COI Gazette – 19th October 2012

Church concern over Marie Stopes Belfast private abortion clinic move

Board Chair – Revd Adrian Dorrian & Bishop Noel Treanor

Following the announcement of the decision to open a Marie Stopes Clinic in Belfast where medical abortion will be offered, the Revd Adrian Dorrian has said that the Church of Ireland Board for Social Theology in Action, which he chairs, “affirms the sanctity of all human life, including the life of the unborn child”.

Mr Dorrian, who is rector of St Mark’s, Dundela, in the Diocese of Down, said that in the light of this position, the Board holds that “termination of a pregnancy is never a desirable outcome, although we recognise that sometimes extreme medical circumstances may require it”.

He stressed that the Board would “consistently oppose any attempts to introduce abortion on demand in Northern Ireland”, adding: “We recognise that many will have concerns regarding the opening of a facility which makes abortion available privately.


Editorial

FIGURES IN CHURCH HISTORY – 28

ST JULIAN OF NORWICH (c.1342-c.1416)

“As truly as God is our father, so just as truly is he our mother.” These are the words of a 14th century visionary and woman of prayer who was, in many ways, far ahead of her time. She lived out her life in seclusion, a ‘solitary’ whose name is derived from the church at Norwich dedicated to St Julian where she seems to have lived.

Unusually for her time, she appears to have had a very positive view of things, although her theology was strictly orthodox in the terms of her day and age. “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well”, is another of her famous sayings, much later incorporated into the poem, Little Gidding, by T. S. Eliot, along with the phrase “the ground of our beseeching”.

At the age of 31, Julian (sometimes referred to as ‘Juliana’) was suffering from a severe illness and believed she was on her deathbed. She had a series of ‘shewings’ which became the basis of her work, Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love, published many years later. This may have been the first book in the English language published by a woman and it has been described as “the most perfect fruit of later medieval mysticism in England”.

Although Julian described herself as a “simple creature unlettered”, there is reason to believe that she was well versed in the language of theological discourse and was also familiar with the writings of other mystics, including Walter Hilton, and the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing. She saw the key to everything as love, and this gave rise to what might be described as her ‘Parable of the Hazelnut’, from one of her ‘shewings’: “He shewed me a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, in the palm of my hand, and it was round as a ball. I looked at it with my mind’s eye and I thought, ‘What can this be?’ And answer came, ‘It is all that is made.’ I marvelled that it could last, for I thought it might have crumbled to nothing it was so small. And the answer came into my mind, ‘It lasts and ever shall because God loves it.’ And all things have being through the love of God.”

This editorial is one in a series of occasional reflections on figures in Church history, following a chronological sequence as they appear.


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Letters to the Editor

Dissertation on pastoral visitation

Readers following the discussion about pastoral visitation may be interested to know that there is a dissertation relating to this available to download. It was written by myself as part of the final year of training for ministry.

While seeking to address the wider issues of pastoral care, it begins by referring to Church Audits and draws from the correspondence in the Gazette covering a period from December, 2010 to April, 2012.

It is a partial attempt to answer the question, ‘What does it mean to offer pastoral care in both the manner in which Jesus wished it to be undertaken and in terms of the content of the care that is offered to Christ’s flock?’

It is entitled ‘Listening to God’s People: A Reponse to Perceived Disconnect in Pastoral Care’ and may be downloaded at www.apologeticsindex.org/docs/pastoral_disconnect.pdf . The dissertation abstract with chapter summaries may be viewed online at www. apologeticsindex.org/2790-pastoral-care .

Keith Marshall (The Revd) 4 Killycomain Drive Portadown, Craigavon Co. Armagh BT63 5JJ

Changing Attitude Ireland at Diocesan Synods

Changing Attitude Ireland (CAI) has had literature stalls at various Diocesan Synods, on both sides of the border, in recent years. At all of these, we have interacted with Diocesan Synod delegates of all shades of opinion, including those who disagree with us strongly, with respect and good humour.

CAI applied for a stall at last year’s (October, 2011) Connor Diocesan Synod and was refused, without any substantial reason being given.

