Faith first as Queen starts Jubilee Year celebrations at Lambeth Palace multifaith event
The Archbishop of Canterbury and his wife, Jane Williams, last week welcomed Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh to an interfaith reception at Lambeth Palace, honouring the Queen’s 60th Jubilee Year as monarch and Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
The Archbishop said it had been “an immense encouragement” that the first major public event of the Jubilee Year should be the occasion celebrating the contribution of faith to society.
The royal couple met representatives of the Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Zoroastrian communities, as well as Christian representatives.
RELIGION AND THE STATE
Speaking last week at the Vatican at a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the re-establishment of full diplomatic relations between the Vatican state and the United Kingdom, cabinet minister, co-chair of the Conservative Party and well known Muslim, Baroness Warsi, said that in order to ensure that faith had a proper space in the public sphere, and to encourage social harmony, people needed “to feel stronger in their religious identities, more confident in their beliefs”. She said that, in practice, this meant individuals not diluting their faith and nations not denying their religious heritage, continuing: “if you take this thought to its conclusion, then the idea you’re left with is this: europe needs to become more confident in its Christianity.”
The baroness, who was leading a delegation of Government ministers to the Vatican, was taking up a theme raised by Pope Benedict last September in London. She observed that at a time of great change throughout the Muslim world, particularly during the arab awakening, many countries, political parties and individuals were redefining their identity and were “looking to their faith as a source of inspiration to define the values by which they want to govern”. This she described as “a great opportunity”.
Some contrast to this truly striking development was provided, however, by the report of a poll carried out by IPOS/MORI for the Richard Dawkins Foundation in the week after the 2011 UK census. The poll, which focused on the beliefs, attitudes and practices of adults who said they were recorded as Christian in the census (or would have recorded themselves as christian had they answered the question) revealed an overwhelmingly secular attitude on a wide range of issues and a lack of depth of religious commitment. the majority had not read any part of the Bible, independently and from choice, for at least a year, and just over one-third had never or almost never prayed outside a church service.
The church has rightly become wary of fundamentalism, but that wariness has often tended to cause Christian leaders to go to the other extreme and to be so nuanced that the message they wish to convey has been blunted. Both the findings of the poll commissioned by the Richard Dawkins Foundation and the comments of Baroness Warsi are surely correct: there is a growing liberal secular outlook, not only in Britain but also across europe, and in precisely these circumstances, the church needs to be more confident in its distinctive values and teachings, with the state more evidently valuing the contribution of dynamic faith communities towards the common good. while Anglicanism is known as a via media, this does not mean a type of Christianity that is unsure but, rather, one that is able to embrace the diversity of being both ‘catholic and reformed’ in a truly confident and creative way.
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Letters to the Editor
Christian Aid thanks
ON BEHALF of Christian Aid and its partners, I would like to express our sincere thanks to supporters of the Church of Ireland Bishops’ Appeal.
Over the last few months, Bishops’ Appeal has forwarded generous donations of €20,000, €18,056 and €2,600 towards our development projects in Peru, Rwanda and Malawi respectively. I also gratefully acknowledge contributions received of €71,703.28 and £32,416.37 towards our East Africa emergency appeal, €1,485 and £1,698 towards our ongoing relief work in West Africa, and a further donation of £15,339 towards our Haiti appeal.
Christian Aid’s work in Peru is helping communities to diversify their livelihoods in the high Andes, while in Rwanda, the focus is on sustainable agriculture amongst farmers’ cooperatives. in malawi, your donation is helping vulnerable communities reduce the risk of flooding in the rainy season.
The situation in East Africa remains serious, with many displaced as a result of the drought. Christian Aid’s response provides for people’s immediate needs, while also helping them to reduce the risks posed by future disasters.
In Haiti and West Africa, the focus has shifted from immediate disaster relief to long-term recovery. Christian Aid continues to help people to rebuild their lives.
Your prayerful and financial support has made a real difference in each of these situations. Thank you.
Margaret Boden Chief Executive Christian Aid Ireland
Linden House Beechill Business Park 96 Beechill Road Belfast BT8 7QN
The Reverend Allen Delamere
It was with much poignancy that I read your tribute to the Revd Allen Delamere in the 20th January edition of the Gazette.
