COI Gazette – 22nd November 2013

Sir Philip Mawer speaks of Allchurches Trust and Ecclesiastical Insurance ‘virtuous circle’


The Chairman of Allchurches Trust, Sir Philip Mawer, has described the operation of Ecclesiastical Insurance, the Trust and its beneficiaries as a “virtuous circle”.

Allchurches Trust owns Ecclesiastical Insurance, all the profits of which go back to the Trust and are then disbursed for Church and charitable purposes. For that reason, Ecclesiastical, which sponsors the Gazette online, is very different from other insurance companies, he said.

Sir Philip, who was previously Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards at Westminster, and before that Secretary-General of the Church of England General Synod, took over at the helm of the Allchurches Trust last July.



Founded 126 years ago, the Ecclesiastical Insurance Company has a long history of service to the Church. As Sir Philip Mawer has told the Gazette (report, page 1), it is very different from the usual kind of insurer in that its profits are all transferred to its owner, the Allchurches Trust, which in turns uses the monies to support Church and charitable causes.

Originally designed to provide insurance to the Anglican tradition, Ecclesiastical has extended its reach and nowadays does so for other Churches as well as the ‘heritage’ sector, including some great secular buildings. Nonetheless, the system retains what Sir Philip aptly describes as the ‘virtuous circle’ of Ecclesiastical earning profits which in turn are passed to the Allchurches Trust and then disbursed in grants for good causes. Altogether, this is an admirable enterprise – and, of course, Ecclesiastical sponsors the Gazette online, which is a very important dimension of our work, with new subscribers to our e-paper constantly coming ‘on stream’.

Ecclesiastical insures the vast majority of Church of Ireland parishes, and their associated schools, in the Republic of Ireland, most of them dealing directly with the company’s office in Dublin, although some use brokers.

The situation is slightly different in Northern Ireland in that the majority of parishes are insured through brokers, Ecclesiastical’s principal involvement being via Oval’s Church Scheme, although a small number of parishes in Northern Ireland deal directly with Ecclesiastical in Dublin.

While in many ways an example of thinking and acting ‘outside the box’, Allchurches/Ecclesiastical presents an operating model that is both interesting and, in its own way, inspiring. As our report indicates, the Church of Ireland has benefited considerably over the years and, no doubt, will continue to do so. The more Ecclesiastical prospers, the more the Trust prospers and so the more the Churches and charities can be helped. Sir Philip, who became Chairman of Allchurches Trust earlier this year, has said that he wants more people to know and understand what the Trust and Ecclesiastical are all about.

There is indeed a good news story here to be told throughout the Church.


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Letters to the Editor

Women as Priests and deacons

I would like to endorse the views expressed by Canon David Crooks in his letter (Gazette, 8th November) on the subject of the ordination of women.

Canon Michael Kennedy, in his letter of 18th October, asked “whether people who disagree with this [i.e. the ordination of women] are actually in the right Church”.

One wonders if it has ever occurred to Canon Kennedy that one thing is perfectly clear about opponents of the ordination of women: they are those who continue to hold to a position which was generally accepted in Anglicanism before the last 30 or so years of the previous century – a position which is still the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church and of the Eastern Orthodox as well.

Important theological principles are eternal and permanent, not contingent and provisional. If Canon Kennedy believes that the ordination of women was right after 1990, it follows that he believes (or ought to believe) that it was right before that date.

It follows from this that the Church of Ireland was in fundamental error on this point before 1990; that all Anglican Churches were in error before the 1970s; and that Roman Catholics and Orthodox are in error today.

It is hard to justify such a position on Catholic principles, though it may be easier to do so on a liberal Protestant basis. In other words, the position to which Canon Kennedy’s logic seems to lead is justifiable if the Church is regarded as a human institution, not a divinely instituted one. Another way of putting this point is as follows: the ordination of women represents change, not development; rupture, not continuity.

No doubt some will accuse me of mysogyny. I am not (I hope) a mysogynist. The case for female neurologists, accountants and engineers is clear. A purely sociological case for the ordination of women is indisputable. The problem is, alas, that the theological case is at best unpersuasive.

C.D.C. Armstrong Belfast BT12

It is a settled and well remembered reality that, in 1990, our General Synod made legislative provision for the ordination of women as priests/presbyters and bishops.

It is also a settled reality, but much less well remembered, that, in 1991, the General Synod also noted and received the affirmation of the House of Bishops entitled, ‘Recognition of diversities of conviction among faithful members of the Church of Ireland’.

