COI Gazette – 25th May 2012

ARCIC ponders ecumenical future for Anglicans and Roman Catholics


Archbishop David Moxon (Photo ACNS)

As a meeting of the third phase of the A n g l i c a n – R o m a n Catholic International Commission (ARCIC -III ) earlier this month in Hong Kong drew to a close, participants emphasized the importance of social witness and openness in ecumenical dialogue.

The Commission is addressing interrelated issues: the Church as Communion – local and universal – and discerning right ethical teaching.

“There seem to be many obstacles from a human point of view, and it does not seem likely to have full visible unity in the near future,” New Zealand Primate and ARCIC Co-Chair, Archbishop David Moxon, said. “We can, however, do a lot of things together during this slow process,” he added.





On Whit Sunday, the Church marks the gift of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and ten days after his Ascension. The Resurrection tells of the ever-living Christ; the Ascension tells of Christ’s exaltation in the heavenly realms; Pentecost tells of the bestowal of spiritual power on the Church to carry out the mission with which it is entrusted. The title, ‘the birthday of the Church’, is thus associated with Pentecost, the Holy Spirit having inspired the earliest Christians to tell forth the good news of the Gospel. Thereby, they saw membership of the Church grow steadily in number. It is the same Holy Spirit who inspires us today to call others into the household of faith.

St Paul tells of the work of the Spirit in his Epistle to the Galatians, in particular identifying the fruit of the Spirit as a wonderful combination of virtues: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (5: 22f, NI V). Every Christian must aspire to each and every one of these virtues and must pray that they will all be made manifest in his or her life. Being human and weak, however, we far from always succeed in allowing the Spirit to bear that full fruit in our lives.

We harbour resentment, we are mean, we become petulant, we fight, we go astray and we indulge ourselves. All this arises from a self-centredness that, in fact, spells spiritual death.

Whit Sunday, calling us in heart and mind to look again to the Holy Spirit to quicken in our lives everything that is good, is a special opportunity for really opening ourselves to the prompting and moving of the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit comes as a truly dynamic force in our lives, driving us into the unknown but also leading us by God’s eternal goodness. There is that unpredictability about the Spirit, but also that assurance that the way in which the Spirit leads is always deeper into the life of God.

The Spirit can come like a mighty wind or a gentle breeze but, however the Spirit comes, the new life that we are brought is always a blessing from on high.

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Letters to the Editor

General Synod resolution on human sexuality

I was recently in New York and took time to stroll around Harlem, visiting the famous sites of the African American civil rights movement. Christians were at the forefront of the freedom marches of the 1960s and the Church showed inspirational leadership in the emancipation of African Americans.

On the other hand, in the 19th century, pro-slavery Christian theologians were characterised by a moral and intellectual certitude based upon their literal interpretation of Scripture.

In the New Testament, Paul’s writings were particularly emphasised to support the slave owners. For these Christians, slavery was God’s will.

On the opposite side of New York to Harlem is Christopher Park in the west village. This commemorates the ‘Stonewall Rebellion’, a civil rights uprising by the gay and lesbian community in 1969 which was brutally squashed by police.

It was the first time that this community refused to accept governmentsponsored persecution against them. Like the people of Harlem, they rose up to assert their right to exist as equals. The Church was notably absent from these freedom marches.

The Christopher Park monument comprises two white sculptures: one has two, life-size men standing side by side, and the other has two women sitting next to each other on a park bench. Their poses are not dramatic, but are gently powerful, invoking a sense of intimacy in everyday life.

The sculptures were initially refused planning due to complaints by residents at the original location. Instead, they were installed at Stanford University, only to be repeatedly removed due to attacks which included assaulting the monument with a ball-hammer, painting it black and having the word ‘AIDS ’ sprayed on it.

Finally, the City of New York gave this gentle memorial a home in a tiny park close to the Stonewall Inn, where the 1969 resistance began.

The story of these sculptures demonstrates the extent to which gay, lesbian and other people who do not fit the ‘one man + one woman = normative’ model invoked at our recent General Synod (Gazette report, last week) have experienced the most venomous marginalisation and repression.

Like the African Americans before them, they too were pushed to the margins of society. Sadly, the Church has not shown much leadership, but has contributed to the hatred. Like 19th century pro-slavery theologians, the Church again invokes literal readings of selected Scriptures to assert its position.

Thank God two Irish Anglican Bishops have found the courage to stand against the motion.

Larry Stapleton (Dr)-  Thomastown Co. Kilkenny

Addressing the US PG Conference in Swanwick, Derbyshire, in 2008, the Archbishop of Armagh argued for “a return to the heart of Anglicanism” in order to “resolve contemporary issues”.

