COI Gazette – 23rd March 2012

Anglican-Roman Catholic relationship is  ‘certain yet imperfect’ – Archbishop Williams

Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop Rowan Williams in the chapel of St Gregory, Rome. (Photo: Matthew Davies)

Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop Rowan Williams in the chapel of St Gregory, Rome. (Photo: Matthew Davies)

Earlier this month the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Rowan Williams, who last week announced that he will be stepping down as Archbishop at the end of this year to become Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, visited Pope Benedict XVI in Rome.

Archbishop Williams and the Pope prayed together during an ecumenical vespers service at Rome’s church of San Gregorio Magna al celio. They lit candles together in the chapel of St Gregory.

The 10th March service looked back to pre- Reformation times, marking the 1,000th anniversary of the founding of Italy’s Camaldoli monastic community.

The church of San Gregorio is built on the site from which St Gregory the Great, in the 6th century, sent St Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, along with 30 monks to England. they landed in 597 and are credited with laying the foundations for the renewal of English Christianity.



Last week’s announcement that the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Rowan Williams, is to step down as Primate of All England – and primus inter pares of the Anglican Communion – at the end of this year did not come as a total surprise. There had been considerable speculation that an academic post was in the offing and, indeed, that is what materialized with Dr Williams’ appointment as Master of Magdalene college, Cambridge with effect from next January.

While not a total surprise, however, Dr Williams will be missed for his many qualities, in particular his obvious depth of spirituality, his immense erudition and his ability to remain calm and clearly focused in the midst of the storms that have been afflicting the Anglican communion. While some wanted him to take one line, and others urged a different one, his focus has clearly been on maintaining the unity of the Communion as best he could. In this context, some people point out that truth is more important than institutional unity, but the whole point about the debate in question is that different people see the truth of the matter in different ways. Trying to hold people together in the midst of such tensions was the right priority for Archbishop Williams, not least as a fundamental aspect of episcopal ministry is, precisely, being a minister of unity.

In a statement issued from Lambeth Palace, Archbishop Williams said: “It has been an immense privilege to serve as Archbishop of Canterbury over the past decade, and moving on has not been an easy decision. During the time remaining there is much to do, and I ask your prayers and support in this period and beyond. I am abidingly grateful to all those friends and colleagues who have so generously supported Jane [Archbishop Williams’ wife] and myself in these years, and all the many diverse parishes and communities in the Church of England and the wider Anglican communion that have brought vision, hope and excitement to my own ministry. I look forward, with that same support and inspiration, to continuing to serve the church’s mission and witness as best I can in the years ahead.”

Archbishop Williams’ very explicit emphasis on his desire to continue to serve the church is a very welcome aspect of his announcement. He still has much to give and the whole communion will benefit from his commitment to all of us. He has been a blessing to the church and his ministry as Archbishop of Canterbury will surely be remembered not only as one that took place during a period of much inter-Anglican turmoil but also as one that witnessed faithfully, in times that have been challenging in very many ways, to the Gospel of God’s eternal love.



The recent visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury to Rome (Report, Page 1) prompts one to consider the current state of formal Anglican-Roman Catholic relations. Of course, the formal state of affairs is often not mirrored in local practice, which can be more advanced or more retrograde in nature. however, the formal dialogue remains important.

We are currently in the third phase of official Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue. ARCIC (The Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission) started work in 1970, in the wake of the Second Vatican council which marked a distinct shift In the Roman Catholic Church’s approach to ecumenism. Previously, all ecumenical contact was avoided and the Vatican did not take part in any of the global ecumenical initiatives that saw the emergence of the World Council of Churches. Rome stood apart, but Vatican II, under the influence of the nouvelle théologie emanating principally from France, decided to be more outward-looking.

ARCIC was established following work done by a preparatory commission and, indeed, a former Archbishop of Dublin, the late Dr Henry McAdoo, was its Anglican co-chair. ARCIC-I issued its Final Report in 1981, addressing the themes of ministry, Eucharist and Authority. however, the Church of Ireland General Synod declined to endorse it with “a general ‘Yes’” (1986), although continuing work was commended. ARCIC-II (1983-2011) saw work on salvation, communion, teaching authority,

Marian doctrine and convergence in unity and mission. ARCIC III, which started work last year, is focusing further on the issue of communion.

