COI Gazette – 23rd August 2013

Archbishop of Armagh identifies key questions for Northern Ireland

Archbishop Richard Clarke speaking last week (Photo: Merriman Summer School/Brian O’Neill)

Archbishop Richard Clarke speaking last week (Photo: Merriman Summer School/Brian O’Neill)

Referring to the situation in Northern Ireland, the Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd Richard Clarke, last week highlighted the importance of three key questions, which he said had proved to have particular value in examining the life of local parishes and dioceses: “What were we once that we are no longer?”, “What truly are we now?” and “What might and should we become, that we are not yet?”

He commented: “If we could ever answer those three questions, as different Christian traditions, as local communities, and as political leaders, in a way that met genuine agreement across the board in Northern Ireland, there would be the possibilities of hope and a constructive future.”



Bishop Mouneer Anis, Bishop of Egypt, last week issued a public appeal for prayer that the situation in Egypt would “calm down”, for “wisdom and tact” on the part of the police and the army, for the safety of all churches and congregations, and that all in Egypt would be safe. It is an extremely distressing time in Egypt and the use of lethal force in the breaking up of demonstrators supporting the country’s ousted Islamist former President Morsi has been widely condemned in the international community. Violence is, of course, not the way towards a reconciled future and economic prosperity in Egypt, or anywhere else. The Muslim Brotherhood has said it will continue to oppose the current regime, adopting peaceful means, but how things proceed remains to be seen. Clearly, the situation requires serious dialogue, but the events in Egypt come against the background of a much more hopeful development in the Middle East – the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

It is good to hope against hope, to hope when things appear hopeless, because to do so is a sign of faith – perhaps not always a particularly religious faith, although that it can surely be, but at least faith in the broadest sense of the word. Hoping against hope is how one might describe the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian talks brokered by the US Secretary of State, John Kerry. Nor is the situation in Egypt beyond hope, but there are certainly many challenges to peace in both situations.

For many, the Israeli-Palestinian talks appear not to have the slimmest hope of achieving the objectives Mr Kerry has enunciated – a comprehensive agreement on the core issues, including Jerusalem, borders, settlements, refugees and security, within nine months. However, the opening up of the talks has brought some real sense of humanity’s best qualities not only to the Israeli-Palestinian context but also to the wider Middle East situation with all the tragic turmoil and violence in Syria, Egypt and Iraq and fears over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, even though the issues in the wider region are not their focus.

The agreement to talk, which took some considerable shuttle diplomacy, brings a welcome new dimension to the overall context in a region suffering unimaginably. However, it also means that there will be moves made by the parties involved that are aimed at satisfying either one side’s own hard-liners or its opponent – and in the Middle East, any gesture politics take on serious dimensions because of the depth of the disagreements.

Of course, it is not always possible to judge whether or not particular actions, or their timing, actually are political moves for the purpose of influencing or, more fundamentally, enabling negotiations. Last week’s release of Palestinian prisoners by Israel – an extremely controversial move within Israel – was the start of a process of releasing 104 prisoners which formed part of the agreement to start the talks and is due to continue depending on their progress, but it certainly was in stark contrast to Israel’s announcement of its plans for the construction of a reported 1,200 new settlement homes in East Jerusalem and on the West Bank. The former action caused celebration amongst Palestinians while the latter gave rise to their outrage. The fact that the Israeli government is a coalition – including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud-Beitnu bloc, the centrist Yesh Atid party and the right-wing Jewish Home party – adds considerable complexity to the situation.

However, speaking to the Knesset last March at the swearing in of the new coalition (which took almost two months of negotiations to form), Mr Netanyahu pledged a “historic compromise” for peace with the Palestinians, stating: “With a Palestinian partner who is willing to conduct negotiations in good faith, Israel will be prepared for a historic compromise that will end the conflict with the Palestinians forever.” This is Mr Netanyahu’s third term as Prime Minister, having previously held the office from 1996 to 1999 and then from 2009 until January of this year, when elections were held, the results leading to the current coalition.

He therefore approaches these talks with both immense experience and a real stake in finding success. He has recognised the Palestinians’ right to a state, but not least fears about the militant Hamas have led him to demand that it should be demilitarized.

The Bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt Revd Suheil Dawani, told the Anglican Communion News Service that the re-starting of the peace talks would help to ease tensions and would provide everyone with some hope that “peace is still possible”.

Such hope against hope is important, for without it the future in the whole region is full of foreboding.


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Letters to the Editor

Church of Ireland- Methodist interchangeability of ministries

My thanks to C.D.C. Armstrong (Letter, 2nd August) for pointing out inaccuracies in my letter in the 7th June Gazette, though I don’t see anything “unfortunate”.

