Empathy, hope and debate in wake of English riots
Following last week’s four days of rioting in London and outbreaks of violence in other English cities – including Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol and Nottingham – the Bishop of Down and Dromore, the Rt Revd Harold Miller, expressed his empathy and solidarity with the victims of the violent unrest.
Alluding to past disturbances in Northern Ireland, Bishop Miller said: “Coming from a part of the United Kingdom which has experienced many occasions of rioting over the past decades, we in Ulster are still shocked and saddened by the scenes of devastation we have witnessed on television and the Internet in English cities over the last days.”
RIOTS AND REMEDIES
There have been various reasons given for the tidal wave of rioting in Britain last week, including sheer criminal badness, racism, the rich/poor divide and a lack of education and proper upbringing. In search of remedies, theories have abounded in all branches of the media, but the truth is, surely, that there is no single factor, although Stephen Neill this week is correct in highlighting the issue of absent fathers (‘Rethinking Church’, page 12).
The politicians flew back from their holidays to express their opinions in the House of Commons and, indeed, there seems to have developed some antipathy between the police and the government, as ministers did their best to show that it was they who were in control, while the police were doing their level best on the streets. Former PSNI Chief Constable, Sir Hugh Orde, who knows a thing or two about riots, was especially frank.
For anyone with a pastoral interest, it is undoubtedly of immense concern that family life has broken down to the extent that is now so obvious, and this applies to a greater or lesser extent across both of these islands. The Church needs to redouble its efforts to be proactive for
the family because the family is a God- given institution and is fundamental to the welfare of individuals. By extension, as we now see so clearly in the destroyed lives and livelihoods and all the debris of last week, the institution of the family is also fundamental to the welfare of society at large.
There has been a widespread failure of generations of Christian people to pass on their faith to the succeeding generation. Nowadays, it may seem old- fashioned or even quaint to suggest that unchurched people should reconsider churchgoing for themselves and, equally importantly, for their families, but, as so many others will undoubtedly feel, the lessons about God and the importance of churchgoing taught by parents have been a great blessing.
Every man, woman and child is invited to Church at least every Sunday morning. It does not require great faith to get up and go, simply some personal discipline, and for those who have ‘ears to hear’, it does promise a better way of life. Sunday 25th September will be ‘Back to Church’ Sunday and all churchgoers should take up the challenge and invite a non-churchgoer to Church. It’s now almost time to make the invitation.
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Letters to the Editor
IN RELIGIOUS discourse, there are few words more provocative than ‘infallible’, whether it’s the infallibility of the Pope, the Koran or the Bible. So, when the Revd Alan Millar (Gazette, 22nd July) warns that liberal theology encourages one to challenge “the infallible Word of God”, I say “Amen” to that.
I approve of the reflections of Thomas Jefferson who said: “Question with boldness even the existence of a God because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.”
It’s self-evident that there has never been a period in the history of Christianity when the infallibility of the Bible has been demonstrated by its adherents; schisms, sects and denominations clearly attest to that.
As William Blake versified: “Both read the Bible day and night, but thou read’st black where I read white.” – it was ever thus.
When Mr Millar rejects what he calls “the claims” of Changing Attitude Ireland, he does so from the perspective of a particular approach to Scripture which many Christians disavow and some think quaint. It seems, then, that what’s at issue is not ‘the claims’ per se, but, rather, contradictory understandings of how Scripture might be read.
Mr Millar has made his position clear: he believes the Bible is infallible. I trust he does not eat pork!Wes Holmes
Belfast BT14 8JA
I’VE RARELY seen such common sense and compassion distilled into a couple of paragraphs [on the human sexuality issue] as in the Revd Duncan Pollock’s letter (Gazette, 29th July). Can we not now agree that he’s right and move on?
Comber BT23 5UD
PAUL ROWLANDSON (Gazette, 29th July) makes three points which deserve a reply. He dismisses the Jones and Yarhouse homosexuality study. Yet, Dr Nicholas Cummings, a past president of the American Psychological Association (APA) who introduced the APA resolution that led to homosexuality no longer being regarded as a disease, wrote: “I have waited over thirty years for this refreshing, penetrating study of an imperative, though controversial, human condition. This book is must reading for psychotherapists and counsellors.”
Mr Rowlandson also says that the News Letter was mistaken in reporting that the World Health Organisation said that it was “medically orthodox to seek treatment for unwanted homosexuality”. The proper term, he says, is Ego Dystonic Sexuality, but unwanted homosexuality is a type of Ego Dystonic Sexuality and the News Letter is correct.
Finally, he says that leading authorities affirm that a person’s sexuality is innate. The submission of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Gay Special Interest Group to the Lambeth ‘listening process’ in 2007 certainly said this. However, Sir Michael King, its lead author, was much less confident in January this year when John Humphries asked him on Radio 4: “Are you saying that you are born gay (or not)?” He said: “We can’t be sure ‘born with’. It looks like there is a genetic and constitutional basis to it, but the research is not fully sure of that yet.”
In fact, there is good scientific evidence that people are not born gay and homosexuality is caused mainly by early life experiences.
When Mr Rowlandson spoke at a Changing Attitude fringe meeting at General Synod this year, I asked him if we might meet to discuss our different views. He declined. I have now written to him hoping that, in the spirit of the listening process, we might be able to talk quietly together.Dermot O’Callaghan Hillsborough Co. Down BT26 6HT
I AM so pleased that the Gazette is highlighting the plight of the people of South Kordofan in statements by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of the area known as the Nuba Mountains.
The people there are going through hell, as they are being ethnically cleansed by the Northern forces because of the valuable oil on their land.
I personally have been involved with this area for many years, as my husband, Jim, was a missionary priest there. I had the honour of being present at the opening of the first Cathedral, which my husband dedicated. It was destroyed in the first wave of the civil war and Saul parish in Co. Down helped raise funds to rebuild it. This too has been destroyed, but the urgent need is the people.
The St Patrick Centre in Downpatrick will be having a sale on 10th September, from 10.00am-12.30pm, to help fundraising in this connection.
Our local MP has asked a question in the House of Commons, as have others concerned in the House of Lords. Until the 1950s, the Sudan was under British protection.
We must not let the people of South Kordofan be forgotten, while we rejoice that Southern Sudan is free!Maureen Donnelly Donard Cottage Clough, Co. Down