I then distributed copies of our newsletter to those who wished to receive them in the public area of the Braid Centre in Ballymena, before Diocesan Synod, which was being held in one room on the top floor of the Centre.

I was approached by an official (whom I subsequently discovered to be the Diocesan Secretary) and requested to leave not just the foyer outside the Synod room but the whole three-storey premises. I found this very surprising and quite demeaning. Afterwards, I received an apology from the Bishop and assurances that this would not happen again. This year, CAI again applied for a stall at Connor Synod (4th October) and thought this would not be problematic, following the assurances given at General Synod of the need for respectful dialogue and for all points of view to be heard.

At General Synod, the Bishop of Connor offered himself as a focal point for dialogue, so I thought he might be particularly keen to take this practical step partly as some sort of restitution for last year’s unhappy events. Despite this, a stall was again refused to CAI this year.

The mere presence of a stall does not imply support for our position. It is a contribution to Church unity, helping create an atmosphere where all can agree to disagree, agreeably.

Everyone dreads a future with our Church split. That possibility is being made more likely by the current situation – which in practice looks like a drift towards two separate ecclesiastical polities. People in the wider Church should be aware of what is happening in the North. Dissenters are marginalised to the maximum extent possible. Promises made at General Synod are not being lived up to.

Charles Kenny (Canon) 45 Deramore Drive Belfast BT9 5JS

United Nations Day

We in the United Nations Association Northern Ireland wish to encourage dioceses and parishes to promote this year’s United Nations Day by praying for the United Nations and its work.

On Wednesday 24th October, recognition will be given to the ratification of the UN Charter which took place on 24th October, 1945. This day is marked each year around the world as United Nations Day.

We would request that called to mind are both our unity as children of God and our individual responsibility to work together for peace and understanding among all.

We would also ask for recognition of those groups and organisations whose goal it is to foster this unity nationally and internationally.

The purpose of the United Nations is to bring all nations of the world together to work for peace and development, based on the principles of justice, human dignity and the well-being of all people.

It affords the opportunity for countries to balance global interdependence and national interests when addressing international problems.

Prayers for use on the Sunday before UN Day are available online at http://una.org.uk/members/branches/una- northern-ireland. We send our thanks and best wishes from all the members of UNA Northern Ireland.

Carol Conlin Hon. Secretary UNA Northern Ireland 7 Victoria Street Armagh BT61 9DS

Bishop Clarke’s election to Armagh

At the moment here in the South we are used to prebudget submissions, as various interest and concerned groups seek to present their cases to government.

However, in reading the letter from Changing Attitude Ireland signed by Canons Kenny and Kennerley (Gazette, 12th
October), I felt compelled to ask the question: Is this the first pre-enthronement submission on record?

Roy Warke (The Rt Revd) 6 Kerdiff Park Naas Co. Kildare

‘Catholic’ and ‘Roman Catholic’

I was delighted to read the letter from the Very Revd Stuart McGee (Gazette, 5th October) and heartily endorse its contents, expressed in a much more scholarly manner than I could attempt.

As a child, my mother described our faith as Protestant and Catholic, so I was somewhat puzzled when asked later on was I a ‘Catholic’ or ‘Protestant’.

Incidentally, I personally find distasteful the habit of describing our Roman Catholic brethren as ‘Romans’. I wonder if many of your readers agree with me? Roll on the day when we really achieve one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church!

Ann Fletcher Fort Royal Rathmullen Co. Donegal


Insight

Egypt’s Christians look to the future with fear

The most striking image of last year’s protests in Egypt was that of young Christian protesters forming a protective circle around their Muslim countrymen as they knelt in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to say Friday prayers, while heavily armed police and soldiers looked on.

No longer willing to live under a corrupt dictatorship that specialised in cynical games of divide and rule between communities, Cairo’s youth offered a beacon of hope that peaceful coexistence was possible in the Arab world. Less than two years later, that hope is under increasing strain.

