COI Gazette – 25th August 2017

Sexton prepares for Everest Marathon challenge

Ken Tate competing in the 2007 Everest Marathon

Ken Tate competing in the 2007 Everest Marathon

Ken Tate, Sexton at St George’s parish church, Belfast, will revisit the Himalayas this November to take part in his second Everest Marathon.

Ken took up running in his 40s, and did his first marathon in Belfast on his 50th birthday. Since then, he has participated in city marathons, adventure races and ultra-marathons. He did his first Everest Marathon 10 years ago and despite admitting it was his toughest challenge ever, Ken is all set to do it again!

Starting at 5,184m, close to Everest Base Camp, and finishing in the Sherpa ‘capital’ of Namche Bazaar at 3,446m, this is considered the world’s most spectacular race. Entry is restricted to 75 non-Nepalese with up to 20 Nepalese runners.




If there is one word at the heart of Christian faith it is reconciliation.

That was the purpose of the cross – to reconcile us to God. Colossians 1: 18 is quite specific when it says: “… through him (Christ) to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross”. There is no mistaking the cost of this path to reconciliation for God.

Christ’s command is to “Love your neighbour as yourself (Mark 12: 31). This is easy when we agree with our neighbour or feel they have not wronged us. He also said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5: 43-44). His words are painful and harder to bear when we feel injured by our neighbour.

Reconciliation is something that is easily worked out when the wounds inflicted or suffered are not deep. It is always easier to find healing words when the flames of pain or anger do not burn fiercely. Searching for the steps to reconciliation are harder when the wounds are painfully deep and situations are inflamed with passion.

The steps that God took to make peace with us show just how costly a journey it can be – it took his Son to the cross. Finding the steps to reconciliation requires both wisdom and courage.

The recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, were disturbing in and of themselves. We were all appalled at the displays of hatred, racism and division that led to violence and death. What is also deeply unsettling is what these events uncovered, in terms of simmering divisions.

If reconciliation is the core message of the Christian faith then how should churches speak and act into what happened in Charlottesville, as well as to what those events uncovered? Is there a way that Christians can speak and act that brings reconciliation, rather than just
adding to the cacophony of angry voices?
Christian leaders in Charlottesville made a valuable

contribution amid that ugly situation. In working out the message of reconciliation in those fraught events they did a number of important things (see page 9):

1. They remembered that Christians have been entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation.

2. They stood “in non-confrontational and prayerful opposition to [a] rally” that was to include white supremacists.

3. They bore visible witness to the fact that “people of all races are equal”.

4. They decided that “the Church cannot remain silent in the face of those who seek to foment division”.

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality … I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” Are these the words of someone who is hopelessly naive – watching something from their armchair at a safe distance? These are words spoken by Martin Luther King Jnr.

Living out a message of reconciliation is no easy thing. We are grateful that Christian leaders in Virginia did their best to do so in a deeply disturbing situation. Some other words from Martin Luther King express a core Gospel value in the middle of the strife we witnessed. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Perhaps the most important thing that Christian leaders did in Charlottesville was to hold out the possibility of hope – that Christ offered a different possibility for the future. They acted out of hope, believing and stating that: “The evil of racism is real, but it is not stronger than God’s love embodied in the lives of those committed to justice.”


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Letters to the Editor

Same-sex marriage debate and LGBT+ issues

MR BOAL’S helpful drawing of attention to the importance of context is crucial in debates on sexuality. Words appear in paragraphs, paragraphs appear in chapters, and chapters appear in books. They convey the author’s intent and the author in this case is Christ’s apostle, Paul.

Much recent hermeneutical enterprise reduces the importance of the immediate, textual context and seeks definitive interpretation through an attempted reconstruction of the socio- political world in which the texts were written. Insight is gained by this, of course, but not always conclusively or accurately. We have the God-given words of the Bible but beyond this our knowledge is limited, certainly not fully conclusive or entirely substantiated.