The text of the affirmation reads: “In May 1990, the General Synod of the Church of Ireland passed the Bill enabling women to be ordained to the Priesthood and Episcopate.

Recognising that the decision represented a development in the Ministry of the Church of Ireland and that some Church members, both clerical and lay, have genuinely felt that this change has significantly affected their relationship to the Church of Ireland, it is hereby affirmed that they should suffer no discrimination or loss of respect in their membership or in their ministry by reason of their bona fide held views, nor should such views constitute any impediment to the exercise of Ministry in the Church of Ireland.”

(Journal of General Synod, 1991, pg. xl) The affirmation by the House of Bishops was approved by the General Synod by a 59% – 41% margin.

It will be long remembered that, after 23 years, the legislation of 1990 was fulfilled by our House of Bishops via their appointment of the Revd Patricia Storey to be the next Bishop of Meath and Kildare.

Prayerfully, many hope that the irenicism expressed by the House of Bishops and Synod of 1991 towards those who held different views on scriptural grounds in this matter will not be forgotten, and that generosity and respect would continue towards those who still cannot in conscience accept this recognised “development in Ministry of the Church of Ireland”, whilst continuing to live, minister and worship as “faithful members” of our Church.

Christopher Pierce (The Revd) Ballymore Rectory Portnablagh Dunfanaghy, Co. Donegal

‘Polyester Protestant’

I note that in the Letters column of the Church Times of 8th November last, Mr Louis Hemmings pours “scorn” on the phrase ‘polyester Protestant’ – referred to recently by the Archbishop of Dublin at his Synods – and describes it as being worthy of Basil Fawlty. A week later, Canon Stephen Neill, in his article in The Church of Ireland Gazette, says he is baffled by the use of the term, and his bafflement perhaps derives from the fact that the phrase ‘polyester Protestant’ seems hardly ever to have been heard by anyone.

May it be the case that the term ‘polyester Protestant’ was quoted from what was meant to be a private conversation, and as such should not have been reproduced in a serious public lecture or address? In the course of private conversation, people often make comments which perhaps are intended to be tongue-in-cheek, and to repeat such comments in public discourse is at best ill-advised and at worst irresponsible.

W.G. Irwin (Canon) St Mark’s Rectory 97 Antrim Road Lisburn Co. Antrim BT28 3EA


Thank you to Bishop Ken Clarke for his piece on GAFCON 2 in Nairobi (Gazette, 8th November).

As his article says, this new movement seeks to retain a faithful biblical witness in the worldwide Anglican Church and is already significantly changing the shape of the global Communion.

Against the backdrop of the Church in the West accommodating itself to the prevailing culture, GAFCO N is robustly confessional and proactively missional. Its Jerusalem Statement and Declaration of 2008 and now the Nairobi Communiqué and Commitment make very clear what this means in terms of biblical faith, witness, Church growth and planting.

Both of these documents can be read on www.gafcon. com. As a delegate at the Nairobi Conference, I have written my own reflections, posted on www.tganderson.

Thank you again to Bishop Ken for giving us a taste of this memorable gathering.

Tim Anderson (The Revd) 26 Ballyregan Road Dundonald Co. Down

High rate of suicide among gay people

The Revd Andrew Rawding rightly highlights the important issue of the high rate of suicide among our gay brethren.

However, I believe it is generally accepted that any individual act of self-harm is as the result of a complex interplay of a variety of factors. I would, therefore, think there are dangers in attempting to attach particular importance to one out of many.

The Church must, as Mr Rawding suggests, offer a life-giving response (as it must to all people in crisis), but it would, I think, be just as irresponsible as ignoring it if we were somehow to make it all about ‘us’ and treat it as a problem that begins and ends at the church door.

Might it not be useful, for example, for the Church to sponsor, or at least advocate for, research on this issue? I myself would like to know why the rate of suicide is so high among gay men at this point in history, not just in Ireland but around the world.

It seems counter-intuitive that this should be so, at a time when tolerance, on the surface at least, has never been higher.

Possibly rates have always been high, and the reticence to declare deaths as suicide has served to obscure this. We need to know. Just as we need to know why it is that a homosexual man is seven times more likely than his heterosexual counterpart to die by his own hand.

It would be of particular relevance for the Church, I suggest, to discover if there was a divergence in the incidence of self-harm between those who are people of faith and those who are not.

Such research would likely be a sound basis for helping us to help others who find themselves without hope over this issue. It would surely be a good starting point to enable us to provide the life-giving response for which Mr Rawding has led the way in calling.

Patrick G. Burke (The Revd) The Rectory Castlecomer Co. Kilkenny


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