I should have said that it was not unknown rather than not uncommon for Presbyterian ministers to hold office in Anglican Churches before 1665.

Bishop Jeremy Taylor regarded Presbyterian orders as defective rather than invalid.

Those ordained in reformed Churches were accepted in the Church of England until the time of Laud. When James VI and later Charles I reintroduced episcopacy to the Church of Scotland there was no insistence on re-ordination of Presbyterian ministers; nearly all ordained before 1610 would have been ordained by presbytery.

George Montgomery (Dean of Norwich 1603- 1612, Bishop of Raphoe 1605-1610, Clogher and Derry from 1605-1621, and also Meath from 1610), was ordained in Scotland by presbytery.

Andrew Knox was ordained by the presbytery of Lochwinioch in 1581 and became Bishop of Raphoe in 1610.

Robert Echlin, Bishop of Down and Connor 1612- 1635, was ordained by presbytery as minister of Inverkeithling.

C.D.C. Armstrong’s quotation from Adair shows that being ordained by presbytery was not the reason for ejection, but insistence that only a Presbyterian polity is acceptable to God.

Whilst the 16th and 17th centuries are interesting, with a diversity of opinions that often came into conflict, we are in a very different situation in the 21st Century. Episcopacy is meant to be a focus of unity, not a defining feature of what constitutes a true Church.

Neither a Presbyterian nor an Episcopal polity is prescribed in the New Testament, basically because the apostles were convinced of the Lord’s immanent return.

All Church polity is provisional; when Christ comes, he will not ask “who ordained you? how?” Rather, “did you feed my lambs? did you seek out to save my scattered sheep?” As Luther says, “Ordination … is merely a rite whereby the Church recognizes a call to preach God’s Word … the man who neither knows nor preaches the Gospel is just a nuisance in the Church.”

I would like to see full interchangeability of ministers between all the Protestant Churches if it advances the cause of the Gospel in Ireland. My understanding is that the proposed scheme is with that end in view.

Bill Atkins (Canon) St Mary’s Rectory Mohill Co. Leitrim

I have not tried to dispute with Canon Kennedy (letters, 12th July and 9th August) that many of the Stuart Anglican divines did not try to unchurch all foreign non-episcopalian reformed Christians (my letters, 5th July and 2nd August).

However, Canon Kennedy has not quite grasped either the position held by most of these writers in principle or the import of the actual practice of the Churches of England and Ireland from the reign of Elizabeth onwards.

The passage which Canon Kennedy cites from Hooker refers to “the exigence of necessity” which allows departure from “the usual ways of the Church”.

This idea of necessity was, as far as I am aware, always applied to foreign non-episcopalian reformed Churches, never to domestic non-episcopalian bodies in England or Ireland. The application of the idea of necessity to Irish Methodism by Canon Kennedy seems therefore hard to justify.

Furthermore, the practice of the Irish and English Churches with regard to the reception into their ministry of non-episcopally ordained clergy in the period before Charles II’s Restoration was in general highly rigorous.

I am aware of only a few cases of non-episcopally ordained foreign clergy being admitted to ministry in England without re-ordination (conditional or absolute) in the years before the start of the Civil War; I am aware of no such cases in Ireland from the same period.

After the Restoration, no cases are known to me (or, I suspect, to Canon Kennedy) of nonepiscopally ordained clergy (foreign or domestic) being admitted to ministry in the English or Irish Churches without re-ordination (and in most cases absolute re-ordination was required).

I am sure Canon Kennedy is aware that in more recent years the practice of the Church of Ireland has continued to be rigorous.

In the 1940s and 1950s, a number of Irish Methodist clergy were admitted to the ministry of the Church of Ireland only after they had been ordained to the diaconate and priesthood according to the Ordinal of the Book of Common Prayer.

Were these re-ordinations unnecessary or even wrong? According to the logic of the proposed interchangeability scheme, they were at least unnecessary.

As the proposed scheme lacks any provision for re-ordination of Methodist clergy, it represents an indisputable rupture with the Church of Ireland’s previous practice. If it is accepted, then there is no good reason why the Church of Ireland should retain a threefold ministry, a diocesan succession or its claims to succession.

C.D.C. Armstrong Belfast BT12

Canon Michael Kennedy (Letter, 9th August) quotes the 16th century Richard Hooker: “Another extraordinary vocation is, when exigence of necessity doth constrain to leave the usual ways of the Church which otherwise we would willingly keep, where the Church must needs have some ordained and hath not, nor can have a bishop to ordain … These cases of of inevitable necessity excepted, none may ordain but only bishops … ”.

I am sure that Canon Kennedy is sincere in his views, but I do not see how this quotation serves to advance his argument in favour of the proposed Church of Ireland-Methodist interchangeability of ministries scheme.

