COI Gazette – 25th October 2013

Publication of theological dissertations – ‘significant moment’ for the Church of Ireland

Dr Christina Baxter (front, left) launches the ‘Braemor Studies Series’ in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute with Dr Susan Hood and (back, from left) the Revd Alistair Morrison, Dr Raymond Refaussé, the Revd Dr Maurice Elliott, the Revd Jonathan Campbell-Smyth and the Revd John Godfrey. (Photo: Paul Harron)

Dr Christina Baxter (front, left) launches the ‘Braemor Studies Series’ in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute with Dr Susan Hood and (back, from left) the Revd Alistair Morrison, Dr Raymond Refaussé, the Revd Dr Maurice Elliott, the Revd Jonathan Campbell-Smyth and the
Revd John Godfrey. (Photo: Paul Harron)

A new series of selected dissertations by Masters (MT h) students at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute (CITI ), Dublin, was recently launched in the Institute by Canon Dr Christina Baxter, formerly Principal of St John’s College, Nottingham. Published by Church of Ireland Publishing (CIP), the ‘Braemor Studies Series’ is seen as an exciting new development in the life of the Institute. The first three titles from the MT h students who graduated in 2012 are:

• New Monasticism – a Catalyst for the Church of Ireland to Connect with Society? by the Revd Jonathan Campbell- Smyth, curate-assistant of Jordanstown, Diocese of Connor.

• The Place of Lament and the ‘Catharsis of the Complaint’ in Response to the Problem of Evil by the Revd John Godfrey, curate assistant of Galway, Diocese of Tuam.

• The New Masculinity Movement: A Viable Model for Engaging Men with God and the Church? by the Revd Alistair Morrison, curate assistant of Ballyholme, Diocese of Down.



The Archbishop of Dublin’s presidential address last week at the Synods of Dublin and Glendalough (report, page 4) was wideranging, as such addresses tend to be, but it was the section headed, ‘Diversity of Similarity – Human Sexuality as a Metaphor’, that drew considerable comment. Archbishop Jackson declared that “the trench warfare of human sexuality has become the place where we have both contrived and fed ‘the clash of civilizations’ among ourselves”, adding: “Incredibly, we have been content to deChristianize one another in the cause of truth as we obsessively define and refine it.”

This was the first gauntlet thrown down by Dr Jackson: we, in the Church of Ireland, are implicitly asked to examine ourselves, yet more deeply than heretofore, over the way we regard and treat one another on this subject.

(Cf. Letter from Pam Tilson, page 10) However, Dr Jackson’s criticism of the Church of Ireland at large led on to criticism of his own United Dioceses; he was not about to complain about the Church nationally while ignoring the Church on his own doorstep. The Archbishop said he had learned through “much bitter experience” in the United Dioceses that exclusionary attitudes and sectarianism were “alive not least in the Church of Ireland community”, describing this as causing him “a deep and shattering sadness”.

Certainly, the Church of Ireland in Dublin and Glendalough does not strike one as being a place – a community – of sectarianism which would give rise to distress of such proportions. However, there is no doubt that Dr Jackson is both an erudite and a thoughtful Archbishop – as his ‘Sequel’ paper which we publish this week in full on pages 6 and 7 undoubtedly shows – and, given the unequivocal nature of his words, it is naturally the duty of all concerned to give his concerns due consideration.

This was the second time this year that Dr Jackson voiced his feelings in public about his perceptions of sectarianism around him, having referred last April, in an address at Trinity, to his experience since returning to Dublin as showing that “sectarianism, although polite in speech and smile, is alive and well in instinct and in prejudice”. So, the Archbishop clearly intends that his words about sectarianism are to be heard. Thus, the second gauntlet appeared.



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Letters to the Editor

Human Sexuality

The Church of Ireland General Synod 2012 made a commitment to its lesbian and gay members. The motion on sexuality which it passed committed our Church to a “willingness to increase our awareness of the complex issues regarding human sexuality”.

This was accompanied by an acknowledgement “that members of the Church have at times hurt and wounded people by words and actions, in relation to human sexuality”. The Synod requested Standing Committee to progress work on the issue of human sexuality.

The next steps for the dioceses were described by Bishop Patrick Rooke in a feature in the Gazette of 15th February 2013, where he explained that “the stories and views of a spectrum of gay and lesbian people, and their families, should be heard and that facilitation should be informed and sensitive”.