I first encountered Allen when serving in Glasgow Diocese, where we were destined to be serving in neighbouring parishes. We became firm friends and he was a regular visitor to my home, where he was very much part of the family and where my wife, Freda, and our two girls also took this delightful colleague and friend very much to their hearts.
Our friendship endured over the years and, although we were not in other than infrequent contact, on each occasion we were in touch, it was as if we had spoken only the day before.
Allen was a truly staunch friend to my family and myself through good and bad times and I believe this was reciprocated by us as and when needed.
It was, indeed, a desperate shock for my wife and me to learn that Allen had passed away on St Stephen’s day 2011. It was also a huge disappointment that, on the other side of recently undergoing my fifth round of surgery, it was not possible to attend his memorial service.
My wife, family and I thank God for happy memories of a wonderful friend and a truly staunch colleague who was a kind, gentle and caring man who will be sadly missed by this family. God speed, dear friend, God speed.
John, Freda, Laura and Amy Marsburg, The Rectory, Fintona BT78
Dean MacCarthy on the clergy
I FULLY support the sentiments in the revd ted woods’ letter in the Gazette of 3rd February concerning the statement of Dean Maccarthy that we are “scraping the barrel for clergy”.
I have been the director of Ordinands in the Diocese of Connor for the past 20 years and in that time, I have journeyed with a large number of men and women through their time in the Fellowship of Vocation and the selection process. Today, the vast majority of them are a credit to the ordained ministry of the Church of Ireland and were never at the ‘bottom of a barrel’.
The Bishop of Connor has recommended eight people from our diocese to attend the Bishops’ selection conference next month. the quality of all these candidates is excellent, with a vast array of life experiences to bring to ordained ministry, not to mention two PHDs, three BAs, one BD, various diplomas and other related theological studies.
Furthermore, each one has a vital involvement in his or her own parish church.
I have also been privileged to attend all the Foundation courses as a Facilitator since the first one began and have observed at first hand the sacrificial commitment of those who are earnestly seeking God’s will for their lives.
We are not “scraping the barrel” but ‘skimming the cream off the top’.
William Murphy (Canon) Moira Co. Armagh BT67
Carers in Northern Ireland
EVERY YEAR, nearly 69,000 people in Northern Ireland become carers – someone who looks after a loved one who is frail, ill or disabled. Because they are unpaid, carers in northern ireland save the economy at least £4.4b each year. at the same time, they are missing out on state support of more than £4m in unclaimed benefits.
It’s not all about benefits. Many people who look after others don’t even think of themselves as carers – it might happen gradually, or they see it as part of normal family life. many of these carers are unaware of their right to benefits and services and often feel isolated in their caring role. this is where carers northern ireland can help.
Readers are invited to telephone us any weekday from 9.00am-4.00pm and ask for our free Looking after someone booklet – an essential guide to carers’ rights and benefits. the booklet and useful information about training and support for carers can be downloaded from our website: www.carersni.org.
We also offer a confidential and independent advice service for carers throughout northern ireland who need more detailed one-to-one advice on benefits and caring, helping them to find the support they need, when they need it. call us any weekday.
Helen Ferguson Director
Carers Northern Ireland
58 Howard Street Tel. 028-9043 9843 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
As a contribution to the Church of Ireland’s March conference on sexuality, i would like to offer an account of my own experience both as a church member and as a homosexual.
I do not know whether I was born with this orientation or if it was imposed on me by interference. what i can say is that I had no choice in the matter. I sought help first at school and later abroad. none was available; I was told there was no cure.
As a result, I have experienced constant feelings of fear of discovery, the deepest loneliness, envy of the ‘normal’, low self-esteem, self-loathing, depression requiring constant medication, and suicidal thoughts.
I am not a willing celibate, but it has been imposed on me. The need for human contact remains unaffected and can lead to difficulties and dangers. One has to live behind a brittle façade of deception. the normal comforts of domestic life and the enrichment of parenthood are denied. One always feels an outsider. the great puzzle of sinfulness is a further burden: why is natural human contact regarded as such a sin for us but not for others?