No “inevitable necessity”, either of the kind envisaged by Hooker or any other, has arisen that would justify us leaving the “usual ways of the Church” regarding episcopal ordination.

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

Comments by Shane Ross TD on education

Comments to the Gazette by Shane Ross TD, as quoted in the issue of 2nd August, contain many errors of fact which cannot be allowed to go unanswered.

The “independence” of a school which enters the tuition-free scheme is not in any way threatened by such entry. All private schools – which means all secondlevel schools other than VEC Community Colleges and Community Schools – are independent in their governance.

Boards of Management contain representatives of patrons, teachers and parents. They do not have public representatives and therefore are private schools, regardless of whether tuition fees are or are not charged.

A school entering the tuition-free scheme does not in any way have to change its structures of management.

The ethos of a school does not risk “total disappearance”. Ethos remains unchanged. Every school should have an admissions policy which can legally distinguish, on grounds of religion, between those pupils accepted or rejected.

In the case of Wilson’s Hospital School, we continue to award priority of admission to members of the Church of Ireland and then to those of other Reformed Christian denominations.

We continue to have our Chaplain; we continue with daily Morning Assembly for all pupils; we have Sunday Service in the Chapel for all boarders (268); and we offer Religious Education as an optional subject at Leaving Certificate level and as a compulsory subject at Junior Certificate.

Nothing has changed because we entered the tuition-free scheme two years ago (Kilkenny followed where we led).

The real threat to Church of Ireland second-level education comes not from entry to the tuition-free scheme but from the high fee levels sought by so many of the Dublin schools.

One in three of Church of Ireland pupils at Church of Ireland national schools in the greater Dublin area does not enter a secondlevel Church of Ireland school. There is but one reason for that and so long as it continues, so long will a large minority of the minority faiths not attend.

If Shane Ross would like to see Wilson’s and its way of life, he will be very welcome to visit on 30th August, when Minister Quinn will open our new 16-classroom extension. I will not embarrass Shane (we were contemporaries at Trinity) by asking him about the number of Church of Ireland pupils who attend those schools he is so keen to defend.

I can tell him that only five of the 21 private Protestant schools have majorities of Church of Ireland pupils, of whom ourselves and Kilkenny are two.

Adrian G. Oughton Warden and Headmaster Wilson’s Hospital School Multyfarnham Co. Westmeath

What ever may be Deputy Shane Ross’s motives – political or otherwise – for giving his constituents (Gazette, 2nd August) the impression that entering the ‘Free’ Secondary Education Scheme threatens the independence and ethos of minority schools, I feel compelled to refute his comments in the case of Kilkenny College.

Our decision to enter the scheme was certainly rooted in financial reality, but it was made freely and after very careful, and lengthy, strategic evaluation.

We would never have considered this move if, as Deputy Ross puts it, we feared the loss of “independence” and also the “dilution” of the ethos of the school.

On the contrary, our move into the “free scheme” has neither changed our independence, our ethos nor our patronage.

The Minister for Education and Skills and his Department are often (for good reasons) criticised in Church of Ireland circles, but in the case of Kilkenny College it is only fair to point out that, at the highest levels in the Department of Education and Skills, we have met not pressure, but understanding and support.

Finally, it should be noted that our decision to enter the “free scheme” had the overwhelming support of the Board of Governors, the Board of Management, Staff and the Parents’ Association.

Brian Thornburgh Chairman, Board of Governors Kilkenny College Castlecomer Road Kilkenny

Alison Rooke on ‘rubbish’

I do love Alison Rooke’s delightful earthy and Biblebased common sense.

Her article about litter/ bruscar (Gazette, 9th August) puts into a few wellchosen words all rubbishy matters which I have railed about year after year via the Down Recorder and the local Council.

I was brought up on a few lines from my late mother of Victorian vintage: “Let it not be said – and said unto your shame – that all was beauty here until you came.”

Naming and shaming were the tactics just before we as a family bade farewell to Singapore in 1972 after 15 years, coupled with a hefty fine of £50 for any form of littering – cigarette butts, chewing gum, bus tickets and the rest.

These tactics worked.

Indeed, on a recent visit to us by Singaporean Chinese friends they took evident pride in how their city-state appeared in the eyes of visitors.

Would that, within our own shores, I could say the same.

Finally, in the 1905 tram in my back garden there is the still legible notice: “NO SPITTING – Penalty 40 Shillings” (£2). Quite a fine in those days.

Education for all ages – and especially about consideration for others (Bible again) – is the only answer, since the cat-o’- nine-tails, the stocks or whatever would doubtless infringe some litterer’s human rights!

From a (very) old ‘grump’.

Alan Johnston  Strangford BT30


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