COI Gazette – 1st December 2017

Renewed sense of community among Eglinton’s flood victims

The Revd Stuart (Stu) Reid, the Revd Lindsay Blair, the Revd Paul Hoey and Fr Noel McDermott at the get-together for victims of August’s flooding in Eglinton.

The Revd Stuart (Stu) Reid, the Revd Lindsay Blair, the Revd Paul Hoey and Fr Noel McDermott at the get-together for victims of August’s flooding in Eglinton.

Scores of families affected by August’s ooding in Eglinton, Co. Londonderry, gathered in Faughanvale Presbyterian Church Hall on Monday 20th November for a communal get-together organised by the village’s three main Christian churches.

Volunteers from the Presbyterian, Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland churches prepared and served a meal for around 200 people – many of whom are still displaced as a result of August’s deluge. The churches arranged the get- together to show the flood victims that they hadn’t been forgotten in the three months since the downpour.

Entertainment was laid on for people of all ages. All the children present received a selection box while families were each given a food hamper. Among those performing on stage were Faughanvale deacon, the Revd Stuart Reid, and local man, Peter McKeever, whose brother is among those rendered temporarily homeless. Peter has produced a CD of music which is now on sale throughout the village; all proceeds are going to the Eglinton Flood Appeal.

Editorial

TRACKER SCANDAL

Conor Pope says that the tracker mortgage scandal “has at its core a fierce determination on the part of almost all the mortgage lenders who have operated in the Republic over the last 20 years to force as many people as they possibly could off loss-making tracker mortgages in the post-crash period”.

If you are not living in the Republic or don’t have a mortgage you may be scratching your head trying to understand the issue. Pope gives a succinct explanation in an article for The Irish Times (12th October 2017). He describes it thus: “In the post-crash period borrowing became extremely costly for Irish banks. They could not get their hands on cash at rates anywhere close to the rates they had committed to offering all tracker holders for the lifetime of their mortgages. That meant that every one of the hundreds of thousands of tracker loans they had given out were actually costing them money.”

One does not need to be an economist to understand why mortgage loans that were costing the banks money would be a problem for them.

In the same article Pope takes issue with what he suggests was their response. “In fact the banks all did almost everything they could to get people off tracker mortgages, quite often using methods which were, at their kindest, dubious.”

What happens if you have been put off a tracker mortgage? You end up paying significantly more each month in mortgage payments. The result is less to spend on other parts of your household budget. If the change is unexpected, the consequences can be unnecessary financial stress or hardship, and feeling under pressure from a financial institution when you are vulnerable. The cost may even be the loss of your home.

The implications for health and wellbeing are not hard to imagine. This does not do justice to the human face of what we have just described.

But, imagine a scenario where you shouldn’t have had to lose access to a tracker deal, but didn’t know. What if the pressure of unexpectedly going off a tracker mortgage deal had been unnecessary? Pope surmised the following: “If someone was robbed of their tracker in 2008 and only found out about it last year, they may have ended up paying €33,600 more than they should have. Over the course of a mortgage you could be looking at overpayments of more than €80,000.” The human implications are stark.

There are three things we need to know as this issue unfolds. The first is to know exactly how many people have been victims of this unnecessary state of affairs.

Secondly, we need to know how it came about. This is going to require candour from the banks.

We also need to know that the statutory agencies responsible will insure the necessary level of co-operation from the financial institutions, without undue delay. Not only that, we also need to know how those who have been unnecessarily affected are going to be recompensed for their distress, and when.

Banks will stress they care about their customers. One wonders if what got lost in the last 10 years was an appreciation that financial institutions deal not just with bottom lines – they deal with people. Of course we need a banking system that works, but not at unnecessary human cost.

In a recent speech about an unrelated matter Pope Francis said: “… people have faces; they force us to assume a responsibility that is real, personal and effective. Statistics, however useful and important, are about arguments; they are soulless. They offer an alibi for not getting involved, because they never touch us in the flesh.”

That loss is not just to be lamented. It needs to be recovered – and soon.


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Letters to the Editor

Same-sex marriage debate

I NOTE with interest the responses to my recent letters on same-sex marriage (3rd November).

