COI Gazette -19th June 2015

Porvoo Communion Co-Chair, Dr Jackson, adds ‘nuance’ to controversial Bad Boll report

Archbishop Michael Jackson

Archbishop Michael Jackson

Speaking to the Gazette last week about the Anglican/ Lutheran Porvoo Communion’s recently published report, Perspectives on Economics and Ethics, which followed from a consultation on the topic held last November in Bad Boll, Southern Germany, the Anglican Co-Chair of the Communion, the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, has moved to give “nuance” to the report.

In the course of the interview (see audio details below), which was held at Church of Ireland House, Dublin, Dr Jackson said that the consultation itself had been well attended from both the Lutheran and Anglican Churches of the Porvoo Communion.

He said it had also benefited from input by experts from Germany, as well as participation from beyond Europe in the person of Bishop Duleep de Chickera, the retired Bishop of Colombo in Sri Lanka, who gave Bible studies and meditations on the consultation’s theme.

In his own address at the Bad Boll consultation, Dr Jackson said he had focused on the relationship between economic life and human dignity and in particular “the relationship of production, distribution and consumerized choice”.




The Psalmist writes: “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” (Psalm 90: 10) Of course, in biblical times, 70 was a very elderly age to reach, and relatively few did reach it. As a result, those who did reach 70 were highly regarded on account of their memory and experience of life. Nowadays, many people live into their 70s, 80s, 90s and, increasingly frequently, some even into their 100s.

More and more older people are living longer and, after 70, while many live lives that are restricted in different ways by their health – and issues of actual end-of-life care and the extension of palliative care certainly are very much topics of the day – others are enjoying long and healthy lives.

Last week, the East Londonderry MP, Gregory Campbell, ran into a storm of controversy over remarks he made on the BBC suggesting that people over 70 should not be asked for media interviews. He made the comment in the context of earlier remarks by Sir James Galway (aged 75) regarding the role in the history of the Troubles of the late Lord Bannside – Ian Paisley – who, Sir James said, had been indirectly responsible for killings during the Troubles.

The responsibility for killing another person rests firmly with the person who carries out the killing and, while there are no doubt many factors involved as far as disposition and motivation are concerned, nothing should be allowed to dilute that personal responsibility. Moreover, it is surely the case that people in their 70s and older can, and do, make
outstanding contributions to public debate. For that reason, Mr Campbell was wide of the mark.

Naturally, in older age, memory can become less reliable and, sadly, confusion can set in. Last week, Alison Rooke wrote in her Gazette column about the sufferings of those afflicted by dementia and, indeed, it is a condition that touches loved ones in many, many families. Yet, even younger people can suffer from various kinds of mental incapacities, so what really is important is to protect those who are suffering in this way, of whatever age, from media interrogation. It is not simply a case of everyone who reaches 70 needing to retire from public life.

Following the frequently outspoken MP’s remarks, the Belfast Telegraph ran a feature on the topic and quoted reactions from older people who are still in the public eye, including Lord Eames (aged 78) and the former Dean of Belfast, Dr Houston McKelvey (aged 72), both of whom defended older people speaking publicly. Baroness Blood of Blackwatertown (aged 77), who promotes integrated education, was quoted similarly, saying that she is in London three days a week and also works three days a week at home.

All in all, the opinions of so many people over 70 are every bit as relevant as those of the under-70s, not least because of the perspective that experience gives when considering all sorts of issues in life. Indeed, clergy in the Church of Ireland are not required to retire from stipendiary ministry until they reach 75. The contribution that older clergy – both not yet retired and retired – make to the life of the Church of Ireland is immense.


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Letters to the Editor

Dean Gordon and the Church of Ireland

AS A newcomer member of the Church of Ireland, originally from Russia (a convert to Lutheranism from a secular family), and a diligent student of the history of my adopted country, I was honestly shocked to read the proposal by the Very Revd Tom Gordon for developing “separate theological and pastoral identities” between the North and South in the Church.

I would hate to suppose the good Dean does not remember Ireland’s past, but I am perplexed he would seek to repeat it.

There are different opinions on the causes of the partition of Ireland and on whether it was unavoidable, but most people can surely agree that itwas,attheendoftheday,a tragic event.

The violence of the period when Ireland became independent has subsided, but the Border left minorities stranded on both sides in societies that became increasingly reactionary under
their respective religious monopolies – far from the rich pluralism that might have been potentially available without this painful rift.

A number of luminaries of the Church of Ireland community in the South saw partition as the tragedy it was and sought to avoid or heal the division – from Lord Midleton’s last- ditch attempt at compromise at the Irish Convention of 1917 to W. B. Yeats’ “lone voice in the wilderness” moments in the Senate, poetically engaging, even if not very well founded politically or theologically.

The Church itself stood united through times of turmoil, with parishes straddling the Border. Why, then, would anyone seek to introduce partition in the Church now over several issues that do divide opinions but are not really tied to any particular geography?

