COI Gazette – 23rd September 2011

Special service focuses on music in St Columb’s Cathedral, Londonderry

Dean William Morton (left) displays a copy of the CD, All Things Bright And Beautiful, following a service of thanksgiving and dedication on the theme of Church music in St Columb’s Cathedral, Londonderry. He is accompanied by (from 2nd left) Canon John Merrick, Bishop James Mehaffey and the Mayor of Londonderry, Alderman Maurice Devenney. (Photo: Maurice Thompson)

Front Page

Special service focuses on music
in St Columb’s Cathedral, Londonderry


St Columb’s Cathedral, Londonderry, was the setting for a recent special service of thanksgiving and dedication which focused on a number of aspects of the Cathedral’s music and choral tradition.

The service followed on from the major celebrations on 9th June marking the completion of the Cathedral’s £3.6m, 18-month programme of refurbishment and restoration




Speaking at the 9/11 memorial service in London, the Prince of Wales referred to his own feelings after Lord Mountbatten had been killed over thirty years ago in a terrorist attack. Addressing those who had lost loved ones, he said he could understand something of what they had been through, because “back in 1979 my greatly loved great uncle, Lord Mountbatten, and one of my young godsons were torn from my own family – and others in their group also killed or horrifically injured – by a terrorist bomb while sailing peacefully in his boat off the coast of Co. Sligo”.

Prince Charles went on to say that, while he had initially felt intense anger and even hatred of those who had been able to contemplate such an act, he later began to reflect “that all the greatest wisdom that has come down to us over the ages speaks of the overriding need to break the law of cause and effect and, somehow, to find the strength to search for a more positive way of overcoming evil in men’s hearts”. He said it was “surely only by avoiding vengefulness that we can rebuild what has been lost and save it from being lost again”, pointing to the importance of a forgiving spirit to dissipate anger and resentment.

This is a truly Christian approach to a most difficult pastoral subject. Those who commit terrible crimes naturally must be held to account, not least because otherwise they and others could easily learn that such actions were acceptable and without consequences for them. However, at the same time, Christians who suffer at others’ hands are called not to harbour hatred or malice or any form of vindictiveness. There must be a genuine Christian care for wrongdoers, a love of enemy as well as of the neighbour with whom one has no differences.

In Ireland, we are seeking to have a future that is shared willingly and respectfully by citizens of at times very strongly competing outlooks. Prince Charles was speaking from his own hurt and was pointing to a higher and a truly Christian way. There is a lesson in his words for all of us in this island to learn.

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Letters to the Editor

Civil partnerships controversy

THE MAUDLIN and lamentable joint-statement of 9th September from four evangelical/charismatic groups, in relation to the civil partnership of a church of Ireland clergyman in the Republic, consists of a catalogue of spurious and hypocritical moans and complaints (full text last week).

They regret the “apparent” lack of regard for church teaching and doctrine in relation to human sexuality and marriage. there has been no such lack of regard, so their concern is groundless.

They ask outrageously intrusive questions about the domestic relations of the cleric concerned. they would be justifiably annoyed if others were to ask such intrusive questions about their own domestic relations.

“And why behold you the mote that is in your brother’s eye, but consider not the beam that is in your own eye?” (matthew 7: 3) While complaining that the clergyman’s private arrangements have been “divisive” because they cause offence to them, the groups fail to consider how divisive and offensive their own impertinent comments have been.

They complain that great hurt, pain and division will be caused to the life of the church by the clergyman’s private domestic arrangements. the only pain and division are those which these moral busybodies are intent on creating. their complaint is the most monumental hypocrisy. their statement is bound to cause hurt and pain to the cleric concerned and his bishop, and to create divisions in the church of Ireland.

They hint that damage may be done to our relations with the Roman catholic church in Ireland, but can’t bring themselves to mention that church by name. this, from people who refuse to describe our catholic brethren as ‘christians’ and deny that anybody who is not an evangelical can be a christian. (See the Reform Ireland blog, 15th November, 2010: ‘Only evangelicals are christians’.) this is surely an instance of rank hypocrisy.