In appealing to Hooker, he argued that the classical Anglican model of holding Scripture, reason and tradition in creative tension was sorely needed, and concluded (very moderately, it has to be said): “Finally, let us be clear on this: it has not yet been conclusively shown that for some males and some females homosexuality and homosexual acts are natural rather than unnatural. If such comes to be shown, it will be necessary to acknowledge the full implications of that new aspect of the truth, and that insight applied to establish and acknowledge what may be a new status for homosexual relationships within the life of the Church.”

It is difficult to see how the motion passed at the recent General Synod reflects such an approach. The unfortunate phrase, “human sexuality within the context of Christian belief”, appears to preclude any engagement with the important insights of disciplines outside the Church: so much for reason.

The motion passed would hold the Church’s teaching on marriage to a canon that makes no reference to Scripture at all: so much for Scripture.

It appears we are left – perversely, given the proposer’s attachment to reason and the seconder’s attachment to Scripture – with tradition.

Tradition alone will not serve us well, for on its own, it requires the defining enforcement of a magisterium. Regrettably, recent events suggest that that is the direction in which we are heading.

Rupert Moreton (The Revd),  Cork

I am sure that I am not the only member of the Church of Ireland who is deeply disappointed with the motion on human sexuality passed at General Synod. Indeed, I have heard many people actively bemoaning the passing of a motion which is very little more than thinly-veneered homophobia.

How ironic, then, that it was passed the day before Changing Attitude Ireland celebrated the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia.

This resolution holds procreation to be the primary focus of marriage, in accordance with Canon 31. The worry arising out of the motion’s focus on procreation as the primary function of marriage is that it discriminates against same-sex couples and couples who are unable to have children or who wish to adopt.

This strikes me as wholly unChristian, as it falls short of the Commandment of Love which asserts that we are to love one another as Christ loved us.

It is my fear that this resolution will lead to people feeling marginalised and alienated from the Church, and that it has resulted in significantly more harm than good.

Instead of building fences on which to sit, General Synod and the House of Bishops need to engage in active, inclusive debate with a mind to reaching a decision which ensures that the Church can continue in a spirit of Christianity, acceptance and love.

Samuel White, Killaloe Co. Clare, Cork

As someone who was unable to be at the General Synod this year, I am perplexed as to how best to interpret the resolution passed on the final day.

Take the very ambiguous word ‘normative’, which the Archbishop of Dublin was at pains to explain contained no implication of ‘abnormal’ for anyone.

What does it, in fact, mean in this context? The word appears to have at least three slightly differing meanings: (1) What usually happens, standard practice; (2) What ought to happen, ideally, but sometimes – or even often – doesn’t; (3) What must happen, with no exceptions.

The only precedent I can find for its use (as the noun rather than the adjective) in the context of a meeting of the General Synod is in a liturgical document presented in 1982, where it is said of the combined service of Adult Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion (a form ultimately to be found in the 2004 Prayer Book): “While this may not be practical in all cases … this service sets out an important doctrinal norm.”

This would conform to (2) above, but obviously not to (1) or (3). Yet its use in the context of the resolution suggests that (3) is the concept involved, although every clergyperson in the Church of Ireland is aware that many couples have clearly had a relationship, sometimes involving children, prior to marriage, and pastoral necessity requires an understanding that approximates more to (2).

So, could we have an authoritative interpretation of what ‘normative’ means in the document, not only in the opinion of the proposer (and seconder?) but also of the assessors and canon lawyers of our Church?

Michael C. Kennedy (Canon), Newtownhamilton Road Armagh

Following on from the vote in General Synod on Saturday 12th May last, Canon Ginnie Kennerley, in her interview with BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence programme the following day, stated: “It was unfortunate that such a large number of northern voters appeared … when the southern more liberal people had gone home.”

Perhaps Canon Kennerley could explain to a member of the northern Church of Ireland laity like myself exactly whose misfortune it was? Surely a good ‘liberal’ like herself is not opposed to ‘northerners’ exercising their right to vote at Synod? Or is it the case that, in the long-standing tradition of ‘liberals’ everywhere, anyone who has the temerity to vote for traditional and conservative values is of a lesser intellectual status than those who perceive themselves to occupy a more ‘enlightened’ position?

It is also surprising that Canon Kennerley seems to have placed limitations upon her inclusivity, tolerance and welcome.

Surely she is open to, welcoming of and tolerant towards those whom she somewhat pejoratively dismisses as “northern”?

The real issue, of course, with the exercise of the franchise in General Synod is not that of ‘northerners’ turning up at unfortunate times for ‘southern liberals’, but rather the archaic voting rights which see the five northern dioceses under-represented.

