COI Gazette – 25th April 2014

Big changes for the EU this year, says senior churchman Dr Kenneth Milne



With European Parliament elections pending, the Chair of the European Affairs Working Group of the Church of Ireland’s Commission for Christian Unity and Dialogue, and of the European Affairs Committee of the Irish Council of Churches, Dr Kenneth Milne, has told the Gazette that 2014 is generally regarded as a key year in the EU’s development.

Dr Milne commented: “Not only will there be a new Commission with a new President, but a majority of members of the Parliament will be newcomers, and this at a time when it is widely recognised that the European project is seriously in need of reform.”

He said it was seldom that the electorates of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland went to the polls more or less at the same time, but pointed out that this would be the case in May, when voters in both jurisdictions choose who is to represent them in the European Parliament.



Thomas Cranmer, famous as the architect of The Book of Common Prayer, was born in Nottinghamshire in 1489 and was educated at Cambridge, where he became a Fellow and was nominated as an official preacher. He was an early admirer of the humanist scholar Erasmus. He became personally acquainted with the continental Reformation during a spell as ambassador to the court of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, and, although as a priest subject to the law of clerical celibacy, married the niece of a leading reformer.

Cranmer’s appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury took effect in 1533 and he was instrumental in the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, allowing the King to marry his paramour, Anne Boleyn. A passionate supporter of royal authority, he upheld Henry’s Act of Supremacy in which the King was declared to be “the only supreme head on earth of the Church in England”.

For the remainder of Henry’s reign, Cranmer was among those who were seeking a reformation of the Church in England along Protestant lines, although constantly having to make concessions to conservatives opposed to such a development. He wrote the preface to the Great Bible, published in 1539, and a first-fruit of his reforming zeal was the issuing of the Litany in 1544.

Following Henry’s death and the accession of the boy-king, Edward VI, Cranmer, together with others, was responsible for the first edition of The Book of Common Prayer (1549). This was soon introduced in the Church of Ireland (1551), being the first book printed in Ireland. Its successor, the much more radical Prayer Book of 1552, was never authorized in the Church of Ireland owing to King Edward VI’s death.

When Queen Mary, having defeated a coup supported by Cranmer to put Jane Grey on the throne, began a process of restoration of the Roman Catholic faith, he was arrested and pressured into signing a series of recantations of his theological position as found in his writings, including the important Defence, which expressed his view of the doctrine of the Holy Communion. He was forced to watch the martyrdom of two of his fellow-bishops, Latimer and Ridley, but when his own time of martyrdom came, he repudiated his recantations and, memorably, thrust the hand that had signed them into the flames.

Cranmer’s legacy remains to this day in the traditional Prayer Book services, although, of course, these have been added to and amended over the years, and also in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion – deriving from forty-two which he produced.

This editorial is one in a series of occasional reflections on figures in Church history, following a chronological sequence as they appear

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Letters to the Editor

Church of Ireland-Methodist interchangeability of ministries

The ‘Update ’ from the Church of Ireland/Methodist Covenant Council (Gazette, 4th April) states, inter alia, that the Church of Ireland recognizes that the role of the President of the Methodist Conference expresses “the historic episcopate as gifted to the whole Church of God”; that the role of serving and former Conference Presidents is consonant with that of bishops in the Church of Ireland; and that the role of probationers in Methodism is comparable to the order of deacon in the Church of Ireland.

This is clearly a departure from previous Anglican theology and practice (notwithstanding the very rare cases of the admission of foreign reformed clergy to benefices in the Church of England in the period between the Elizabethan settlement and the Restoration).

It was until very recently the case that any Methodist who wished to be admitted to ministry in the Church of Ireland had first to be ordained both to the diaconate and the priesthood. By contrast, neither the Church of Ireland nor any other Anglican Church has ever reordained Catholic clergy who have converted.

One of the most consistent Anglican claims over the past four or more centuries has been its claim to succession of ministry, episcopal ministry in particular – a claim which is expressed clearly in, to name but one instance, Saepius Officio, the response of the Archbishops of the Church of England to Apostolicae Curae in 1896.

Methodists have never made such a claim nor, at least until now, has the Church of Ireland ever suggested that Methodists have an identical understanding of ministry with Anglicanism.

It would appear that the proposals made by the Covenant Council represent a reversal of previous Anglican positions on ministry. How can it be maintained that the General Synod is authorised to make so radical a change? Article 34 of the 39 Articles states only that particular or national Churches may change or abolish rites or ceremonies; the Church’s understanding of the nature of the episcopate, priesthood and diaconate amounts to more than rites or ceremonies.

The Church of England’s response to the scheme was clear that any Church of Ireland clergy admitted to ministry in England will need to be ordained by bishops who can claim episcopal succession; in other words, the Church of England does not at present recognise Methodist orders.

Once the intended Church of Ireland-Methodist scheme is adopted, the Church of England and the Church of Ireland will have different understandings of ministerial validity. The scheme’s adoption would be a further contribution to Anglican incoherence.

C.D.C. Armstrong Belfast BT12

Northern Ireland  International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia

The International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) falls on 17th May each year and marks a week of events focusing on how we might as individuals, organisations and as a society counter these two phobias. Homophobia means an extreme or irrational aversion to homosexual people; transphobia involves the same aversion to transsexual people.

An exceptional form has been seen recently in Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, which deserves the attention of the Churches’ social responsibility committees in expressing their concerns. Homophobia and transphobia can be present too in our local society, amongst family, friends and work colleagues – even in the Churches.

The friendship, understanding and acceptance by family, friends, and work colleagues are vital in enabling an LGB and T person to find self-acceptance, assurance, strength and comfort – important and essential ingredients in living a fulfilled, healthy and useful life.

Anti-Homophobia and Transphobia Week commences on 12th May; in Northern Ireland, there will be a launch in Belfast City Hall, and throughout Ireland the week ends with church services, including services in Belfast, Londonderry, Dublin, Cork and Limerick.

We are asking churches to support us in our continued mission to counter homophobia and transphobia during this week and beyond; that can start by quiet conversations, awareness sessions and anything which you might feel you need to know in order to make your churches places of welcome and warmth for all.

A short liturgy and prayer suitable for use during the week will be available. In it, we reflect that Christ himself from the margins was often more comfortable with those whom the society of his day treated as outsiders.

I would ask Gazette readers who wish to have any further information about the programme during the week not to hesitate to contact me at the email address below.

Colin Flinn Coordinator NI Anti-Homophobia and Transphobia Week 2014 9-13 Waring Street Belfast BT1 2DX

The Cross

I note that we now witness the outworking of Canon Stephen Neill’s musings on the Fall (Gazette, 7th March) in that in his reflection on the Cross of Christ (18th April) there is no mention of sin.

As I said in my previous correspondence (14th March), the result is that the Cross is robbed of its core meaning – the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world.

I find it sad that we no longer hold to the basic teachings of the Church of Ireland, but continue to espouse novel interpretations based on our own feelings and thoughts.

Alan McCann (The Revd Dr) The Rectory 20 Meadow Hill Close Carrickfergus Co. Antrim BT38 9RQ

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