However, Mr Boal has missed something in the immediate context of I Corinthians 6. Admitting that same-sex relationships are sinful, as he appears to do, alongside the other sins in the list of I Corinthians 6, reading a few verses on (18-20), he will have seen that sexual sin occupies a different category in the mind of the apostle: “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honour God with your bodies.”

Paul differentiates individual sins though, of course, all sin (regardless of its expression) reveals our rebellion and excludes us from the Kingdom of God. The context guides our reading of the text.

When we acknowledge this, the questions around what specific words mean becomes even more – not less – important to ascertain whether the Church is faithfully representing the apostolic Gospel. This is her mission: working towards the inclusion of sinful and (amongst many things) sexually broken people into the Kingdom of God. Praise God that because of his deep love this has been made possible through Christ’s cross.

If the Church is unfaithful, however, she will lead to their exclusion for they have never heard the truth which brings freedom. To borrow a phrase: “Carelessly used words cost lives.”

Trevor Johnston (The Revd) Belfast

DERMOT O’CALLAGHAN has sought to present facts to suit but one point of view on same- sex marriage and LGBT+ issues (11th August). Regrettably, this is at the cost of compassionate Christianity.

Whilst the scientific world may discuss mental health and suicide with professional detachment, it is disappointing to see such aloofness still evident in the Church in the manner by which the trauma, heartache and suicide of young people can be discounted so easily, because they fail to conform to what the Church accepts as ‘normal’ or ‘appropriate’.

Mr O’Callaghan attempts to lessen any obligation the Church has to accept or help LGBT+ members. He appeals to science in a quote from Prof. Michael King’s work, Mental health and social wellbeing of gay men, lesbians and bisexuals in England and Wales (2003), that was submitted to the Pilling Report by Core Issues Trust as it appeared in Mr O’Callaghan’s book Beyond Critique (2010).

The choice of this quotation was quite selective as, in his conclusions, Mr King sets it in context thus: “… growing up gay and lesbian in an intolerant society is likely to have a major psychological cost to LGB youth (Savin-Williams, 1994). Homophobia is unlike other prejudices in that it can reach into families and split them apart. Rejection by parents of their own children because of their sexual orientation is likely to have a severe emotional effect on LGB people … Thus, explanations based on the difficulties LGB people face in an unsympathetic society are much more likely explanations for our findings” (ibid).

Mr O’Callaghan accused me of using hypothetical events to illustrate my argument (7th July 2017). To set the record straight, they were factual. I experienced them – two professionally and one personally. Sadly, two were fatalities. I ask again: “What God do we believe in?”
Scott Golden

Delgany Co. Wicklow

Faith and the environment

I WOULD like to draw your readers’ attention to an excellent article, Church and tree-huggers, unite! by Joe Ware of Christian Aid ( It appeared in The Church Times last week.

Joe explains that there have been harmful relations between environmentalists and the Church in the past: “The perceived divide between a gang of godless tree-huggers, on the one side, and an institution that cares only about saving souls at the expense of ecological destruction, on the other, caused a damaging impasse in which both creation care and evangelism suffer.”

Thankfully this frostiness between the Church and the environment is now thawing: “Like the arrival of Aslan in Narnia’s perpetual winter … spring is coming.” The result is huge potential for the Kingdom of God.

Thousands of churches have responded: by reducing fossil-fuel usage through greater energy efficiency and switching energy providers; by greening their investments and divesting from fossil fuels; and by teaching about creation care. As the late evangelist, Rob Frost, put it: “When Christians take the earth seriously, people take the Gospel seriously.”

It is encouraging to hear that parishes across Ireland are asking: “How can we do more?” With harvest approaching, what better time to consider greening your church? May I suggest a first step to look at the ‘Energy Audit’ on the ‘Parish Resources – Land and Buildings’ section of the Church of Ireland website. We all can do more: “Spring is coming”.

Stephen Trew

Lurgan Co. Armagh



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