COI Gazette – 27th April 2012

Bishop Greg Venables in Shankill Church, Lurgan, last week, where he preached at the ‘First Things’ conference service
Bishop Greg Venables in Shankill Church, Lurgan, last week, where he preached at the ‘First Things’ conference service

Church of Ireland must stay together, Bishop Greg Venables tells Gazette

The Bishop of Argentina and former Primate of the Southern Cone, the Rt Revd Greg Venables, a leading theological conservative in global Anglicanism, told the Gazette last week that, should the General Synod adopt a liberal approach to the issue of same-sex relationships, those of a more conservative view should stand together but remain within the Church of Ireland, because their position was “the original Anglicanism – Prayer Book, Bible, original 39 Articles Anglicanism”.

An audio interview with Bishop Greg Venables by Gazette editor can be found here 

[The front page report on the ‘First Things’ Conference is continued in inside page of this issue of the Gazette.]









While the appointment of the next Archbishop of Canterbury should not be driven by the current divisions over same-sex relationships, the ability at least to help those with deep differences over the issue to stay together across the Anglican Communion must be a factor. As far as leading the Church of England itself is concerned, the next Archbishop will have to pick up the pieces after the recent débâcle over the Anglican Covenant (Gazette report, 30th March) and will need to have the vision to forge a new direction, again, helping people to stay together. Both in the Church of England and in the Communion, many fences need to be mended. The Church – and not just in its Anglican expression – is a unity in diversity and the limits of that diversity have been truly tested among Anglicans and lessons are there to be learnt.

Apart from the Anglican Covenant, another major issue facing the Church of England is that of women bishops. That debate is drawing to its final stages, but the outcome is not yet sure because, when it comes to the English General Synod’s Final Approval stage on the matter, two-thirds majorities are required in each House (Bishops, Clergy and Laity). This ‘crunch’ is expected as soon as next July. Whether women bishops are accepted or not, there will be yet more fallout to be handled. These are, indeed, extremely difficult times for anybody to be Archbishop of Canterbury.

The recent trend to alternate more conservative and more liberal appointees would leave a conservative in the frame this time around. Indeed, for that reason, the appointment of a liberal Archbishop would surely alienate conservatives. An illustration of what can happen when one of the major traditions feels sidelined has happened recently in London’s Southwark Diocese, with evangelicals voicing considerable concern over a series of liberal Catholic appointments to senior positions. People can be pushed too far.

Yet, Church leadership requires certain qualities, irrespective of the surrounding circumstances or, indeed, of theological outlooks, however much either may dominate in people’s minds. Holiness, learning and courage of convictions are just three of those qualities. Holiness contains the idea of being ‘set apart’ for a purpose focused specifically on God and, indeed, it is God’s will for everyone; the Kingdom of God itself is the place of complete holiness and is the place into which God calls every person, away from the sin and death that we know in this world. An episcopal leader needs to convey to those being led a sense of that leader having been called apart, not in order to escape from difficult things but, rather, in order to be able to see the world in a proper perspective – the perspective of holiness – and, thereby, to speak both profitably and prophetically to it. Without proper perspective, foresight can be clouded and adequate analysis confounded. Moreover, personal holiness indicates a certain kind of life and character and it is of primary importance when it comes to giving leadership in the Church.

Learning is essential for Church leaders because they need to be able to expound the Scriptures and the Christian faith, as well as meeting the many challenges to faith that are always current, with real competence. The ability to communicate in a clear way, and yet with insights that have real depth and are challenging, is an asset in any Church leader. Episcopal leaders need to be able to connect with ordinary people and at the same time retain their confidence as leaders who possess both understanding and wisdom.

Courage of convictions is not always to the fore in a political world – and ecclesiastical, political manoeuvres are far from unknown in the upper echelons of the Church. In such an environment, people may seek to say the ‘right’ thing, giving rise to a certain culture of deference. Rather, the kind of courage of convictions that real leaders must display is about being willing to say precisely the ‘wrong’ thing. Indeed, that is what Jesus himself did – he said the ‘wrong’ things, went to the ‘wrong’ places and associated with the ‘wrong’ people. Christian leaders have to be prepared to get it ‘wrong’, for the sake of being right and of speaking the truth, however unwelcome it may be for some. This is not about pursuing one’s own agenda, but is about having prayed and having given wise consideration before speaking a true word.

