prohibition on all kinds of same-sex sexual relationships is explicit throughout both the Old and New Testaments.
5) As one involved in the production of the resources to which Dr Gilroy refers (the Select Committee on Human Sexuality’s recent Guide to the Conversation  and the Biblical Association for the Church of Ireland’s resource, Same Sex Issues and the Bible ), the two, so-called views represented within the resources are mutually exclusive, even fundamentally contradictory. There is no consonance between them nor a possibility of pluralism or comprehensiveness around them. Only relativism, the assumptions of which are theologically agnostic, where God is silent, will permit tolerance of contradictory positions.
As a side note, one wonders whether Bishop Empey (Letter, 21st October), in taking his lead from humanists whose entire system of belief is predicated on the non- existence of a deity, must surely mark an all-time low for a bishop in the Church of God.
Trevor Johnston (The Revd)
Malone Road, Belfast
THE LETTER published in the 21st October Gazette from Bishop Walton Empey on the subject of same-sex marriage and the letters on the same subject which appeared the following week encapsulate the dilemma with which this matter confronts us.
Those in favour of same-sex marriage tend to argue on the basis of human compassion, while those taking the opposite view often base their case on faithfulness to Holy Scripture. People versus words (even if they be the words of the Bible).
Which do we consider more- important? How do we square the circle? Should we be trying to do so? John Budd (Canon)
Derriaghy, Lisburn Co. Antrim
ON THE well-known television quiz show, The Chase, a young male contestant was asked: “In the Christian calendar, what is the Sunday after Good Friday known as?’
The young man thought about this for a moment or two and then answered, “Good Sunday!” So much for Christian knowledge …
AS OUR congregations fill in the census cards asking for simple demographic information, it does make me wonder how simple numerical analysis can possibly be of any real use without also attempting to find out the reasons behind those numbers.
To misquote Einstein: “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”
Michael Cavanagh (The Revd) Kenmare
I WAS in Bethany Home until I was five years old and thank the Lord that the Fenning family saved my life by getting me out of it. It was a hell hole.
The Church of Ireland was how the Fennings made contact with Bethany and I found out that ministers and people of the Church of Ireland were involved in the home.
Now the Church of Ireland has done a ‘Pontius Pilate’, washing their hands of it.
CONTRIBUTORS ARE wanted the previously taboo subject of urgently for a new book about couples that left Northern Ireland after making a mixed marriage.
The Northern Ireland Mixed Marriage Association (NIMMA) is producing a paperback that will give at least six couples the chance to tell in their own words how they were affected when they put love before traditional allegiances.
Under the working title, Exiles for Love, the book will be the final part in a trilogy that has highlighted
Anyone interested in contributing to this publication should contact NIMMA by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
NIMMA is also available on Facebook – facebook.com/nimixedmarriageassociation.
All enquiries will be treated in strictest confidence.
Bryson House, Belfast
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