The whole joint-statement is a farrago of tendentious and offensive nonsense and debases the evangelical tradition. Those group members who authorised the statement should be deeply ashamed.
Paul Rowlandson Londonderry BT47 2NU


I’M ASTOUNDED by the reaction to the news that the Dean of Leighlin has entered into a civil partnership.

Once again, those on the ‘bashing the gay christian bandwagon’ have taken control of criticising the bishop of cashel and Ossory and the Dean’s decision.

I know the Dean of Leighlin well, as I do the bishop of cashel and Ossory, and I know both to be good, pastoral, supportive and understanding clergy. I cannot believe for one minute that this decision was taken lightly.

What astounds me most is that no one has acknowledged that the Dean has been in a relationship for 20 years, despite this being no secret; only now that the Dean has formalised his relationship has it become an issue. this is hypocrisy of the highest order.

I wholeheartedly agree that dialogue and discussion are needed, and if what has happened finally allows this to happen, then all well and good. It has been swept under the carpet for far too long and the days of a ‘studied silence’ on the matter are over.

The Church of Ireland must now acknowledge that gay christians exist in loving, caring, long-term relationships – including ordained and non-ordained people. this is nothing new. most of these relationships have been well-known and accepted; provided no one rocked the boat, there was never an issue.

the talk of resignations is ridiculous. It would be a very sad day for the church of Ireland if either the bishop or Dean resigned over this issue. the church of Ireland has lost too many good people – laity, priests and bishops – over recent years.

The bishop and Dean have my full support and if either is compelled to resign over this matter, I do not feel I could continue to be part of a church that appears no longer to be inclusive, accepting and supportive of all christian people.
Mark Bowyer Castle Street Dublin 2


I AM writing to you in relation to the recent civil partnership of the Very Revd Tom Gordon to try and communicate that this is not a north versus South issue.

It really concerns me that this is how it is being portrayed. the perception seems to be that the church in the South of Ireland and its clergy and people have accepted the situation, while the church in the north of Ireland and its clergy and people haven’t.

As someone who was born and bred in the South of Ireland and who has served in Southern parishes for the majority of my ministry, I believe many parishes and clergy in the South of Ireland will be equally hurt after the recent events. So, to say that the Southern church is accepting of the civil partnership is, I believe, not the blanket truth. I think it is important that this point is not missed by either side of the debate.

We are, and I pray will continue to be – through mutual respect, discussion, transparency and a willingness to engage with each other – a church that goes beyond geographical borders.

Craig McCauley (The Ven.) The Rectory Virginia Co. Cavan


WITH REFERENCE to the statement released by Changing Attitude Ireland (CAI) on 13th September (Gazette this week, page 13), I would make the following observations.

First, according to CAI, the response of the evangelical groups has “only served to raise the temperature within the church of Ireland”.

On the contrary, many would perceive that cAI’s incessant agenda to change the doctrine and teaching of the church of Ireland has been the primary catalyst to any ‘raising of the temperature’ in recent years.

Second, CAI very cleverly positions itself as the innocent grouping in this debate whilst, by implication, castigating the evangelical groupings as those who “ … seem intent on driving people apart”.

For centuries, the common ground on which we as a church have stood has been the orthodox and biblical view of sexuality. that remains the church’s teaching, as clarified by the Archbishop of Armagh on Sunday Sequence (11th September). It seems logical, therefore, that any departure from this would constitute a wedge that would drive people apart.

Changing Attitude Ireland and its supporters are leading the agenda to see this position changed. this, and only this, will drive people apart. those of us who hold to our church’s orthodox position on these matters have not moved.

It’s time to ask ourselves if we desire to be a church that is led by the Spirit of God or the spirit of the age, a church that shapes the culture of our day or is shaped by it. We must pray for the guidance of the holy Spirit through these murky waters, but let’s not be confused as to who has moved the goalposts and what it is that has the potential to drive people apart.
Mark Harvey (The Revd) Dundonald BT16 2DB


WHAT A sad day for our Church of Ireland that she has learnt nothing from her sister church of england about the ‘minefield’ of civil partnership within the clergy.

Surely it should not have been beyond the bounds of possibility that our episcopate could have noted the agonizing and potential for schism this issue has caused in England and, indeed, elsewhere. It was well ‘flagged up’.

As we look out from our ancient church, we look past the ‘night of weeping’ and long for the ‘morn of joy’.

