Archdeacon of Meath and Kildare elected new Bishop of the United Dioceses
On Monday of this week (28th January), the Episcopal Electoral College for Meath and Kildare, meeting in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, elected the Ven. Leslie Stevenson, Archdeacon of Meath and Kildare, as the new Bishop of the United Dioceses.
Archdeacon Stevenson succeeds the Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke, who was translated to Armagh as Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland last December.
The Bishop-elect, who is 53, is the rector of the Portarlington union of parishes, Diocese of Kildare, and has been Archdeacon of Meath and Kildare since 2009.
FIGURES IN CHURCH HISTORY – 27 THOMAS À KEMPIS (c.1380-1471)
A fine flowering of late medieval piety is to be found in the writings of Thomas à Kempis, of which the best known is The Imitation of Christ, although there have been attempts to suggest that another person was the actual author.
Thomas, whose true surname was Haemerken, was born in Kempen in the Diocese of Cologne, but spent most of his life in Holland. He was educated at Deventer, where he was deeply influenced by the ‘new devotion’ of the Brothers and Sisters of the Common Life. They took no vows, but lived a life of poverty, chastity and obedience, as far as was compatible with their state, some in their own homes and others, especially clerics, in community.
They were forbidden to beg, but all were expected to earn their living; for the clerics, this meant chiefly the transcribing of books and the instruction of the young. All earnings were placed in a common fund, at the disposal of the superior. The one ambition of all was to emulate the life and virtues of the first Christians, especially in the love of God and neighbour, in simplicity, humility and devotion.
In 1399, Thomas entered the house of the Canons Regular near Zwolle, of which his elder brother, John, was co-founder and prior, and remained there for most of the remainder of his life, writing, preaching, copying manuscripts and being widely sought after as a spiritual adviser. The purpose of The Imitation of Christ, which is still widely read, was to instruct the Christian in seeking perfection by following the model of Christ. Of its four parts, the first two contain general counsel for the spiritual life, the third deals with the interior disposition of the soul and the fourth with the sacrament of Holy Communion.
In a characteristic passage, Thomas asks: “What good would it do you to be able to talk profoundly about the Trinity, if you are wanting in humility? It is certain that learned speeches do not make a man holy and just; it is a virtuous life that makes him dear to God.” Of the Eucharist, he wrote: “Very many are the graces Thou hast bestowed and dost still very often bestow, in this sacrament, upon Thy loved ones who communicate devoutly, O my God, the support of my soul, strengthener of human weakness, giver of all inward joy.”
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
Union flag issue and the demands of democracy
The Rev d Adrian McCartney is a little unfair in that in his letter (Gazette, 25th January) he urges that the rights of minorities in general terms should be respected by those in the majority.
He is correct in that it is part of our sad history that those in a majority have often abused the rights of the minority.
However, he then asks a more specific question in the context of the dispute over the Belfast City Council flag dispute which is to ask that those “who took the vote to remove a flag for certain days (to) address the fears of the minority who feel threatened”.
This is a question without a simple response.
Unionist parties (the minority on the Council) insisted on flying the flag at the City Hall all year round. They were not prepared to accept any compromise on that position.
The nationalist parties (the majority) wanted the removal of the flag altogether. The Alliance party was left in an unenviable position.
It was obliged to introduce a compromise resolution to see the flag remain in place on designated days, such as Royal birthday celebrations, in line with Government protocol elsewhere.
This is the position even adopted by most unionist dominated local councils (such as Lisburn City Council, which only flies the flag on designated days).
This is also the position with most public buildings, including Parliament buildings in Stormont.
However, it was not good enough for the minority on Belfast City Council. The suggestion implicit in Mr McCartney’s letter is that the majority abused or disrespected the rights of the minority, but this would not be fair or accurate. The engagement which your correspondent quite rightly sees as essential in such disputes requires compromise and pragmatism, qualities regrettably not generally associated with political leaders here.
