COI Gazette – 22nd February 2013

Aid agencies launch ‘IF’ campaign

Supporters of more than a dozen aid agencies, including Christian Aid, form a giant human ‘IF’ at Queen’s University Belfast at the launch of the Enough Food IF campaign in Northern Ireland. (Photo: Justin Kernoghan/Photopress)

Supporters of more than a dozen aid agencies, including Christian Aid, form a giant human ‘IF’ at Queen’s University Belfast at the launch of the Enough Food IF campaign in Northern Ireland. (Photo: Justin Kernoghan/Photopress)

The world produces enough food for everyone, but not everyone has enough food. This is the scandal that has brought together a coalition of faith-based and other aid agencies in Ireland and Britain – including Christian Aid, Tearfund and Trócaire – for a campaign called ‘Enough Food for Everyone IF…’

More than a dozen Irish agencies are joining around 100 charities in Britain for the IF campaign, making it the biggest coming together of development agencies since Make Poverty History in 2005.







Following the unexpected resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on 11th February, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative to the Vatican, the Very Revd David Richardson, commented that while whoever is the next Pope naturally will have an important influence on the future of Anglican-Roman Catholic relations, existing arrangements, such as the work of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (AR CIC), can be expected to continue. So will the Ordinariate, a controversial initiative of Benedict to allow Anglicans to enter into communion with the Roman Catholic Church while retaining much of their heritage and tradition.

Nonetheless, the Anglican Communion News Service pointed out: “Pope Benedict XVI made history by becoming the first pontiff to visit Lambeth Palace [in 2010]. He was warmly welcomed to the Palace by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. Later that day, the pair prayed side-by-side at the tomb of St Edward the Confessor in a celebration of their common heritage.”

Benedict obviously enjoyed, and was deeply impressed by, his visit to Westminster Abbey and, in a heartening gesture, invited the Abbey Choir to join with the Sistine Chapel Choir in St Peter’s Basilica. Indeed, it was to be the first occasion on which the Sistine Chapel Choir, in its 500-year history, had sung alongside another choir during a service.

In terms of Church relations, Benedict has been theologically conservative but also humanly communicative, although his approach to radical theologians within the Roman Catholic Church was often quite intolerant; interfaith relations, while seeing progress, also saw real tensions. Perhaps one of the ways in which ecumenism has changed over recent decades is that there is now less emphasis on tackling deep-seated doctrinal differences, with more emphasis on cooperation and joint witness. This has happened, one might well conclude, because reaching complete agreement over major doctrinal differences has proved rather elusive. Yet, working together in constructive and vital ways itself breaks down barriers and enables Christians of different denominations to see each other in better perspective.

It is noteworthy that relations between the Vatican and the World Council of Churches, with its headquarters in Geneva, have steadily deepened. The Roman Catholic Church is a full member-Church of the WCC’s Faith and Order Commission. Commenting on the Pope’s resignation, the General Secretary of the WCC, Dr Olav Fyske Tveit, pointed out that when he was a Professor of Theology at Tübingen in the 1960s and 1970s, Benedict had himself been a member of the Commission.

Yet the Vatican’s cooperation with Geneva has advanced in more practical ways, mainly through the work of an official Joint Working Group which regularly discusses a wide range of issues of common interest. It is to be hoped that whoever becomes the next Pope will seize every opportunity for ecumenical and interfaith growth.



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Letters to the Editor

The Masonic Order

Much has been written in recent letters to the Gazette about Freeemasonry. There appears to be a myth that it is a secret society or even a cult. Such notions are, I suspect, held by those who are ignorant of the real purpose of Masonry and who seem to have been misinformed or misguided.

Masonry promotes fellowship, peace, brotherly love and harmony amongst its fraternity and encourages its members to practise these values within the society in which they live.

It does try to look after brethren who, through illness or misfortune, find themselves in hardship. Families of deceased members, for example, may benefit from financial assistance with education or health care where these are not readily available from the State.

Charities and worthy causes also greatly benefit from the generosity of Freemasonry. In fact, in the UK, the Masonic Order is the second highest giver to charity. That giving is done without pomp or ceremony, but indicates the commitment of the Order. On a personal level, I attended the Masonic Boys’ School in Dublin.

My father died in 1952 at the premature age of 41, leaving my mother to raise four small children at a time when the Welfare State was nothing to what it may be today.

That school – now sadly defunct due to the good, State-run education system in Northern Ireland resulting in dwindling numbers of pupils and also lack of funding – catered for the pastoral and educational needs of 1,686 boys during its lifespan.

The standard of education and exam. results gained by many of those pupils were superb, if not legendary.

Many past pupils went on to hold high office in their chosen careers and, indeed, the school educated a former bishop in the Church of Ireland.

It would be refreshing if those who comment unkindly about Masonry could learn more about its objectives before writing publicly, as clearly they know little about the subject.

Charles D. Barr 6 Dunarden Drive Lisbellaw Co. Fermanagh BT94 5DJ

Michael Holden , Public Relations Officer for the Freemasons, states in his letter of 1st February that Grand Lodge “doesn’t hold any of its members under threat of anything austere”. I didn’t invent those words which I quoted in my letter of 21st December.

I, and many others I witnessed over 14 years, were required to take oaths of secrecy under penalty of violent punishment – albeit speculative rather than operative, to use Masonic jargon – with the real penalty of being “branded as a wretch, base, faithless and unworthy to be received amongst men of honour”.