The first easing of this burden I felt came from a sermon preached in carrigrohane church by our then Rector, Harold Miller, now Bishop of Down and dromore. He described a vibrant, but imaginary congregation composed of the broken, poor, rough, lonely and so forth, though homosexuals were not mentioned. I felt that, perhaps, I could be included without censure.
I found an actual congregation of this sort at st Fin Barre’s Cathedral where, as well as the parish families, scholars and intellectuals, there were the tattooed, the body-pierced, the confused, the searchers, a member of the travelling community, numerous races and a number of co-habiting, same-sex couples. all were cherished; it was, and remains, a wonderfully diverse and egalitarian community.
As in Bishop Miller’s imaginary congregation, we are all imperfect and battered. However, i feel that together, as in St Fin Barre’s congregation, we can reach a different plane, where scorn and censure are left behind and all can flower in acceptance and toleration.
On the other hand, those who heap the burdens of scorn and censure on the already over-burdened drive them further into secrecy, despair, danger and chaos – perhaps even suicide – rather than honesty, love and stability. is that really what God is calling people to do?
Richard Wood Carrigrohane Co. Cork
I TOTALLY concur with the Revd Mervyn Kingston’s comments (Gazette, 9th February) as regards the refusal of our bishops to invite openly gay, lesbian and bisexual members of the Church of Ireland to assist members of the General Synod at their conference next month.
That perhaps 600 people should meet to discuss issues concerning my sexuality and personal relationships and those of many others, without seeking persons to represent our views and experience is almost unbelievable. in a modern, open and democratic society, this failure is grossly unfair and inequitable and will serve to make the church of ireland even more irrelevant to much of the society to which it seeks to minister.
Eight years ago, our Bishops committed to listening to gays and lesbians. apart from spending a couple of days inviting selected individuals (including myself ) to talk to them, they seem to have done precious little else in this regard.
it is not enough simply to commit to listening. one has to be seen to be listening and make it easy for people to make contact. society expects a proactive approach to this kind of initiative. How many gays and lesbians are prepared to put a call through to a bishop’s office – assuming that the contact numbers have already been widely publicised?
We must hope the conference will enable those present to discuss various viewpoints and still remain friends. we also must hope that the members of the General Synod will recognise that they live in a society, both local and international, where, even in the last decade, understandings of and attitudes to human sexuality have altered considerably, and that they will keep in mind the occasions in the past when the church has accepted the wisdom of adjusting its stand on fundamental issues.
David McConnell Dublin
I HOPE your readers will permit one more letter from me on the above subject. in response to my statement that if one identical twin is homosexual, the other usually is not, Paul rowlandson says (3rd February) that this “is not entirely correct”. with the greatest of respect, i must say that it is entirely correct.
Paul says that twin studies indicate a 50% chance that if one identical twin is gay, the other will be also (‘50% concordance’) and that fraternal twins have a 22% concordance. these numbers appear to reflect the Bailey and Pillard study  which found figures of 52% and 22% respectively for these categories. Bailey, however, in a more reliable study in 2000 (in which men were defined as being gay if they scored 2 or more on the Kinsey 0 – 6 scale of homosexuality), found the concordance for identical twins to be only 20%. He openly acknowledged that “concordances from prior studies were inflated”.
Even this 20% figure is misleading. Of 27 twin pairs in which one was gay, he found only three cases where the co-twin was also gay. Of course, three out of 27 is about 11%, not 20%. the latter figure is a statistical calculation obtained by double counting those pairs where both are gay (on the grounds that twin 1 has a gay co-twin and so does twin 2, so they should be treated as two pairs rather than one). So 3/27 becomes 6/30, or 20%. The fact remains that in 24 out of 27 cases (89%), the co-twin was not gay.
So i stand firmly by my statement that if one identical twin is homosexual, the other usually is not. Homosexuality is not genetically predetermined. The interested reader will find more information at http:// www.mygenes.co.nz/.
Dermot O’Callaghan Hillsborough BT26
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