Joan Hill (Mrs) Carrickfergus BT38 RX


John Stott’s legacy

RON ELDSON supplies a full page, ‘Remembering John Stott’ (Gazette, 2nd September, page 12), extolling praise for the eminent Anglican leader and author, the Revd Dr John R. W. Stott, who, among other accolades was special chaplain to her majesty the Queen.

Dr Elsdon recalls the graciousness of Dr Stott and, indeed, similar attributes have been cited in other christian periodicals.

Nevertheless, for me, Dr Stott’s lasting legacy will be his negative teaching against the modern State of Israel and his objections to the notion of Jews living in the promised Land today.

A nine-page sermon by John Stott was published in Stephen Sizer’s, Zion’s Christian Soldiers? (IVp, 2007), entitled, ‘the place of Israel’, which fully excoriates the position of a newly-formed Jewish State, believing it not to be scriptural and, by consequence, denouncing the position of christians who believe that this is the result of biblical prophecies coming to pass.

Both Sizer and Stott concur that such ‘Zionists’ are deluded and their conclusions erroneous.

This is not the only book in which Dr Stott approves the debunking of Zionism. his name appears on the cover of The God I Don’t Understand by Christopher J. H. Wright (Zondervan, 2008) and he “warmly commends” Mr Wright’s writing, in which it is claimed that “in New Testament times … there was no State of Israel” (due to having been under Roman occupation), yet in Matthew 2: 20, the Angel of the Lord clearly mentions it as “the Land of Israel” (not ‘palestine’).

Not all christian or Jewish Zionists, or those who support the Jews’ return to Zion, condone every move of the Israeli Government, but they do believe that the Land was given to the people of Israel by God for an “everlasting inheritance”.

John Stott was a fine biblical scholar and humble evangelical leader, but his antipathy for Israel must not be overlooked when we are assessing his life and influence.

Colin Nevin Bangor Co. Down BT19 7TQ


Bishop Jefferts Schori’s comments

I CONFESS that I was unwise to compare US presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori’s propaganda to that of Goebbels (my letter, 26th August; the Revd Patrick Burke’s response, 9th September). What Bishop Schori said in Zimbabwe was designed to lead us to believe that she and her followers are victims when, in fact, they are aggressors.

All of the former uS episcopal church dioceses which left The Episcopal Church (TEC) and are now the Anglican church in north America (ACNA) dioceses were willing to share or to allow tec parishes to keep their property. Why did the presiding bishop not mention pittsburgh when speaking in Zimbabwe? because the courts in pennsylvania awarded all the property to tec and Archbishop Duncan decided not to contest the decision. many churches in that diocese are now empty, the congregations having found alternative buildings. Some parishes have been allowed to buy their property back, but unconstitutional conditions have been imposed, such as insisting they disaffiliate from ACNA.

The Presiding Bishop has stated that she has a fiduciary duty as chief pastor to recover the property and assets of TEC and so must sue. Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia had agreed a settlement out of court with 11 ACNA parishes when she threatened to name him as co-defendant with them if he didn’t sue.

TEC has contributed nothing to the maintenance or purchase of property in the ACNA dioceses. Bishop Jefferts Schori has, however, spent millions of dollars in litigation and funding for the new TEC dioceses in Fort Worth, Quincy, pittsburgh and San Joaquin, none of which has properly acceded to tec according to Article 5 of its constitution. they have been created purely to instigate litigation.

Of course, there would be no rejoicing in TEC, even if they won every case. the $60m the presiding bishop borrowed against tec headquarters to fund litigation has to be paid off. From 2007 to 2010, over $670,000 in fees have been paid for expert opinion that TEC is a hierarchical church and that the Dennis canon trumps all title deeds and Federal and State laws.

Even if all the cases were won, the cost of litigation would exceed the amount raised from selling the properties recovered. bishop Jefferts Schori’s policy of relentless litigation is not only further dividing christians but it’s also destroying TEC.

Bill Atkins (Canon) Mohill Rectory Mohill Co. Leitrim


Features & Columns

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  • Soap – Down at St. David’s
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  • Documentation – Statement from Changing Attitude Ireland on civil partnership controversy:

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