COI Gazette – 22nd July 2016

GAFCON leadership expresses concern over Church of Ireland sexuality dialogue

Dr Peter Jensen speaking in Belfast last year

Dr Peter Jensen speaking in Belfast last year

The General Secretary of the traditionally-minded Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) movement, Dr Peter Jensen, has told the Gazette that the GAFCON Primates “are deeply concerned that signi cant pressure is being exerted within the Church of Ireland to change its teaching on sexual morality – in common with the other Provinces in the British Isles – and, as a consequence, weaken her commitment to Biblical authority”.

The retired Australian Archbishop, who is a driving force behind GAFCON and was Archbishop of Sydney from 2001-2013, continued: “Orthodox Anglicans on the island of Ireland are encouraged that Biblical leadership is being shown by the Primates of GAFCON and are delighted to know that there are those willing to stand with them.

“Each party looks forward to a future of Gospel mission, growth, mutual interest and support, under God.”

The issue at stake is that of same-sex relationships.




The recent hectic pace of change at Westminster has been quite remarkable, the headlines in the end giving way to the harsh realities of jihadism and the unspeakable tragedy of Nice, the instabilities of Turkey and continued nervousness about Donald Trump’s style of politics – if one can call it that – in the United States.

The emergence of Theresa May as David Cameron’s successor as Prime Minister is much to be welcomed. It is because she came across as a ‘reluctant Remainer’ in the EU membership referendum campaign that she has been able so easily to embrace the will of the people of the UK as a whole, as expressed in the 23rd June poll. In her speech in Downing Street just before passing through the most famous door in the world to her new, official residence, she showed her colours as a one-nation Tory with a deep social conscience and as a leader who will indeed pursue Brexit, although with measure and with caution. She wasted no time in visiting Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, underlining the priority she gives to keeping the Union intact. If, as in Mrs May’s words, Brexit means Brexit, so too Union clearly means Union.

Not surprisingly, Mrs May has given the immensely uphill task of sorting out the UK’s future relationship with the EU to ‘Brexiteer’ David Davis, as Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Brexit Secretary); Boris Johnson at the Foreign Office will of course be involved and Andrea Leadsom, as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, whose withdrawal from the party leadership race effectively handed the keys of Number 10 to Mrs May, will have to deal with the farmers as EU subsidies vanish, as well as developing new policies for the fishing industry.

Mrs May’s declaration that the word ‘unionist’ is “very important” to her, along with her heartfelt reference to “the precious, precious bond between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland”, may have first of all been with an eye to Scotland’s place in the Union but it will also have been music to the ears of many people in Northern Ireland and beyond who are similarly committed to the six counties’ place in Union. For those who wish to see a politically united Ireland, there can surely only be respect for Mrs May’s passion for what she so clearly believes in.

The new Prime Minister has replaced Theresa Villiers as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland with James Brokenshire. Mrs Villiers has served Northern Ireland well, her main achievements being the Stormont House and the Fresh Start Agreements – quite apart from retaining her cool head throughout her lengthy tenure of office. Mr Brokenshire will bring a wealth of relevant experience to his new role, given his legal background and time as a security Minister at the Home Office, which included the counter-terrorism brief. Helpfully, he has already signaled that he is acutely aware of the importance of protecting Northern Ireland’s interests during the Brexit process, including the issue of Border controls.

It is remarkable that arguably the two most powerful figures in Europe now are not only women but are also clergy daughters and women of Christian faith. Mrs May is reportedly a regular, Anglican churchgoer and in 2014 told the BBC that her Christian faith “obviously helps to frame my thinking and my approach”. Similarly, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, several years ago when answering questions publicly from a theology student, said: “I believe in God and religion is also my constant companion, and has been for the whole of my life. We as Christians should above all not be afraid of standing up for our beliefs.”

While difficult and testing times lie ahead for both the UK and the EU, it is reassuring that two such people are in key positions as a new chapter in European history is in the making. However, while Brexit is a challenge, Nice was a shocking reminder that dealing with Islamic State and its influences will require even greater mammoth efforts.


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Letters to the Editor

Orlando massacre

WE ALL share the shock and horror of the shootings at the Pulse gay club in Orlando in Florida in recent times.

It can never be justified and attempts by the attacker to associate this act with the so called Islamic State merely cover up the fact that this was home- grown extremism.

We have had several such attacks in America in recent times all from different groups targeting, unfairly, helpless  citizens and the attack in Orlando, though evil, was no worse than any other of these indefensible acts of violence.

I am uneasy when bishops and archbishops are either praised or criticised by the LGBT community for any comment which does not seem to align completely with the ethos of that movement.

Those who do not go along with this ethos are often branded bigots and narrow-minded.
I believe that all of us are entitled to an opinion on the issue of human sexuality and that everyone deserves a hearing and mutual respect.

I know that I am not alone in what I say. We are all on a journey and we need to listen to each other without jumping to hasty conclusions.

Nigel Baylor (Canon) Jordanstown

Co. Antrim


IN REFERENCE to the Church authorities’ response to me “involving the Church of Ireland Gazette or any other third party” in relation to disciplinary actions as being “inappropriate” (Gazette, 17th June), I wish to highlight the Church of Ireland Dignity in Church Life Charter about which there was a presentation at the Down and Dromore Diocesan Synod in Bangor only last year.

It refers to “Upholding the right of all equally to be treated with dignity and respect”.

Unproven allegations against me were kept in a drawer by the Complaints Committee from
2012 to 2016, causing distress to me and my family.

