COI Gazette – 25th July 2014

C. of E. must ‘model good disagreement’ after women bishops accepted by General Synod

Archbishop Justin Welby addressing the Church of England General Synod in York (Photo: Peter Owen)

Archbishop Justin Welby addressing the Church of England General Synod in York (Photo: Peter Owen)

Following a day of debate on the issue of women in the episcopate at last week’s Church of England General Synod meeting in York (Monday 14th July), at least two-thirds majorities in the Houses of Laity, Clergy and Bishops voted in favour of the Measure.

The voting was: • Bishops: 37 in favour, 2 against, 1 abstention • Clergy: 162 in favour, 25 against, 4 abstentions • Laity: 152 in favour, 45 against, 5 abstentions

Before the vote, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, who chaired the proceedings, asked for the result to be met “with restraint and sensitivity”, but when it was announced, there was a flurry of cheers.

The vote came 18 months after the proposal was last voted upon in November 2012, when it failed to achieve the required two-thirds majority in the House of Laity.


Women Bishops in the Church of England

The decision last week of the Church of England’s General Synod to allow women to become bishops was the culmination literally of years of campaigning and debate within the Synod itself. Proposals for the change two years ago failed by only a few votes in the House of Laity, but, in the meantime, much discussion went on to find a way forward that would be more acceptable to the opponents, and Archbishop Justin Welby has been to the fore in seeking a compromise. There were ‘facilitated conversations’ and the House of Bishops set out a Declaration indicating the consideration which those who, in conscience, cannot accept a woman bishop’s ministry would receive. Perhaps most crucially, however, these moves allowed those who had been in favour in 2012 but had voted against the proposals – because they felt opponents were not receiving sufficient assurances about their place in the Church – to switch to a ‘yes’ vote.

The Church of England being by law established, the change has now to be considered by Parliament, a procedure that does seem strange to us in Ireland but which is accepted quite naturally in England. There need, of course, be no worries about Westminster overruling the General Synod. In fact, it had been mooted that if the General Synod had failed for a second time to allow for women bishops, Parliament could have gone right ahead itself and changed the law. In the end, no such option was necessary and the Church made up its mind in a decisive way. After acceptance by Parliament, the General Synod, meeting in November, will formally carry out the promulgation that women may be bishops, but there will be no further debate.

No doubt, the fact that the Church of Ireland already has a woman bishop, in the person of the Bishop of Meath and Kildare, provided evidence of how the move not only would enrich the Church but also would not lead to the sky falling in. In the Church of England, it has been commented that Bishop Storey’s ministry has been received in a most natural way, as indeed it has.

The question now arises as to when a woman may in fact be appointed as a bishop in the Church of England. There being many more bishops than in the Church of Ireland, there is scope for an early appointment, possibly before the end of this year. There is even the suggestion that more than one woman bishop may be announced at the same time. This would be possible because the English episcopal appointments system is different from ours in the Church of Ireland. A permanent Commission does the work and, while no doubt not a perfect way of doing things, it does allow for some planning in terms of balancing the House of Bishops with regard to particular abilities, theological approaches, and now gender.


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Letters to the Editor 

Lord Eames’ comments on victim definition

COMMENTS MADE by the former Archbishop of Armagh, Lord Eames, in the 4th July Gazette, where he shared his belief that the statutory definition of a victim during the Troubles needs to take account of the distinction between those who were engaged in lawful and unlawful activities, are to be welcomed. As Lord Eames correctly indicated, the drafting of wording for a new definition is critical. Innocent Victims United would suggest that the following exclusions be built into a new definition framework: (a) Someone who was, or ever has been, a member of a proscribed organisation; (b) Any person who was psychologically or physically injured during an unlawful act for which he or she was wholly or partly responsible, either in the preparation of that act or the perpetration of that act; (c) Any person who has been, or continues to be, involved in any unlawful terrorist-related activity; and (d) Any family member/ partner who seeks the legal status of ‘victim’ on the basis of unlawful activity perpetrated by a family member/partner which resulted in that individual’s own death or injury.

We acknowledge that perpetrators and their families ive among us in Northern Ireland and affirm that if such individuals require the support of psychological or welfare- based services, the State has an obligation to provide such support. However, what the State does not have to do is recognise such individuals as ‘victims’, thereby providing them with a rationale decriminalising terrorism and equating themselves with those whom they so grievously wronged.

Kenneth Donaldson Innocent Victims United 1 Manderwood Square Manderwood Park Lisnaskea Co. Fermanagh BT92 OFS

I VERY much welcome Lord Eames’ comments in The Church of Ireland Gazette (4th July) in which he indicated that he wants to see the definition of a victim changed to draw a distinction between lawful activity and unlawful acts. The Ulster Unionist Party has long believed that the current definition of a victim contained in the existing Victims and Survivors (Northern Ireland) Order 2006, is totally unsatisfactory. It defines a victim and survivor as someone injured as a result of a conflict- related incident, someone who provides a substantial amount of care on a regular basis for such an individual, or someone bereaved as a result of such an incident. At its worst, this facilitates some kind of moral equivalence between terrorists and members of the lawfully constituted security forces.

Tom Elliott MLA Parliament Buildings Stormont Belfast BT4 3XX

Canon 31

I AM disappointed that senior members of the Church have not responded to my letter in the 6th June Gazette concerning the definition of marriage as promulgated by the Church in reliance on Canon 31.

In that letter, I referred to the unsatisfactory response of the Revd Adrian Dorrian, Chair of the Church and Society Commission, to my original letter which, together with Mr Dorrian’s response, had been published in the 23rd May Gazette. Canon 31 declares that “marriage is in its purpose a union permanent and life-long, for better or worse, till death do them part, of one man with one woman”, and this definition was reiterated by the General Synod in 2012 by resolution 8A with the inclusion of the words “to the exclusion of all others believe, to those purposes of marriage and no other and, taking into consideration the second purpose mentioned, certainly do not allow for the tolerance of remarriage after divorce when the first spouse is still living.

I realise that Canon 31 has been amended to allow for the remarriage of divorced persons, but I cannot see how the positions can possibly be reconciled.

Applying the most basic rules of logic, this definition of marriage does not, and cannot, include a form of marriage contracted by a divorced person whose former spouse is still living.

Tim Bracken 191 Blarney Street Cork

Pastoral visiting

THE 13th June issue of The Church of Ireland Gazette noted the Presbyterian General Assembly’s report where the word “visiting” had been replaced by “pastoral care”, but “visiting” was retained “as others felt that visiting homes was an intrinsic part of ministry”. How true.

At my ordination, a wise old clergyman said: “You’ll need three books: a Bible, a Prayer Book and a visiting book. Study your Bible, say your prayers and visit your people. This is the threefold cord. Never let it be broken. All else in the ministry is secondary.”

Where we, for whatever reason, gave up on regular house visits as a priority, so the sects and others moved in to fill the vacuum and we lost out.

Time and energy spent on modern means of pastoral care and communication may sometimes be helpful, but that is no substitute, as the marauding sects, Gospel Halls and others have shown to our cost.

In 1947, the Church of Ireland population in Northern Ireland was 345,474 in a total population of 1,279,745, nearly 25%. In 2013, the Church of Ireland population in Northern Ireland was 249,000 in a total population of 1.8 million or 13.7%. While this substantial reduction in Church of Ireland numbers may be attributed to various causes, e.g. emigration, the Troubles, etc., the Presbyterian Assembly’s emphasis on ‘home visiting’ should sound a note of warning.

Victor G. Griffin (The Very Revd) 7 Tyler Road Limavady Co. Londonderry BT49 0DW


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