ICC bids farewell to ‘reinvigorating’ Executive Secretary Mervyn McCullagh
The Irish Council of Churches bade farewell to its Executive Secretary, Mervyn McCullagh, at the Council’s Annual Meeting on Thursday 7th April in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.
Mr McCullagh has held the post for the past five and a half years and is moving to Sri Lanka to continue his ecumenical work (Gazette report, last week).
The outgoing ICC President, former Clerk of the Presbyterian Church’s General Assembly, the Revd Dr Donald Watts, paid tribute to Mr McCullagh, saying that he had been instrumental in “reinvigorating” the Council.
Responding, Mr McCullagh paid his own tribute to the staff and to all his colleagues in the ICC and in the Roman Catholic Church.
THE SECRETARY-GENERAL’S VISION
Last week, at the Anglican Consultative Council’s meeting in Lusaka (ACC-16), the Secretary-General, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, delivered a wide-ranging report to those attending. Although he has only been in his post for some nine months, he has clearly come to grips with the broad scope of the work which he oversees – encompassing the ACC itself, the Primates’ Meeting, the Lambeth Conference and the Communion-wide role of the Archbishop of Canterbury (the four ‘Instruments’ of communion).
The Secretary-General also articulated his own vision of how the Communion, in the midst of its many difficulties, can best proceed. He referred to the Scriptural account of the risen Christ’s encounter with the disciples on the Emmaus road and spoke of Christ’s presence with the disciples even though they had not realised that he was with them. This was an encouraging reminder – as the ACC, along with the rest of the Communion, often finds itself in some perplexity – that Christ is our constant companion and that he understands our dilemmas and cares about his Church.
Recalling the January meeting of the Primates, the Secretary-General commented: “One of the things which was part of our story from that week was the sense we had of the prayers of the wider Communion. God was there, by the prayers of the saints. It was a lovely experience.”
The situation in the US Episcopal Church, which has changed its doctrine on marriage to allow for the marriage of couples of the same sex, formed a critical backdrop to that January meeting but Archbishop Idowu-Fearon said that, since the enthronement of the new US Presiding Bishop, the Most Revd Michael Curry, a committee was being formed by Bishop Curry, “to work out how TEC helps those bishops, clergy and congregations that cannot support same-sex marriage”, adding: “The hope is to make good on a resolution passed in [TEC’s] recent Convention that this theological and pastoral position be ‘respected’ with no coercion to conform to the practice of same-sex marriage.”
Referring to the Anglican Communion Covenant, the Secretary-General quoted Professor Norman Doe, the director of the Centre for Law and Religion at Cardiff University and a member of the Lambeth Commission that had proposed the Covenant and helped to draft it, as having described it as having been a project that “would fill a vacuum and provide a set of house rules for the Anglican Communion to address issues”. The Church of Ireland has accepted the Covenant but as things stand only a total of 11 of the 38 Anglican Provinces have done so. Precisely where things will go from here with regard to the Covenant in an unknown matter, but the fact that the Church of England itself has not adopted it does not bode well for its future.
Nonetheless, the Secretary-General spoke in Lusaka of “the need to encourage everyone to walk together”, stating: “From Dallas to Peru, from Wales to the West Indies, I have seen for myself how we are stronger to help when we walk together. Now, sadly not everyone who was invited is here today with us. That makes us sad, particularly if they agreed to come and are not here.” He also pointed out that some of the Provinces not represented at Lusaka had also stopped sending their “token contributions towards a fully functioning Anglican Communion office”.
In light of this difficult situation facing the Communion, it is indeed good to reflect, as Archbishop Idowu-Fearon suggested, on the ACC’s mandate – its roots and intended purpose – as set out by Bishop Stephen Baines in the late 1960s and “apprehend anew what is the shape of our common discipleship of Christ; what are the resources we both have and need to bring to this common life of following Jesus, where we are being led by him, and for what end”. (Reports, page 9)
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