What good would it be to leave people stranded in their Northern or Southern surroundings that no longer
had a place for their view because its holders were now ‘elsewhere’?

What good would it do to create two leaderships, removing an existing balance and freeing them up for natural human tendencies to get entrenched in one viewpoint and throw angry denial at everything else? We do see how supposed liberals can profess such denial with gusto, just as strongly as conservatives.

At least the original partition had centuries of complicated development as its background. This new idea of a Church partition references little more than ‘hot issues of the day’.

We would do well to remember that, in some cases, according to Marx, history repeats itself first as tragedy and then as farce.

Mikhail Ramendik
Patrickswell Co. Limerick


The marriage referendum

WHERE DO the Churches go in the aftermath of the equal marriage referendum?

These last few months have, at times, had the feeling of a civil war and I worry that we may do what often happens after a war – hurts are buried and fester, to come out later in damaging attitudes.

Do we continue as before or do we come out of this growing and learning? We have a job to do, a job of building a kingdom, an alternative way of life where the love, justice, grace and mercy of God are at the heart of the way we conduct our lives and view the world around us. This is seriously good news, and the world needs that good news from us more than ever.

Although some may have approached the referendum more from law than love, there were many more who were in no sense homophobic but were – and are – struggling to reconcile the teachings on homosexual acts in the
Scripture that they love and have committed to live by with the realities of life for same-sex couples that they care about.

They are grappling with the problems that always arise in bringing our faith into a rapidly changing world, particularly when Jesus did not directly address this issue. What Jesus did address were attitudes of the heart and, if we are to move forward in love, serious pastoral issues arise.

The opinions we hold impact on others, even when we think they do not. Refusing to admit the reality that a same-sex orientation can be normal means that we are regarding that person as being against nature.

What does it mean to feel intrinsically wrong in our very selves, and in desires – to love or care for another – which most of us would see as admirable? This is shame, which Satan introduced into the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve suddenly began
to see their God-given bodies as unacceptable before God.

It is the most potent weapon that Satan ever uses in this world, leading to depression, abuse, defiance. We shame others at our own peril.

I ask for patience, particularly from the LGBT side, perhaps a very big ask. Many are engaging with these long-buried issues for the first time, which requires a very big shift in understanding. That always takes time.

Could we follow Romans 14? – “ … let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling- block … in your brother’s way.”

If we are open to continued listening and conversations, restraining our natural anger or impatience, it frees us up for our real jobs, which is making the good news known. Judith Monk

Judith Monk,  Cork

Gospel values

MARIE ROWLEY-BROOKE’S assertion (Gazette, 5th June) that “Biblical values and Gospel values are not necessarily similar” struck me. Such a claim begs the question: If “Gospel values” are not necessarily similar to those found in Scripture, where are they to be found?

Indeed, even if we were to discover those which we perceive to be “Gospel values”, how can we trust that they are if we have no assurance that they are “necessarily similar” to that found in Scripture?

Scripture is the only witness we have to the birth, life, obedience, death and resurrection of the man Jesus, understood to be truly God, which is the content of the Gospel.

It was on these grounds that those words, treasured for centuries as key to the Anglican approach to Scripture, were penned: “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation” (Article VI).

It is only by taking the Scriptures in their canonical integrity that we read it aright, as an unfolding of salvation history, with Christ as its climax. In the same way, as we would read any text intelligently, yet critically, we read earlier parts in light of later parts.

We see this principle in Scripture itself, in Jesus’ declaring of all foods clean  (Mark 7: 19), while reaffirming what is sometimes derided as an ‘Old Testament’ view of sexuality (Mark 10: 6).

Any “Gospel values” must fit with this hermeneutic, if they are truly to be “Gospel values”, which will mean they are also “Biblical values”. If these values are separated, we will lose the Gospel itself, for the truth of Jesus, to which the Church has always witnessed, depends on all that comes before it for it to be the good news of him as the promised Messiah (cf. Peter’s very first sermon in Acts 2).

This is something far deeper than one side extracting “random verses from Scripture to use as ammunition to defeat opposing views” (an overly- simplistic and unfair criticism, as is the labelling of “Northern co-religionists”, something my address below disproves), but concerns the consistency of God’s revelation, recorded in Scripture, in its testimony about how to receive and obey it.

Only by a shared commitment to that revelation can authentic Christian dialogue take place, as we seek to respond to the Great Commission to proclaim the Gospel – to which Christ calls us from the pages of the Bible – in our world.

Damian Shorten,  Rathkeale Co. Limerick

Letters appreciated

OVER ALL the years I’ve been subscribing to the Gazette, I have never read so many eloquently expressed views as those in the Letters sections of recent weeks.

Suffice to say, much has been clarified for me with regard to the Church of Ireland’s response to the Equal Marriage referendum in the Republic.
It is to the Gazette’s credit that it provides a platform for open discussion of the weighty issues which this has inevitably raised. Long may the Gazette continue to provide this essential service!

Helen Long, Carryduff Co. Down

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