COI Gazette – 27th January 2017

Bishop McDowell speaks of Christian unity and responsibility in society at large


The Bishop of Clogher, the Rt Revd John McDowell (pictured), was the preacher last week at the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity cathedral services in Armagh and Belfast.

They were held in the Roman Catholic Church’s St Peter’s and St Patrick’s cathedrals in Belfast and Armagh respectively.

Bishop McDowell said that “there is an identity greater than every other and which transcends every other way of being in the world … the reality which the Gospel writers call the Kingdom of God”.

He added that, in his view, “the principal purpose of ecumenical endeavour” was to bring into the light of day the reality of the new identity that is found in the life of that Kingdom.

He continued: “The principal purpose behind a Week such as this, and services such as this, is to make the unity of the society of believers driven on by the love of Christ as clear as it can possibly be.

“We, I think, all strive towards ‘visible unity’ but now understand that to mean something other than institutional unity.”





The US Episcopal News Service’s Mary Frances Schjonberg reported before last week’s inauguration of President Donald Trump that the involvement of Washington National Cathedral and its choir in an inauguration service had caused concern in parts of the Episcopal Church. She reported that, after news of the choir’s participation had prompted “a deluge of comments on social media as well as emails to officials involved”, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Bishop of Washington Mariann Budde and Washington Cathedral’s Dean Randolph Hollerith all issued statements addressing those concerns.

Bishop Curry said: “We recognise that this election has been contentious, and the Episcopal Church, like our nation, has expressed a diversity of views, some of which have been born in deep pain … When I pray for our leaders, why am I doing so? Should I pray for a leader I disagree with? When I pray, what do I think I am accomplishing?” He said that the tradition of prayer meant that Episcopalians were praying that “their leadership will truly serve not partisan interest, but the common good”.

Bishop Budde, while saying she was “alarmed” by some of Mr Trump’s words and actions, said that Episcopal churches “welcome all people into our houses of prayer” and that this did not mean condoning “offensive speech or behaviour”, nor did it signal agreement with an intention to “legitimize”. The Bishop of Washington also pointed out that “in times of national division, the Episcopal Church is called to be a place where those who disagree can gather for prayer and learning and to work for the good of all”.

Dean Hollerith commented: “Our choir is singing at the inauguration to honour the peaceful transition of power that is at the heart of our democratic government. Let me be clear: We do not pray or sing to bless a political ideology or partisan agenda, regardless of the man – or woman – taking that sacred oath of office. We sing to honour the nation.”

The unease over the inauguration of President Trump was palpable and provided a stark contrast with what would normally have been expected – a moment of national goodwill as power transferred from one President to the next, as well as a moment of real hope for the future, as opposed to the widespread sense of foreboding and even fear against the background of unsavoury allegations, however much denied. The prayers of the people are thus all the more important as Businessman Trump becomes President Trump.

Certainly, as far as the United Kingdom is concerned, the new President’s clear intention to help with a post-Brexit trade agreement is reassuring, even if it begs questions about precisely what the nature of any agreement would be, particularly in terms of product standards and employment conditions. The Financial Times reported last week that Mr Trump had promised “the rapid launch and conclusion of a trade agreement with the UK to help the government of Theresa May make Brexit a ‘great success’.” However, the newspaper also pointed out that, nonetheless, there were “hurdles” facing such an agreement in terms of the new UK-EU relationship, the length of time it actually does take to conclude trade agreements, and issues of financial and other regulations.

Donald Trump personifies what is recognised as a new ‘populism’, that is to say an appeal to the mass of people couched in both simple and emotionally charged terms. While populism can give rise to extremes and therefore has its clear perils, at least one of the good things about democracy is that it allows the ordinary people to challenge a political elite. Nonetheless, populism is a danger in the democratic world and that is one reason why checks and balances are built into democratic political systems. Let us hope, and pray, that President Trump achieves good things for the American people and for the world, and that, as and when necessary, Washington’s checks and balances do their job.


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Letters to the Editor

Northern Ireland election

AS WE cope with yet another time of crisis and political uncertainty in Northern Ireland, I believe something I came across very recently should be taken to heart by our political leaders – not that they will listen to me!

In January 1948, Gandhi began a fast to convince Hindus and Muslims to work for peace. Some six days later that harmony was achieved and Gandhi ended his fast.

Gandhi was convinced that Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (St Matthew Chapters 5-7) contained a truth more powerful than the Empire that occupied his native India or the enmity that divided Hindus and Muslims.

He read those chapters every morning and sought to put Jesus’ teaching into practice for the sake of peace.

Surely it is within the realms of possibility for our political leaders who are seeking election to the Northern Ireland Assembly to do the same and also take to heart the words of Jesus at the conclusion of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, when he said: “Go and do likewise.”

I was also interested to read that Martin Luther King, born in 1929 and tragically assassinated April
1968, insisted that the Church exists as the “conscience” of the State, speaking prophetically to those in power.

As we mourn the recent death of Dean Victor Griffin, one of the great prophetic voices of the Church of Ireland, sadly that prophetic voice seems to be somewhat silent in our Church today.

Incidentally, the sermon Dr King intended to preach the Sunday after his tragic death was titled ‘Why America may go to Hell’ – prophetic, or what?

John F.A. Bond (The Very Revd) Broughshane Co. Antrim

Israel-Palestine situation

REPRESENTATIVES FROM 70 countries have met in Paris and called for a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.

Why not? Two sovereign independent states. Sounds like a nice idea.

Unfortunately not so nice. There is a problem. The problem is that that the political parties, Hamas and Hezbollah, in the two sections of Palestine are ultra- racist.

Officially, the two parties advocate peaceful independent states. Unofficially, their plan is the destruction of Israel and the creation of a single Muslim state in the region.

By denying their actual purpose of driving out Jews from Israel and Palestine they hope to get the first step of a sovereign Palestinian state supported by western media and governments.

Once established, this independent state could then be used as a base for arming paramilitaries and for launching rocket and infiltration attacks against Israel without fear of retaliation due to its sovereign independent status and the protection of the United Nations.

The ultimate aim of these parties is that constant rocket attacks and murderous infiltrations by racist paramilitaries would destabilise Israel economically and socially to the point that those who can will seek refuge abroad where they can find it and those who cannot manage to escape will become easy pickings for an alliance of anti-Israel Middle Eastern powers.

How many refugees would the current anti-Israel political parties in Ireland be willing to accept?

Robert Irwin Courthouse Lane Limerick


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