The Complaints Committee sub-divided the one complaint into different components, I would maintain incorrectly according to the Church Constitution, leaving me in an intolerable situation of limbo for those years.

Surely such actions would be deemed to be “inappropriate” under the Dignity in Church Life Charter? Yet I received no apology.

If to bring injustice into the public domain, as I have done, is “inappropriate”, then perhaps I
should consider using the official Church of Ireland mechanism, namely, seek justice by lodging a complaint myself through the Complaints Co-ordinator, for having been illegally suspended from my parishes, and for my wrongful treatment.

Would the Church authorities also deem this to be “inappropriate” or is a public apology for this forthcoming and perhaps in the post?!

John J. Hemphill (The Revd) Ballyeasborough Rectory Portavogie Co. Down

National Folklore Archive questionnaire

WHILE IRISH Protestants are well represented among Ireland’s earlier folklore collectors (not least of whom was Douglas Hyde, inaugural President of the Folklore of Ireland Society in 1926), Irish Protestant cultural history is not as well represented in the archives of the National Folklore Collection as that of the Catholic community.

There are various reasons for this imbalance in recorded oral tradition.

These include the perceived risk of older elements of oral tradition being lost as the Irish language receded, which caused the Irish Folklore Commission (1935-70) to concentrate its collecting efforts on Gaeltacht districts of the south and west, districts which were predominantly Catholic.

In addition, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that potential Protestant informants in rural areas may have felt that they were not always welcome to take part in national collecting projects.

To help address this deficiency, the National Folklore Collection is appealing to Irish people to respond as best they can to a questionnaire (details below) which seeks to document a number of aspects of Irish Protestant folk memory.

Central to tradition are the stories of origin of individual families and communities, and their special connection with land and place.

Documenting the different ways in which they have historically engaged with and contributed to Irish public life, in the social, cultural and economic spheres, will add significantly to our understanding of the depth and breadth of Irish folklore.

In light of the decade of centenaries we are currently celebrating, recording and preserving as many of these traditions as possible is particularly worthwhile at this moment in time.

Because of the events of those turbulent years, leading to the creation of the Irish Free State, the conflict of a civil war, and uneasy truce, the future for many Protestants within the new State was uncertain.

The social and political upheavals of this period profoundly affected the lives of many families, presenting challenges with respect to their sense of national identity and historic allegiance and
impacting on the experiences of Irish Protestant families and communitiessubsequently.

We would like to invite members of Protestant communities throughout the Republic of Ireland to contact the National Folklore Archive to request a copy of the questionnaire that will help us to learn more about the memories of members of this group.

We can be reached by email at, by phone at Dublin 716 8216, or at the following address: National Folklore Collection, John Henry Newman Building, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4.

The website of the National Folklore Archive can be viewed here:

Críostóir Mac Cárthaigh (Dr) Director, National Folklore Collection UCD

Deirdre Nuttall (Dr)
Research Associate, National Folklore Collection UCD

University College Dublin Bel eld, Dublin 4

Catholic/Roman Catholic

I CANNOT contain my ire any longer.

I was brought up on the Dingle Peninsula 91 years ago. It was always the custom in those days to refer to the two ‘sides’ as Protestant and Roman Catholic.

For many years now, the ‘Roman’ has been dropped and by degrees some dignitaries are guilty of this.
What really brought this to a head was an article in the Gazette (17th June) on the Adelaide Hospital by Bishop Kearon of Limerick.

He refers several times to “Catholic ethos”. Surely men of his ilk should know better.
Peter Fitzgerald, Coleraine Co. Londonderry

Oldest church in Cashel, Ferns and Ossory?

I HAVE read with some surprise in the Church of Ireland Gazette (8th July) that St Michael’s parish church at Aghold, Co. Wicklow, is believed to be the oldest parish church in the Diocese of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory, having been built in 1716.

My information is that although, as the report indicated, St Michael’s was erected close to an 11th-century church which, in turn, was built on the site
of a sixth-century monastery, Old St Mary’s, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary (which was the church of my forebears), having I understand been built in the 13th century, can lay claim to be the oldest parish church in the diocese and beyond.

Perhaps readers of the Gazette can shed some light on the matter.
Tom Wallace-O’Flaherty,  London

Bethany Home

THE PRESIDENT OF IRELAND has honoured the fallen Irish in the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

To honour Ireland’s fallen heroes personally, I visited the war memorial in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, with the secretary of the Bethany Home Survivors group, Dr Niall Meehan, a few years ago.

I never met or knew any of these true heroes but they were all assembled at Stretton on Fosse near Rugby, where I live, to be inspected by King George V before marching to catch their trains to the front lines in France.

Most of them were blown to bits, but being near their Irish Memorial had a great effect on me. We can and should be so proud of our finest young men, all cut down in their prime.

Now that President and his office have shown their moral compass correctly, they can continue to do so if President Higgins does a 180-degree turn and finally calls for justice for the handful of elderly survivors from the notorious Protestant Bethany Home, starting with a public call for immediate justice for the Bethany Home survivors.

23 years is along time to be wronged by your State. That is how long we in the Bethany Home Survivors Group have been fighting for truth and justice while we passed away one by one as the Irish State lied and denied and stalled.

There are 227 babies and children in Mount Jerome cemetery in Dublin, innocent victims of a cruel and heartless regime. Those innocents are named on our Memorial and those of us who survived are joining our fallen brothers and sisters one by one.

Two Memorials to the fallen. Some remembered, others forgotten. We few who are left are still fighting for justice.

Derek Linster, Rugby Warwickshire


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