My experience as a lesbian member of our Church is that the Select Committee and most of the dioceses are not fulfilling their commitments.

Regrettably, the Select Committee does not have a single member who is selfidentifying gay or lesbian.

When I met the planners of the diocesan ‘listening events’ for both the dioceses of Derry and Armagh, I impressed on them that their events should involve members of synods listening to and talking to gay people in the Church, not about them.

Sadly, my request has been ignored in Derry and Armagh and it appears that my meeting with the organisers served as a ‘tick box’ exercise.

Some of us lesbian and gay members of the Church then requested that we might be allowed to be present at the tripartite (Derry, Armagh, Dublin) diocesan event on human sexuality on 19th October 2013. This took courage on behalf of the gay and lesbian members of our Church who were prepared to be so identified.

Initially, we believed that our inclusion had been agreed, only to discover at a late stage that we were excluded. So, the opportunity was denied to us to have our gay and lesbian stories and views heard – and so our experience of hurt and exclusion in the Church of Ireland is perpetuated.

Many gay and lesbian members of the Church feel that they can no longer endure such continuing marginalisation. We can only hope and pray that heterosexual Christians will cease to remain silent about our Church’s failure to live up to its commitments as agreed in the General Synod motion.

Pam Tilson Newtownabbey Co. Antrim

Women in the Episcopate

I write in a purely personal capacity and not as Treasurer of Reform Ireland.

What a wonderfully inclusive Church of Ireland Dr Kennedy advocates in his letter in 18th October Gazette. He allows no room for anyone who in any way disagrees with the recent election by the House of Bishops (not an electoral college) of a woman to the episcopate.

I wonder if Dr Kennedy would equally have applied the same logic to those ordained prior to 1990 – in that they were joining a Church that did not ordain women to the presbyterate or consecrate them Bishop?

Therefore, if I apply his logic correctly, such people, if they wished to see women ordained, should have sought out a Church that allowed them to do so, as, prior to 1990, the Church of Ireland did not allow such to take place.

Further, does Dr Kennedy equally apply his edict to those who are advocating and agitating for the Church fully to embrace sexual practice which it has considered sinful for two millennia? If I follow his argument correctly, such people should leave the Church of Ireland, as the Church of Ireland believes that heterosexual marriage is the only normative context for sexual relationships, restating its position on this issue at Synod 2012.

Therefore, Bishop Burrows, Dean Tom Gordon and Changing Attitude Ireland should, according to Dr Kennedy’s logic, seek an alternative Church in which to minister.

Dr Kennedy has maybe overlooked the logical outworking of his ‘inclusiveness’.

Alan McCann (The Revd Dr) 20 Meadow Hill Close Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim

Guides’ Promise

In light of the recent statement made by the Standing Committee of General Synod regarding Girlguiding UK’s revised Promise (Gazette, 27th September), the Irish Girl Guides (IGG) would like to clarify its own position. IGG members reside in the Republic only and make a different Promise to that of Girlguiding UK members.

Following a lengthy consultation process with our members, we made the decision in 2010 to alter the wording of our Promise slightly to: “I promise on my honour to do my best to do my duty to my God* and my country, to help other people at all times and to obey the Guide Law”. (*Members have the option of replacing the word ‘God’ with the word ‘faith’, according to their spiritual beliefs.)

The Promise has been the core ethos of our organisation since it was founded in 1911 and it was decided that the wording should be updated to bring it into line with modern society. IGG is an inclusive organisation that welcomes girls from all faiths.

We think it important to clarify our position, since Girlguiding UK’s recent decision to omit the word ‘God’ has created some confusion, with some people wondering if the change also applies to Girl Guides in the Republic of Ireland.

IGG’s aims include encouraging girls to develop a knowledge and understanding of spiritual values in their daily lives, as well as developing skills in leadership and decisionmaking and developing a sense of social responsibility.

Linda Peters Chief Executive Officer Irish Girl Guides 27 Pembroke Park Dublin 4


Columns & Features


  • Feature – ‘Sequel’ to part of the Archbishop of Dublin’s 15th October Presidential Address to Dublin and Glendalough Diocesan Synods
  • Focus on Cork, Cloyne and Ross
  • Soap – Down at St. David’s
  • Musings – Alison Rooke – Facing the inevitable

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