COI Gazette – 20th December 2013

Nelson Mandela Cathedral memorial services held in Dublin and Belfast

In St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, last week (from left): the Dean, the Very Revd Victor Stacey; the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Oisín Quinn; the South African Ambassador, H.E. Azwindini Jeremiah Dingaan Ndou; and the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton TD.

In St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, last week (from left): the Dean, the Very Revd Victor Stacey; the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Oisín Quinn; the South African Ambassador, H.E. Azwindini
Jeremiah Dingaan Ndou; and the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton TD.

Memorial services for Nelson Mandela were held last week in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, and St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast.

ST PATRICK’S The memorial service in St Patrick’s was held on Thursday of last week, in the presence of the Ambassador of South Africa. Church and State were represented in the large congregation.

The President was represented by his Aide De Camp and the Government by Minister Joan Burton.

Archbishop Michael Jackson was represented by Archdeacon David Pierpoint and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin by Bishop Raymond Field.

The President of the Methodist Church in Ireland was represented by the Revd John Stephens and the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland by the Revd Terence McCaughey, who was the first President of the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement.






The weeks of Advent pass quickly – it is a relatively short season and there is much to do by way of practical preparation for Christmas. For most parishes, there are regular, annual events that draw parishioners together, both in worship and in more purely sociable ways. Altogether, there is a sense of a real strengthening of Church life.

Advent, with its traditional but sombre themes of death, judgement, heaven and hell, has a focus on a future that is beyond our knowing but is nonetheless a fundamental part of the Christian faith. We are mortal, a fact on which we normally prefer not to dwell. Yet we do need to be reminded that our lives are lived against a background of consequences of actions and of a final judgement in which everything is gathered into one by a nonetheless merciful and loving God.

However, such weighty themes now soon give way to the re-imagination in hearts and minds of the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem and of the sacred birth on a special, holy night. Christmas tells the world of the arrival of a loving Saviour who comes to bring us on our own journey – a spiritual journey – to God.

This glad time of celebrating the coming of the Light of the World and the Prince of Peace is a very happy reminder that we are not alone in this universe but are created by God and have been wonderfully visited by his Son, the Word become flesh, who leads us to fullness of life. Moreover, the Gospel tells us that the dark deeds of an at times incredibly cruel world do not have the final say: that is reserved for God himself.

At Christmas, as families come together, one is reminded how the Holy Family speaks of the very sacred nature of every family. For sure, the often quite frantic time of Christmas can place its own pressures on families, but it is good to stop and reflect on the fact that the Son of God, by his birth at Bethlehem, sanctifies all family life which, truly, is a blessing to everyone.



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Letters to the Editor

Suicide among gay people

Steve Williamson (Letters, 16th December) is correct to note the high level of depression among young people who identify as LGBT.

The key question is: What causes this? His assertion that the primary factors include “homophobia” and “homonegative statements from authority figures within the family, Church and political establishments” fits well with the submission of the Royal College of Psychiatrists to the Pilling Working Group (see Gazette, 16th December, page 6), who noted (para. 206) that the College attributes such ailments to “discrimination in society and possible rejection by friends, families and others”.

Pilling rejected this causal attribution, however, noting (para. 207) that “on the other hand, the Core Issues Trust points out that the three scientific papers referred to by the Royal College of Psychiatrists at this point actually refuse to attribute the causation of mental health issues among gay and lesbian people to societal factors.

For example, one paper cited states: ‘It may be that prejudice in society against gay men and lesbians leads to greater psychological distress … conversely, it may be that gay men and lesbians may have lifestyles that make them vulnerable to psychological disorder’.”

In other words, the College has misrepresented the science.

The Pilling Report does not point out, however, that both the “paper cited” by the Royal College and the College’s misrepresentation of that paper to the Working Group were written by the same person, Professor Michael King. He appears to speak with two voices, one to the scientific community (we don’t know the causes) and one to the Church (the causes lie with society). This is very serious: the Church could find itself misled by a supposedly scientific view from an eminent authority, which is in reality a distortion of science.

As the author of the abovementioned criticism of the Royal College accepted by Pilling, I have written to its UK President and (twice) to its Northern Ireland Chair, asking for a meeting to discuss this and other concerns; they have ignored these requests.

The Pilling Report has now brought these issues into the open. Before accepting Mr Williamson’s offer to “work with the Church”, we need to ask the Royal College some searching questions. The wellbeing of LGBT people may depend on it.

Dermot O’Callaghan Hillsborough Co. Down BT26

The Pilling Report

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York on 28th November published the Report of the House of Bishops’ Working Group on Human Sexuality (Gazette report, 6th December). The Pilling Report, as it has become known, includes a ‘dissenting statement’ from the Bishop of Birkenhead who found himself unable to support all the recommendations made by the group as a whole.

As ordinands at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, we are grateful for the Bishop of Birkenhead’s courage and clear conviction.

We applaud him for highlighting the dangers of submitting to cultural trends against the clear and unequivocal scriptural definition of human sexuality. He highlights deep division in the Church of England and, as ordinands, we are increasingly concerned about the Gospel unity of the Church into which we may be ordained.

If he is right, and we believe he is, then this unhelpful pastoral trajectory will, as he says, “weaken our commitment to God’s mission”.

Alastair Donaldson Cameron Jones Robbie Robinson Robert Smyth c/o The Church of Ireland Theological Institute Braemor Park Dublin 14

Loyalty & truth

The Smithwick Report’s findings of a possible conflict between Garda loyalty and the truth may well be paralleled in other national organizations. The Church of Ireland is not necessarily immune in all respects.

The ecumenical movement, after over 100 years in existence, knows that loyalty before truth equals little progress, while the outstanding contemporary example of righting a dysfunctional organization lies in Nelson Mandela’s refusing to be broken and standing for a new South Africa for all its citizens. Within our structure in the Church of Ireland, renewed pathways are needed at all levels to allow questions to be aired and opinions expressed and necessary tasks undertaken.

In our world of more competing demands for commitment and the secularization of society, the Churches have a greater responsibility to bear witness to the spiritual dimension of life. Our Lord, by his example, laid stress on oneness, showing to the world the Gospel of love, grace, forgiveness and truth.

Arthur Carter (The Revd) Barnora Cahir Co. Tipperary

Information Sought

In relation to a current writing project, I am interested to hear from individuals who organised, participated in and attended the events of the Mission led by Canon David Watson of St Michael le Belfrey in York which took place at Belfast Cathedral in the 1970s.

I am particularly interested to discover the extent to which this event was significant in the subsequent developing of charismatic ecclesiology within the Church of Ireland.

Paul Gilmore Belfast Cathedral Donegall Street Belfast BT1 2HB

Anglicans and ‘missional discipleship’

I refer to the seminar on “missional discipleship”, which you reported on 6th December and which is to be held in Dublin on an interdenominational basis.

I note that not a single speaker is an Anglican. Does this say something about the direction of the Church in Dublin?

Robert MacCarthy (The Very Revd) Suirmount Clonmel

Church humour

With regard to Ron Elsdon’s interesting article on ‘God’s wonderful railways’, there is a story told of an old rector whose first visit every morning was to the local railway station to see the train pulling out.

On being asked why, he replied that it was good to see something going in the parish without him having to push it!

Is there a grain of truth in this?

D.C. Orr (The Very Revd) Kilrory 11 Broomhill Court Londonderry BT47 6WP

Note: More humorous letters, please! Editor


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