Through its three manifestations, ARCIC has certainly been both daring and sweeping in the scope of its work. In practical terms, however, Rome still does not accept the validity of Anglican Orders and remains uncomprehending about the ordination of women. Rome also forbids Roman Catholics to receive Holy Communion in Anglican churches, allowing Anglicans to receive holy communion in the Roman catholic church only in very exceptional circumstances, with strict rules having been enunciated. Moreover, the Vatican’s ‘Ordinariate’ scheme, intended to be attractive to some Anglicans, has not improved relations between our two communions.

Practice may, of course, be less demanding of individuals, but there is something not entirely satisfactory about having clear rules about fundamental things and then simply setting those rules to one side as one wishes. Indeed, there was a note of exasperation in Dr Williams’ comment to the Episcopal News Service: “We’re working together for the Kingdom, we’re praying together, and of course we have a huge agenda institutionally, which we’ve no idea how to sort out, but meanwhile we go on working and praying in great affection.” Exasperating or not, it is, however, the right course in which to proceed.


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Letters to the Editor

Clergy and Bishops going wrong?

It seems to me that behind the issue of rectors visiting or not visiting is that of the role of the rector. has the role of the rector changed from being the pastor to that of being the pastoral manager?

Such a role reflects the changes in society, where people are appointed managers in ways never seen before.

If the rector is the pastoral manager, is he/she expected to take on the role of directing operations in the parish, including training visiting teams? Should the rector also be a leader by example as well as by training? What of the expectation that the pastoral manager leads by example?

Another pressure that the clergy face is that of being elected on to diocesan committees. this forces the rector to place visiting on the back-burner. there is also the expectation that the rector should be present at all the parish activities – very time- consuming.

In ministry, I have given visiting a top priority. I should point out that I entered the ordained ministry late in life.

In the 1990s, in my first group of parishes in the Church of Ireland, I had four parishes spread over three counties.

In the first year, I visited the overwhelming majority of parishioners, even among those who rarely if ever came to church. this entailed travelling, frequently over 100 miles a day. As a direct result, I discovered a number of elderly folk living very lonely lives.

Soon I had house Communions with these people on a regular monthly basis. When the Bishop came to do his annual visitation, he insisted that I take him with me to some of these elderly folk and he celebrated communion with them in their small cottages.

Visiting in ministry was always a priority and I believe it should continue to be so in ministry, with time set aside each week for visiting parishioners.
Sid Mourant (The Revd) Hamiltonsbawn BT61

ALAS, I am one of those whom your correspondents have been vilifying for not undertaking parish visiting. In 11 years, I have not visited the vast majority of my parishioners and I am, therefore, guilty as accused.

Yet, I note from my diaries that I have spent a great deal of time visiting those who would have something to do with the church, either through baptism, marriage or death. I am wise enough to know that the people I visit will probably have nothing ever more to do with the church. Do I ignore them because they are without the church? Jesus asks us to call those who are beyond the Kingdom, the unloved, the unlovable.

Yes, there are diocesan responsibilities and there is administration and there is the annual vestry and there is the select vestry and there is, of course, the multi-various calls on a clergyperson’s life. If this means that ‘Mrs McSlattery’ doesn’t get a visit, it doesn’t mean that the rector doesn’t care about her or is not praying for her or is not about the business of his or her parish or, more importantly, the Kingdom.

Everyone has their own expectation of what a rector should or should not be doing.

My experience, after nearly 30 years in ministry, is that whatever a rector does or doesn’t do will be, in the eyes of some, wrong. Most clergy will do their best to try, through prayer, to fulfil their calling. If the parish doesn’t like that, the parish might at least try to empathise with those who are called to serve them.

Perhaps your correspondents might like to know that, through the evidence of my diaries, I have spent in excess of 70 hours per week on parish duties, however they may be described, in the past few years, and the times I’ve given up on my family to fulfil parish duties are without number.