No doubt a renowned liberal like Canon Kennerly would not object to the initiation of a long overdue review of those voting rights to ensure fair and equal representation for all dioceses in the Church, whether north or south.

Or would she?

Lewis Singleton, Markethill Co. Armagh

Streaming the General Synod

This year’s General Synod debates held a rare interest for those ‘outside the hall’ for obvious reasons.

Our hunger was fed by scraps disseminated, inter alia, by the media and various websites. Inevitably, many of those interested in keeping us updated had a view of the matters under discussion which influenced their decisions as to what information to share.

However, I noticed on the evening news that Christ Church Cathedral had been fitted with large television monitors so that all those at Synod could see clearly what was going on up at the front.

I wonder if it would be possible at future meetings for this television feed to be streamed live over the Internet, thereby allowing people to see and hear for themselves?

Next year’s Synod, of course, may not generate the same level of interest, but in this modern age, it seems a pity not to take advantage of technological advances to allow those who are interested to be kept as fully informed as possible.

Patrick G. Burke (The Revd) Castlecomer Co. Kilkenny

Royal Invitation Call

I write in enthusiastic support of Dean John Bond (Gazette, 11th May) in calling for a visit by a member of the Royal Family to General Synod.

The success of Queen Elizabeth’s visit to the Republic last year revealed that there was a genuine desire to heal the wounds of the past and to move our respective countries forward into a mature relationship where such visits were the norm rather than the rare exception.

As one born in Cork before the Irish Free State became a Republic in 1949, I am entitled to a United Kingdom passport and was brought up in a family atmosphere where the Royal Family was always held in high regard.

My maternal grandmother saw no conflict in declaring that she was both British and Irish and bitterly regretted the separation of the 26 counties from the rest of the United Kingdom in 1922.

Like Dean Bond, I do hope the proposition will be given serious consideration.

Peter T. Hanna (The Revd) Farnahoe Innishannon Co. Cork


Chair of the Primates’ Meeting

The Archbishop of Armagh (Gazette, 4th May) expresses concern that if the chairperson of the Primates’ Meeting were elected by the Primates themselves (with a limited term of office), it might give “more, not less, weight to the office of chairperson”. This centralisation of power has already happened.

Of the four ‘instruments of communion’, the Archbishop of Canterbury made decisive personal interventions in shaping the outcomes of the 2008 Lambeth Conference and the 2009 Anglican Consultative Council. He also controls the agenda for the Primates’ Meeting. The fourth instrument is himself.

Archbishop Coggan’s aspiration that the Primates’ Meeting be for “leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation” needs a historical update. The 1978 Lambeth resolution 12, which created the Primates’ Meeting, directly follows resolution 11 which “advises member Churches not to take action regarding issues which are of concern to the whole Anglican Communion without consultation with a Lambeth Conference or with the episcopate through the Primates’ Committee”.

Lambeth 1988 then called for the Primates’ Meeting to have “enhanced responsibility”. Lambeth 1998 expressly repeated that request. The call from the Bishops was clear.

By contrast, after the 2011 Dublin Primates’ Meeting, a Church of England Newspaper report said: “Dr Williams has now effectively gathered the authority once held by other instruments of the Communion into his own hands, and into those of a London-based bureaucracy.” It judged that the meeting marked “an end to the [Anglican] Communion as we know it”.

If the absent Primates had attended, they would, indeed, have been able to “express their views”, but, sadly, their experience has been that the Archbishop of Canterbury can then decide which of the agreed actions to implement.

How could an elected chairmanship give yet more weight to that office?

Dermot O’Callaghan,  Hillsborough Co. Down

Book of Common Prayer anniversary

I was delighted to see the prominence given in the Gazette (11th May) to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer’s 350th anniversary.

As members of the Prayer Book Society, my husband and I were fortunate to have received invitations to the service in St Paul’s Cathedral, London, and the reception later in the crypt.

Evensong was glorious, although I recall, when I was first introduced to it, singing more of the Canticles and responses. It was lovely to worship beside such likeminded people.

At the reception, we were pleasantly surprised at how many people knew about the Church of Ireland and Northern Ireland in pre- and post-Agreement times.

It was a wonderful feeling to be in communion with our fellow-Anglicans. Bishop Chartres worked very diligently around the ‘room’, as did the Lord Archbishop and several others.

I left a few copies of the Gazette with a young priest who recognised the publication right away!

In a week where mighty matters were discussed in Dublin and we struggle to retain our unity, it was uplifting to see the Gazette’s ‘Prayer Book’ headline.

Joan Hill (Mrs),  Carrickfergus

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