Lord Kilclooney pursuing issue of Protestant schools funding in the Republic, under Belfast Agreement provisions
The veteran Northern Ireland politician and Westminster Peer since 2001, Lord Kilclooney of Armagh, has told the Gazette that the UK Government’s response to him on a series of questions he posed in the House of Lords on 29th May, which included – in the light of Belfast Agreement commitments – the issue of proposed financial cuts to Protestant schools in the Republic, was “disgraceful”.
Lord Kilclooney had asked the Government “whether the recent proposals by the Government of the Republic of Ireland to curtail financial support for Protestant schools in the Republic of Ireland are consistent with its obligations in the Belfast Agreement for the protection of human rights”.
AN EMOTIVE SUBJECT
The emotive nature of the debate on the Westminster Government’s proposals for same-sex marriage in England and Wales was made abundantly clear last week when comments by Lord Maginnis on BBC Radio Ulster’s The Nolan Show, going so far as to raise the subjects of deviance and bestiality in connection with the matter, led to high controversy in political circles and in the media. The BBC bills The Nolan Show as a “hard-hitting” programme and this one certainly more than lived up to that objective.
The episode came as a reminder of the importance of the second aspect of the recent General Synod’s resolution on human sexuality which, inter alia, opposed all hurtful and demeaning language in relation to the issue – a benchmark which Lord Maginnis’s comments sadly did not pass.
The General Synod resolution also acknowledged that members of the Church of Ireland “have at times hurt and wounded people by words and actions in relation to human sexuality”. This is clearly something that needs to be avoided, not least if the Church’s teaching on the subject is to be given due regard. The emotive nature of the discussion of same-sex relationships does need to be fully recognised and every attempt needs to be made to be sensitive to gay and lesbian people in the manner in which the relevant issues are addressed.
In his ‘on air’ comments, Lord Maginnis also expressed the fear that the introduction of same-sex marriage could lead to the Church being required, by law, to marry same-sex couples. This is a matter which was also raised last week by the Church of England in its response to the Westminster Government’s consultation on same-sex marriage (report, page 7) and does require careful further investigation.
While last May’s General Synod resolution declared that “faithfulness within marriage is the only normative context for sexual intercourse”, the Archbishop of Dublin, as proposer, made it clear that this was not intended to render anyone “abnormal” and he asserted that the term ‘normative’ was used “theologically to give voice to God’s perfect loving will for, in and through the creation”. The Bishop of Down and Dromore, as seconder, emphasised that if the motion was “all about creating a ‘safe place’, then the Church needs to be experienced as a welcoming environment for people with same-sex attraction, indeed a welcoming environment for all who seek to learn and love the way of Christ”.
It is essential that, along with the Archbishop and Bishop, all concerned recognise the sensitivities that need to be observed in discussing this whole subject.If the Church is indeed to be heard and if it is to be experienced as a welcoming place for all, that must be a clear priority.
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Letters to the Editor
General Synod resolution on human sexuality
I write in response to the very obvious campaign which has been ongoing since General Synod by the pro-gay lobby. It would appear that the Cavan Conference is now the benchmark against which everything is to be judged.
However, it was not so long ago that those now promoting the Cavan Conference as a model to be followed were complaining about the conference. It would appear that it now suits their agenda, so it is the flavour of the moment.
Changing Attitude Ireland (CAI ) has repeatedly stated that no lesbian had been invited to the Cavan Conference. However, it is my understanding that CAI was asked to nominate someone to speak at the conference and that CAI , the ‘inclusive’ group, chose not to nominate a gay person.
Canon Kennerley was recently on Radio Ulster complaining that many members of Synod, specifically from Northern Ireland, attended General Synod on the third day and voted. She alleged that this was an old trick on the part of members of the Church of Ireland to get things through General Synod when people had gone home.
However, everyone elected to General Synod is aware that Synod is for three days and that they are expected to be there. I would ask Canon Kennerley and CAI to desist from pedalling this conspiracy theory, as it is hardly in the spirit of respectful listening.
Indeed, since General Synod, the social media has been replete with some very vitriolic messages against those who voted in favour of this motion. Once again, it would appear that listening is only expected to be one way.
The issue of human sexuality is complex and there has been pain and hurt caused to many, by all shades of opinion in this current situation. I personally welcome the opportunity for Standing Committee to “progress work” on the whole area of human sexuality within the context of Christian belief. In closing, I would say that this issue should not take all our time, energy or resources.
I would rather be talking to people about Jesus, how he died for them and how much God loves them, than having to defend myself against accusations of not listening because a vote at General Synod did not go the way some would have liked.
Alan McCann (The Revd Dr) , Carrickfergus Co. Antrim
I am saddened by both the tone and content of the letter signed by eight members of Changing Attitude Ireland (Gazette, 15th June).
There is no apparent tolerance, acceptance or understanding of the clear approval given by General Synod to the motion supporting marriage.
Changing Attitude Ireland calls for listening, but people have been listening. They have listened at diocesan gatherings, at the Bishops’ Conference (at the Slieve Russell Hotel in Co. Cavan) and at General Synod. They have been listening through the media and they have read Search and The Church of Ireland Gazette.
Members of Changing Attitude Ireland have even been given pulpit time to express their views.
However, people have also been praying and studying Scripture to see if what they have listened to is consonant with the word of God. Listening is a two-way discipline and Changing Attitude Ireland needs to listen to the majority, many of whom feel intimidated by an aggressive pro-gay lobby.
Why should people be labelled as homophobic for simply expressing views based on deeply felt beliefs in the sacredness of marriage? Why has there been an attempt to portray this as a North/South issue when it clearly isn’t, as was evidenced by speaker after speaker at General Synod? Where does Changing Attitude Ireland stand in relation to the militant gay movement? Does Changing Attitude Ireland support the secular demand for same-sex marriages either within or without the Church?
Why do the writers of the letter to which I have referred not want Standing Committee to “progress work” on the General Synod resolution in a calm, unpressurised manner? Has the Church of Ireland been focused on by Changing Attitude Ireland because it is perceived to be a tolerant but soft target?
These are some of the questions I have been asked or I have asked myself. The answers may help. In the meantime, I will continue listening and practising tolerance.
Peter T. Hanna (The Revd) Innishannon Co. Cork
I refer to my letter published in the 15th June Gazette and the brief statement accompanying it issued by the Press Office, outlining the Archbishop of Armagh’s understanding of the resolution recently passed by the Church in General Synod which reiterates the Church’s definition of marriage as a union for life of the parties till death do them part to the exclusion of all others.
I confess that I am at a total loss to understand how this definition of marriage can be seen to be in harmony with the form of marriage, where a person takes a second spouse when the first spouse (within the definition reiterated by the Synod) is still living. In civil law, this is a crime, known as bigamy.
Tim Bracken, Cork
APCK invites suggestions for future work
As your readers may be aware, the Association for Promoting Christian Knowledge (APCK) has published a number of pamphlets in recent years to outline Church of Ireland teaching and provide information to Church members, as well as enquirers and members of other Churches.
In total, 12 leaflets (covering areas such as the Bible, the Eucharist, the Holy Trinity, etc.) are available to download from the Church of Ireland website (www.ireland.anglican.org).
The APCK Publishing Sub- Committee, which produces these pamphlets, is now considering future topics and would welcome suggestions from Gazette readers and others.
These can be sent to me at the address below or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Darren McCallig (The Revd), Hon. Secretary, APCK Publishing Sub-Committee House 27, Trinity College Dublin 2
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