To ratify those oaths, kneeling candidates were required to “salute” the Volume of the Sacred Law (VSL ) with their lips. The VSL is the open Holy Bible on top of which has been placed the Masonic square and compass indicating the preeminence of Freemasonry within lodge.

For myself, and others who voluntarily left the order, these oaths created a binding burden released only through prayer. Freemasonry provides no counselling to men, when they leave, to relieve them of these oaths.

“We insist that a man have faith in a deity.” Yes, but within lodge this is not the living God of the Trinity but a god born out of deism, referred to variously as The Great Architect of the Universe (GATU ) or The Great Geometrician.

All references to Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are expunged from Masonic prayers and hymns. It is no small thing to ask baptised Christians not to refer to the living God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit within lodge walls.

The 1983 revision of the Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law led some Freemasons to claim that the Church’s ban on membership had been lifted. This was not so, as the ban was reaffirmed later in the same year.

Peter Hanna (The Revd) Mount Windsor Farnahoe Innishannon Co. Cork

I write in support of Michael Holden (latest letter, Gazette, 1st February) and of the Revd Dr John Bunyan (8th February) recognising the good in Freemasonry in contrast to the unfair knocking of the Order by Canon Nigel Baylor (11th January) and the Revd Peter Hanna (21st December).

Surely, clergy who have been in the Order can only affirm the Christian recommendations to every newcomer – recommendations which are enshrined in the initiation ceremonies.

These recommendations promote Christian ethics with which any Church would be delighted to be associated – ethics that are practised by Freemasons almost without exception and which can only be for the good of the communities in which we live.

Yes, we have carried on the traditions and oaths of the Stone Masons of old (dating back into the mists of time). These are retained symbolically. What is wrong with carrying on the traditions of old in this manner?

Also, as well as raising money for outside charities, we give help towards deserving cases within our Order. If we did not do this, we would be failing in our duty towards our members.

There are so many issues in this world that need attention and it baffles me that some people attack an organisation that promotes good. Long may the Freemasons prosper.

Ronnie Gillanders Ballydrehid Ballisodare Co. Sligo


Same Sex Marriage

Civil Partnership passed into law without any official approbation from British or Irish Churches; on the contrary, they opposed it all the way.

Today, only a few years later, religious people who now oppose same gender marriages are very keen to express their wholehearted support for this same Civil Partnership, just so long as it is not ‘marriage’.

This suggests that their objection arises because, at base, the religious critics deny the validity, or even the possibility, of love between two people of the same gender.

They restrict the “mutual society, help, and comfort” sought and desired by almost all human beings to being something possible only between a man and a woman; and they assume that God shares this view. Changing Attitude Ireland believes that this is not the case. We rejoice that, increasingly, people of our time have a broader conception of love and we welcome the UK Prime Minister’s initiative.

Furthermore, since many Church spokespeople now speak so positively of Civil Partnerships, can we in the Church of Ireland have some forms of Blessing approved for pastors who wish to use them for parishioners entering Civil Partnerships?

Charles Kenny (Canon) Secretary, Changing Attitude Ireland 45 Deramore Drive Belfast BT9 5JS

The Bishop-elect of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh, the Revd Ferran Glenfield, expressed his opinion (Gazette lead story, 8th February) that biblical principles regarding marriage have remained the same.

But have they? In the Old Testament, God condoned polygamy (2 Samuel 12: 11). The Mosaic law included rules for plural marriage: “If a man have two wives … ” (Deuteronomy 21: 15).

I think it is fair to say that most Churches no longer promote polygamy. Some Mormon sects do, of course, and they call plural marriage ‘living the Principle’, but I don’t think there are many Church of Ireland members ‘living the Principle’, at least not openly.

In the New Testament, Paul commended the single state as much better than the married state (1 Corinthians 7). Paul’s words are hardly a ringing endorsement of marriage. I don’t think many Church of Ireland clergy recommend celibacy these days, or not in such clarion terms as Paul did.

According to Mark 12: 25, there will be no marriage in heaven.

Marriage as an institution long pre-dates Christianity, but it is clear that the Church no longer teaches some of the biblical marriage principles, which is probably just as well.

Paul Rowlandson Londonderry BT47

Management and ministry

The report of the independent inquiry into care provided by the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust strikes one as being very important for England, but it also has implications for Northern Ireland, if not beyond.

At the heart of the report is evidence of how management structures took over from healing and care. Box-ticking readily became the priority rather than patient care.

We dare not be complacent as regards the NHS in Northern Ireland. There is always the danger of management drift shifting carers away from care, healing and concern. We may think that we have not travelled far down that road, but the temptation remains.

Within the life of the Church, we may well be drifting down that same road. Rectors become managers, as more management burdens are placed upon them. Management-speak readily becomes the language of ministry.

This is a pattern that can readily creep into the training and life of ministry, with rectors seen more as local managers. Within such managerial structures, the temptation is to have each minister in ‘line-management’ rather than the ‘line’ of pastoral care.

In management terms, each minister knows to whom he/she is responsible and who the CEO is. We drift down the road of seeing the person who is the servant of the servants as being the executive officer.

Managers are there to manage structures, buildings and people. Pastoral care is to care for people in their need and help them to grow in Christ and to live and witness to Christ the Chief Pastor.

Sid Mourant (The Revd) Hamiltonsbawn Armagh BT61


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