A final point: clergy are very aware of who pays their stipends and who maintains their homes. I for one pray that a way will be found for clergy to live in their own homes. Experience also tells me that there is little more humiliating than relying upon a parish with no money to provide the basics of a decent home.

Duncan Pollock ( The Revd) Bangor Co. Down BT20

The Good Book Shop

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those people who took part in the King James Bible readings in the Good Book shop, Belfast, last year.

Over 200 people from all denominations, faiths and backgrounds took part by reading aloud an allocated passage of Scripture here in the shop – something we’d never done before.

The feedback, both from those who took part and from those who came to listen, was very encouraging indeed.

There was something very special and moving about hearing the Word of God read aloud in a place of business, and I hope that the many volunteers who took part also felt that. I am very grateful to them for giving up their time (sometimes on more than one occasion) to come and take part in our special event.

As a result of this success, and from general feedback received from our customers, I aim to establish a book club here within the new coffee area of the Good Book shop. This will allow some of our authors to come and read aloud extracts from their books, and will encourage others to come, listen and have the opportunity to put any questions to them.

These will be informal events; everyone is welcome, and one doesn’t have to ‘sign- up’ to membership of this club.

The first meeting will be on tuesday 27th march from 12noon-1.00pm, when the Rt Revd Alan Abernethy, Bishop of Connor, will speak about his recent book, Shadows on the Journey.
Richard Ryan – The Good Book Shop 61-67 Donegall Street Belfast BT1 2QH

Same-sex relationships

THE SCRIPTURES are very clear in condemning “unnatural relations” (Romans 1: 27). Gay relationships are not what God intended: “ … male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number … ’.” (Genesis 1: 27f).

Clearly, God intended a long and purposeful relationship between man and woman in union with one another and as those who would continue the generations of humanity.

The church, and particularly its officiants, must be an example in holding to these moral precepts.

Priests and partners of the same gender who live together, whether that relationship has been recognised in civil law or not, certainly cannot be married (the union of one man and one woman in which the God of the Bible envisaged children being created and nurtured), and it is not something the church should accept of a licensed priest.

On the other hand, there is no excuse for homophobia. However, I find the pro- gay movement use this accusatory word too easily to try and make the non-gay lobby feel uncomfortable.

Meantime, it seems right for the church carefully and humbly to deliberate over this emotive area of human existence, and I for one will continue to pray for the Synod, the whole church and the Anglican Communion.
Colin Hall-Thompson (The Revd) Belfast BT4

CANON IAN POULTON, in his letter of 9th March, seems to assume that the world and his wife knew all along that the Very Revd Tom Gordon was homosexual and also that he was in a long-term, same-sex relationship. Consequently, Canon Poulton is baffled with people claiming a “new situation” following the registration of the secular civil partnership in July last year.

Well, I for one was unaware of the background and only became alert when news reached me of the reception that followed the registration.

I subsequently discovered at our pre-Bishops’ Conference diocesan gathering in Cork that I was not alone in being unaware and wonder how many others throughout the church were likewise unaware and for whom this is truly a “new situation” facing the church.

Peter T. Hanna ( The Revd) Farnahoe Innishannon Co. Cork


Board volunteers sought

FOR MORE than 40 years the housing association movement has been working throughout Northern Ireland to provide decent, affordable homes to all members of our community.

These are challenging times for Northern Ireland. We are in no doubt that in the remainder of 2012 there will be an increase in the number of people seeking social housing. the support and guidance of voluntary board members is essential to housing associations. Serving on the governing body of a housing association, helping to maintain and improve vital housing services in your local community, is a hugely rewarding experience.

Our member housing association’s Board of Management should represent a wide range of interests and skills. We would particularly welcome expressions of interest from individuals who can demonstrate knowledge of Business Development, Strategic Development, hR, housing Management, Finance, Marketing or PR.

If readers have any of these skills or others which might support associations’ work and are interested, they are invited to contact us at the Northern Ireland Federation of housing Associations; the contact details are below. Cameron Watt

Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations

6c Citylink Business Park Albert Street Belfast BT12 4HB – Email: Tel. 9023 0446 (NIFHA Governance

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