It is always healthy to read and reflect on views which are opposite to one’s own. Having thought carefully about the matters raised in those letters, I can honestly say that the writers and I are unlikely ever to agree or even find some overlapping platform on which we could build some common understanding.

One of your respondents declared himself to be “sad”. I could agree with that.

Patricia Barker (Professor), Sutton Co. Dublin

IT REALLY grieves me to see Professor Patricia Barker, whose views as a Christian on human sexuality would be widely respected, being targeted once again in your Letters pages for her very sensible letter of 13th October.

We all know by now that there is a very wide spectrum of views regarding same-sex relationships and attraction in the Church of Ireland, which too often results in the public exchange of personally adversarial comments. For this reason, many Christians who hold progressive views on these matters, hesitate to “raise their heads above the parapet”.

I certainly would not like to have to adjudicate as to which letters are published in the Gazette; but reading the Letters of 17th November suggests that it is time to give precedence to other themes on this page for a while. Anxiety about women’s sport being dominated by transgendered men, as expressed by Core Issues’ Dermot O’Callaghan in his most recent letter, is surely grotesque!

Ginnie Kennerley (Canon) Dalkey, Co. Dublin

DUE TO personal issues this letter, in response to Professor Patricia Barker, has been delayed. Her letter echoes my earlier contribution to the correspondence about human sexuality and the problems that arise: she has the necessary audacity to question received ideas about God.

In my earlier letter I suggested that we all need to ask the not-so- obvious question: “What God do I believe in?” This is not a frivolous question but one that is vital in deciding who to follow in daily living in the present time.

Many references are made to St Paul. I have yet to see a reference to his advice “to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”(Philippians 2: 12). This suggests that the followers of Jesus Christ will be faced with new and unusual situations in the course of their lives. How true this has been in the centuries since then.

Christians have been on the wrong side of many a major issue that has arisen as we have tried to learn what it means to be human and to be truer images of God’s presence in this world. We have rejected discoveries about many facts of life and treated abominably those who have accepted these discoveries – from Galileo to Darwin, Wilberforce to Pankhurst.

I was delighted that Patricia reminded us that we do not live in a binary world. Binary ways of thinking have contributed to very bad theology and reprehensible behaviour towards those who are different.

I am grateful to a friend who pointed me to the thinking of the Franciscan Richard Rohr. He deals with the historic errors created by binary beliefs over the whole Christian story. I recommend his lecture on YouTube titled ‘Christianity and Unknowing’. For Rohr binary thinking has produced worshippers of Zeus, the god who sends down thunderbolts on those who displease him.

Thank you, Patricia. You have been treated to distortions and worse. All I can say is: “Keep the faith.”

David S. G. Godfrey (The Revd) Lucan Co. Dublin

DERMOT O’CALLAGHAN is again determined to rehearse the nurture over nature debate. The best he can do is cite a report which suggests that “sexual orientation is determined by a combination of biological and postnatal factors” – and it seems unnecessary to point out that the report he cites does not therefore exclude the involvement of natural factors in determining a person’s sexual orientation.

That sexual orientation and gender identity – two separate matters, which it is unhelpful of Mr O’Callaghan to conflate – may therefore be fluid (and indeed they often are) is in no way to suggest, therefore, that only nurture is a factor in their existence.

But for most of us, this is immaterial. We refuse to be tied to an interpretation of Scripture so determined to ignore the sacred call to intelligent exegesis and so quick to use the insights of science selectively.

It is to be hoped that most of us have long abandoned the prurient obsession with what consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedrooms; and that most of us treat Mr O’Callaghan’s concern that men may now wrestle with women with the ridicule it deserves.

Unfortunately, such ridicule is indiscriminate in an increasingly secular world. Mr O’Callaghan is of course entitled to believe that he and his party alone have access to all truth – but I fear that he will find himself increasingly lonely.

The rest of us have rather more important things to be concerned with: environmental degradation and catastrophe; systemic injustice and poverty; the blight of sectarianism; an increasingly polarised and dangerous world order; and, indeed, the continuing oppression and murder of LGBTQI people in many places where the Church is actively involved in their abuse.

Perhaps Mr O’Callaghan should spend more time wrestling with God than he seems to spend worrying about who may wrestle whom at the Olympics.

Rupert Moreton (Revd), Joensuu, Finland


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