As always, the art of compromise is ignored in our local political scene in favour of confrontation and division.
Tom Campbell (Alliance Party Councillor) Newtownabbey Borough Council Mossley Mill Belfast BT36 5QA
Controversy in Diocese of South Carolina
The ‘fact sheet’ posted on the US Episcopal Church’s (TEC) website asserts that no diocese may leave TEC, but there is no such assertion in the constitution or canons of TEC.
According to the Presiding Bishop, Mark Lawrence is no longer a bishop; she has accepted his “renunciation of orders”.
The canons say that such a renunciation must be in writing to the Presiding Bishop, but it is surely obvious that she wanted to remove him without putting it to the House of Bishops, which would require a majority of all entitled to vote to remove him.
If, as the Presiding Bishop asserts, the Diocese of South Carolina cannot leave TEC, then the Standing Committee of the Diocesan Convention is the Ecclesiastical Authority in the diocese. It follows that TEC’s “steering committee for the re-organization of the diocese” has no canonical basis or authority. It is selfappointed and represents at most 5,300 of the 30,000 baptized members of the diocese, half of them from a single parish in Charleston.
One of the repeated accusations made against Bishop Lawrence is that he failed to protect the property of TEC and, in order to have done so, should have sued parishes which seceded from the diocese.
However, the Supreme Court of South Carolina had found in favour of the parishes, so the Presiding Bishop was expecting him to obey TEC canons rather than State law.
On 23rd January, South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Diane Goodstein issued a 10-day restraining order that prevented TEC, and parishes and individuals associated with it, from assuming the identity of the Diocese of South Carolina.
A Diocese of South Carolina statement indicated that a hearing had been scheduled for 1st February to determine whether the temporary restraining order should be replaced by an injunction that could extend the prohibition until the court ruled on a lawsuit filed recently by the Diocese of South Carolina, its trustees and 31 congregations, “seeking to protect the Diocese’s real, personal and intellectual property and that of its parishes from a TEC takeover”.
F. W. Atkins (Canon) Mohill Rectory Mohill Co. Leitrim
The Masonic Order
In response to recent letters, I feel it necessary to address some of the points raised.
First, the Grand Lodge of Freemasons of Ireland doesn’t hold any of its members under threat of anything austere, as was intimated by the Revd Peter Hanna (Gazette, 21st December). Like many organisations, if private information is divulged, the member faces expulsion; this is no different to many businesses.
In recent times, like many organisations, Freemasonry has moved on. The recent letters to the Gazette illustrate how people come with preconceived ideas and aren’t interested in listening to the new generation of Freemasons.
Nonsense like ‘slitting throats’ or ‘looking after our own’ are typical of prejudicial myths I constantly hear.
As an Anglican myself, do I sanction ‘burning of heretics’ or ‘look after my own’ when I tithe? Of course not. It’s a gross misrepresentation.
I’m willing to talk about the secrets too. They are words and phrases that allow us to gain entrance to a lodge for a meeting. It’s no different to an identity card that says we’re Masons.
There are no secrets about politics, religion, national security, war or our neighbours. The suggestion that these secrets are so profound as to cause anyone harm is ridiculous.
Finally, Mr Hanna refers to the Church of Ireland proclamation that Freemasonry does not equate with the fullness of its Christian teaching. I can and do accept this point, but the Church of Ireland does not declare us to be unChristian.
We don’t teach or preach religion; we insist that a man have faith in a deity. On this island, that is, in the main, Christianity, but we don’t preclude men of other faiths from joining.
We promote brotherly love and hope that a man’s faith in God will help him uphold the moral code of Freemasonry to be an upright citizen to all in the State where he resides.
I should also like to clarify that the last papal bull on membership of secret organisations did not mention Freemasonry.
Michael Holden Public Relations Officer Freemasons of Ireland 17 Molesworth Street Dublin 1
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