Archbishop of Armagh in ecumenical delegation to Government over NI welfare reforms
Last week, the Archbishop of Armagh joined three other Irish Church leaders in lobbying the UK Government over the impact of proposed welfare reforms on the most vulnerable in Northern Ireland.
Archbishop Harper, along with the Cardinal Archbishop of Armagh, the Methodist President and the Presbyterian Moderator, met the Minister for Welfare Reform, Lord Freud, and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson MP, at Westminster.
The churchmen lead the largest denominations in the Churches in Ireland Connecting in Christ grouping.
A CHILD IS BORN
The birth of every child is a miracle of nature and each newborn infant brings both deep joy and wondering anticipation to parents – joy that this new life has been given to them and anticipation at all that hopefully lies ahead. Indeed, we never know what is to come, what gifts the new child may have and how he or she may develop and contribute, in modest or momentous ways, to the life of this great world.
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph already had a sense of his special destiny, but precisely how that would work itself out was unknown to them. For us, who celebrate his birth at Christmas time, the knowledge of the directions his earthly life would take are well known and, for that reason, we can contemplate his wondrous birth and his subsequent ministry in all their dimensions.
We reflect on the mystery of the Incarnation, the great gift to the world of the Word become flesh, and on how that unique miracle speaks of humanity never being alone in the wide universe, lost in space. Rather, we are told by the Christmas Gospel that the God who made us has come to dwell with us, loving us and accompanying us in all the circumstances of our life. As we in the Church of Ireland look to the months ahead, we know that there are difficult issues to be faced. If we are guided by the truth of this holy season, it is the love that came down at Christmas that will be our sure and true guide.
The child Jesus grew up into the man who had all his priorities right, who prayed, who cared for the sick and marginalised and outcast, who took on the power of the Establishment of his day, turning worldly values on their head and championing justice and truth. The child Jesus was to be the man who changed everything – the way we are to think and the way we are, in faith, to relate to God. The child of Bethlehem promised all this from the manger itself. He was in the world, and for the world, entering this sphere of reality to be the Saviour.
Because there is so much on which to reflect at Christmas, the Church calls everyone to prepare in heart and mind for the remembrance of the birth of the Christ child. Preparing is, in fact, what we must be about all our lives, from beginning to end.Each day of our life is to be a new step in preparing for the yet fuller life and yet deeper peace of the Kingdom that the infant of Bethlehem came to announce. So, glory be to him, the newly-born and the eternal, inextinguishable Light of the World.
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Features and Columns
- Focus on Limerick and Killaloe – Canon Bob Hanna, Diocesan Communications Officer for Limerick and Killaloe, contributes this month’s Diocesan Focus article.
- Fighting HIV ignorance, fear and stigma through Bible study
- Soap – Down At St. Davids
- Musings Alison Rooke
Letters to the Editor
Civil partnerships controversy
WE WERE saddened to read in Dermot O’Callaghan’s letter (Gazette, 2nd December) that he rejects the view of Canon Virginia Kennerley (Letter, 18th November) that sexual orientation is “one of the variables in human nature as God created it”.
Our agreement with Canon Kennerley is based on our personal experience as parents of two daughters, one of whom was born heterosexual and one born gay.
Canon Kennerley’s view is shared by a large majority of scientists who have studied the aetiology of sexual orientation (see, for example, the textbook, Psychology, 9th edition, by Professor David Myers, 2010, and the statements of the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, etc.).
Mr O’Callaghan referred to the book, The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality, to which his two preferred scientists contributed a chapter, as “an official book of the Anglican
Communion”. We should point out that the Anglican Communion says, on its website, that it “does not recommend or endorse … any of the submissions” in the book.
Readers should be advised that the scientific material itself is complex, involving, as it does, discussion of genes, alleles, dermatoglyphic asymmetries, hypothalamic structures, monozygotic and dizygotic twin studies, structural differences in the inner ears of lesbians compared to homosexual women, etc.
We recognise that the amount of scientific publications is vast, and we expect that Dermot can find, and will try to interpret, some publications to suit his own unorthodox views about the nature of gay persons, which he has already shared at General Synod.
Paul and Margaret Rowlandson Londonderry BT47
I HOPE that, when consideration is given to the points raised in Mrs Wilson’s letter (Gazette, 9th December), the importance of cultural expectation, nature and nurture are also weighed.
Women can now not only speak in Church but also are admitted to Holy Orders, although their forebears remained silent in accordance
with Holy Scripture. Many people who, in childhood, were expected to write with their right hands now write with their left.
I trust that these developments are not thought of as ‘sinister’.
Michael Thompson (The Revd) Place de la Courtille Saint Gengoux le National 71460 France
MRS SANDRA WILSON (Letter, 9th December) does not wish “to start another lot of correspondence on the pages of the Gazette”.
On this, at least, I can agree with her, but it cannot go unremarked that those who are most anxious to present Lambeth I.10 as normative – which it is not – are strangely reluctant to heed its call “to listen to the experience of homosexual persons [sic]”. Each of the points Mrs Wilson wishes “the Bishops and others” to consider reveals only that she has not done this. Until she and others can learn to so listen, this dialogue of the deaf will, I fear, continue.
SACRED LIVING: PRACTICAL INSPIRATIONS FROM CELTIC SPIRITUALITY FOR THE CONTEMPORARY SPIRITUAL JOURNEY Author: The Revd Grace Clunie Publisher: Columba Press
LOVE & JOY & PEACE: REFLECTIONS ON THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT Author: Canon James Carson Publisher: Impact Printing, Coleraine and Ballycastle
PRAYING WITH THE EARTH Author: J. Philip Newell Publisher: Canterbury Press; pp.58 Price: £10.99
Christmas Messages 2011
- From the Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd Alan Harper
- From the Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Michael Jackson