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World News

  • Church in Wales declines to ‘subscribe’ the Anglican Covenant
  • Turkish President and Dutch politician exchange sharp words about religion

Letters to the editor

Titanic Remembered

It was a pleasure reading about the way in which St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, has chosen to commemorate the loss of life on the Titanic.

The funeral pall is not only a very solemn and fitting way to honour the dead, but it also appears to be a most beautiful vehicle to represent our feelings about the tragic event of one hundred years ago.

I, for one, am appalled by the manner in which this sombre event is being celebrated all over the world. Yes, there are some very good memorials, especially the new Titanic Quarter, but we all must remember exactly what we are trying to commemorate.

Congratulations to the Dean of Belfast, the Very Revd John Mann, the textile artists, Helen O’Hare and Wilma Kirkpatrick, the Friends of St Anne’s Cathedral and anyone else who played a part in this memorial.

Janet Walsh, Ranelagh, Dublin 6

Fiscal Treaty

In his interview with the Gazette (13th April issue), the Director of the Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin, Tony Brown, is confident that the 31st May referendum on the Fiscal Treaty will be carried, despite the deep anger in Ireland today to which he refers. I am not. Indeed, when the implications are considered one may expect considerable opposition. Voting ‘no’ means no more EU loans. IMF loans, though, will still be available.

Voting ‘yes’ means reducing government borrowings and running a balanced annual budget.

Sounds good, but in a recession these mean more unemployment and higher taxes, along with lower benefits and fewer services.

These, in turn, mean a declining economy and so the need for more bailout loans from the EU . Under the Fiscal Treaty, the economic future of the Republic is a downward spiral.

To avoid this dismal future three things are necessary: (1) defeat the Fiscal Treaty, (2) leave the euro currency, and (3) arrange a controlled deferral of sovereign debt. Plain and clear.

Robert Irwin, Limerick

Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue

As a Catholic and an Ulsterman once removed, having lived all my life in the USA and been engaged in ecumenical dialogue with Anglicans (Episcopalians) and others since 1964, perhaps I might comment briefly on your editorial (23rd March) summary and evaluation of ARCIC I, II and the beginning of III.

The many Anglican Provinces have responded in diverse ways to the 10 or so ARCIC major agreed statements. The Church of Ireland has been particularly critical, especially on the teaching authority and Mariology statements.

I have always maintained that the “agreed” dimension of these agreed statements is to be identified more with the theologians of the Commission than with the Church Provinces themselves. The Catholic Episcopal Conferences and the Roman See have also given only a qualified approval, as on instances of convergence, to most of these statements.

In an Anglican editorial, we are understandably chided (para.4) for our position on Anglican Orders, ‘inter-communion’, the non-priestly ordination of women and the recent Ordinariate (which, incidentally, was not instituted to be “attractive” to some Anglicans, but to answer a desperate plea from a small number of Anglicans on several continents to live in full communion with the Holy See).

If your comment about having clear rules on fundamentals and then setting them aside at will refers to free-wheeling actions by individual Catholic clergy, this lamentable aberration deserves reprimand from their diocesan bishops.

If you want to face an even tighter barrier on Orders, women’s ordination and ‘intercommunion’, consult the canonical Orthodox Churches. This will be an eye-opener for those Anglicans who don’t live in community or in dialogue with the Orthodox.

I will not chide Anglicans or the Church of Ireland for their inner-doctrinal conflicts or for their impatience with Rome because I know that these positions, like our own, are matters of sincere conviction. Yet I do maintain, with Rowan Williams and with your editorial, that the way ahead is still one of prayer, affection, respect and rigorous dialogue.

Daniel S. Hamilton (Msgr)
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church
New York

Features and Columns

  • Focus on Dublin and Glendalough
  • Soap – Down at St David’s
  • Musings – Alison Rooke – Pampered pooches
  • News Feature –  ‘First Things’ conference (continued from page 1)

News Extra

  • Tributes paid to ‘pioneer of peacemaking’ –  The Revd Dr Ray Davey
  • London demand for Anglican, Roman Catholic abuse inquiry
  • Appointment
  • Retirement
  • Death