Christians, long accustomed to official harassment and unacknowledged discrimination in state employment, have seen no amelioration of their situation since the fall of former dictator Hosni Mubarak in February, 2011.

The American Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, reported after visiting the most populous Arab nation in July that Christians were “deeply anxious about what the future holds for them and their country”.

Best estimates are that around 7.5 million Egyptians, or 10% of the population, are Christian, spread throughout the country.

Since the election of Muslim Brotherhood-linked Mohamed Morsi to the Presidency – by a narrow majority – in June, the situation has deteriorated. While the Brotherhood officially respects the rights of minority faiths, Christians and liberal Muslims alike worry that the Brotherhood-dominated Constitutional Convention is determined to enshrine Sharia in law.

Adherents of the doctrinaire Salafi sect of Islam, financially supported by Saudi Arabia and producing a stream of anti- Christian propaganda, have gained influence in recent months.

Extremist satellite TV stations such as Al-Nas, which bans all female presenters, and Maria TV, named after an Egyptian wife of the Prophet who converted to Islam from Coptic Christianity, have mushroomed since the revolution.

Propaganda on the airwaves fuels tensions on the ground. Last month, Christians in two cities near the Israeli border were given 48 hours to leave or see their property destroyed. In July, the entire Christian population of a town near Giza was forced to flee after a row between neighbours escalated into an anti-Christian pogrom. As well as Christians, Egypt’s tiny communities of Shi’ite Muslims, Baha’i, Jews and, most especially, publiclydeclared atheists also live under increasing threat.

Mob violence, although rarely tackled by the authorities, has not been instigated by them so far. Official hostility has, however, manifested itself in the small but rapidly growing number of cases of Christians sentenced to lengthy prison terms for ‘insulting Islam’.

One 17-year-old Christian was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment in January after being ‘tagged’ in a picture criticising the Prophet Mohammed on someone else’s Facebook page.

A teacher from Asyut was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment in April, after allegedly making critical remarks about Islam in a staffroom argument with a colleague.

Last month saw an even more sinister development, when a Christian in Upper Egypt was handed a six-year sentence of imprisonment for ‘insulting Islam’ and ‘insulting’ the new President, following comments made on Facebook. Salafist demonstrators picketed the court, protesting what they claimed was a lenient sentence and demanding the death penalty.

Maikel Nabil, a liberal political activist who took part in the Tahrir Square demonstrations, but currently lives in Germany, said: “The aim of the Egyptian regime in using this charge against Christians and atheists from Christian backgrounds is to create panic and intimidation and make them leave Egypt. Obviously, it’s working. Tens of thousands of Egyptian Christians are leaving their homeland every month.”

As well as direct religious harassment – building permits for church repairs have been almost impossible to obtain for decades – Christians continue to face economic discrimination.

A spokesperson for the Barnabas Fund, which supports Christians in countries where they face persecution, said: “Although there are wealthy and welleducated Christians, many are found in the very poorest sections of the community.

Social and economic discrimination is a reality for most. In rural areas, especially in Upper Egypt, discrimination can be stark and Christian villages are often noticeably poorer than neighbouring Muslim communities.”

Christians have long been more likely to emigrate than Muslims, and three-quarters of the Egyptian diaspora overseas is Christian. While most Egyptians are poor by Western standards, and many Muslims also dream of a better life abroad, Christian observers believe emigration is fuelled by discrimination.

The Most Revd Mouneer Anis, Anglican Primate of Jersualem and the Middle East, and himself an Egyptian, recently said: “I know from my own experience with the small Anglican community that emigration last year was ten times more than the total over the previous decade.”

Christians have been a significant presence in Egypt since New Testament times, but they now look at Iraq, from where two-thirds of Christians have emigrated since the 2003 American invasion, as a worrying portent of their possible future.

Western governments and public opinion are remarkably quiet, as another of the world’s most ancient Christian communities faces a fearful future.

Gerry Lynch is a Belfast-based political consultant and opinion polling expert. He works both in Northern Ireland and internationally, and has worked in Egypt. He is rector’s churchwarden at St George’s, High Street, Belfast.


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