COI Gazette – 28th October 2016

Dr Clarke focuses on ‘Five Marks of Mission’ at Armagh Diocesan Synod

Armagh Synod in session last week (Photo: Jonathan Hull)

Armagh Synod in session last week (Photo: Jonathan Hull)

In his Presidential address to Armagh Diocesan Synod last week, the Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd Richard Clarke, reminded those present of the ‘Five Marks of Mission’ as identied by the Anglican Communion:

• to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom;

• to teach, baptise and nurture new believers;

• to respond to human need by loving service;

• to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation; and

• to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

Dr Clarke said: “Every part of the worldwide Church has to work through [the Five Marks of Mission], work out the implications for its own setting, and then put them into practice. Proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom does not mean handing people a package; it means encouraging them to join with us on a journey.



On 13th October, the Pakistan Supreme Court’s appeal of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman under the death penalty, was adjourned after Justice Iqbal Hameed-ur-Rehman, one of the panel of three judges due to hear the appeal, recused himself saying that there was a conflict of interest, the Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS) has reported.

The judge explained his standing down by saying that he had been “part of the bench that was hearing the case of Salman Taseer and this case is related to that”. He was referring to the former Punjab governor who had spoken out in support of Asia Bibi and was subsequently assassinated.

In 2014, the Pakistani High Court confirmed the death sentence on Asia Bibi after she was found guilty of blasphemy. She was sentenced to death by hanging, her ‘offence’ having been to drink the same water as a group of Muslim co-workers, thereby leading to the accusation of blasphemy by insulting the prophet Muhammad.

Asia Bibi denies this charge and has been supported in her legal efforts by the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), an ecumenical organisation working for Christians who are being persecuted because of their faith in Pakistan and which has bureaux in Lahore and in Southall, Middlesex.

Gavin Drake, of ACNS, reported that no indication had been given as to the timescale of a fresh Supreme Court hearing, indicating that a date could not be set until a new judge is appointed to the panel by the Chief Justice. The report also stated that, while there was no sign of trouble at the court hearing, security had been tight, with some Islamic groups having protested against Asia Bibi and having threatened to kill her if she is released. The situation surrounding her case is so tense that her husband and children are in hiding.

The UK Director of CLAAS, Nasir Saeed, was reported as being “still very hopeful” that the court would eventually clear Asia Bibi and release her from detention, where she is being held in solitary confinement. However, he added: “But I am also scared that there can be tremendous repercussions for the Christians whether her conviction is overturned or upheld. If her conviction is upheld, then she can appeal to the President of Pakistan. Undoubtedly pressure will be further built by Islamist groups and if, God forbid, her appeal is rejected by the President of Pakistan then she will become the first person to be executed for blasphemy in Pakistan. Also, if charges are dropped and she is freed, there will be huge protests in Pakistan by the Islamists and Christians’ properties and lives will be at risk.”

The Director of the British Pakistani Christian Association, Wilson Chowdhry, said that Asia Bibi “has remained staunch and true to her faith, firmly believing God will set her free” throughout her seven years of detention and isolation, adding: “[With] each postponement, of which there were five during her failed High Court appeal, part of her fortitude was palpably diminished. This latest debacle evidences that the vaunted Supreme Court is not independent of societal, cultural and political pressure, indicating that justice may not be as easy to achieve as hoped through a frightened judiciary … Under the existing climate of extremism that has pervaded Pakistani society, intolerance has been bred through inculcated hatred via the education system in the country. It is a political failure that fundamentalism has hijacked the nation of Pakistan, but will Pakistan’s politicians be brave enough to make the right decision for a change and free poor Asia Bibi to make amends?”

There has been international pressure calling for Asia Bibi’s release, including from the Anglican Consultative Council. At its meeting in Lusaka in April, the ACC called for a fresh investigation into her case, leading to her “honourable acquittal”, and shortly afterwards Archbishop Philip Freier, the Primate of Australia, described the case as “a disgraceful application of Pakistan’s blasphemy law” and said it brought “tragedy and shame upon … the beautiful nation of Pakistan”.

It is to be hoped and prayed that Pakistan’s Chief Justice will move quickly to appoint a new judge so that the Supreme Court hearing can proceed without unnecessary delay – and that Asia Bibi will be freed from her terrible ordeal and reunited with her husband and family.


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Letters to the Editor

Same-sex Marriage

WISH TO thank Bishop Walton Empey for his letter to the Gazette (issue, 21st October) highlighting the continuing injustice that is the exclusion of LGBT people from marriage within the Church of Ireland.

His description reminded me of the sadness my partner and I felt at not being able to celebrate our marriage in our local church.

We are both committed members of the Church of Ireland and our local church and church community are central to our lives.

God, however, was still present at our ceremony! We included readings from the Bible, much of the chosen music was sacred and those present bestowed Christian blessings on the two of us.

We are fortunate enough also to have an open-minded clergy friend who happily prayed with us later in the day.

It never ceases to amaze me the array of things that we bless and offer prayers for within the Church of Ireland.

I personally have been present for the blessing of donkeys, dogs, cats, goldfish, a boat, a regatta, a school extension, turned sods, parish fairs and a whist drive!

Yet, as an institution, we refuse to acknowledge and liturgically celebrate the commitment of two people blessed with God-given, monogamous, life-long love.

Like Bishop Empey, I fear that history will judge our generation poorly for these injustices.

Leo Kilroy (Dr) Co. Wicklow

WHAT AN excellent letter from Bishop Walton Empey in the Church of Ireland Gazette of 21st October.

Clergy up and down the country are blessing animals at pet services but our constitution will not allow them to bless same- sex couples devoted to each other and who would appreciate a Christian blessing on their union.
Marlyn Hilliard
Co. Kilkenny

I WAS saddened to read Bishop Empey’s letter in the Gazette of 21st October.

Unlike Bishop Empey, I hope that in 50 years’ time when people look back they will be grateful for those Christians who stood against the secular tide regarding same-sex marriage.

There are prohibitions in Scripture, which some people don’t particularly like, but they are there because they represent God’s teaching. That teaching is for our ultimate good.

I have lived long enough to see the Church of Ireland take or accept a liberal position on many issues. Some of these are things over which Christians disagree because they are either not decided by the Bible, or are not directly decided by the Bible, or are of a relatively trivial nature.

When it comes to matters of human sexuality, Scripture is clear and it is consistent.

The unrepented misuse of our sexuality, like greed and idolatry, places us outside the Kingdom of God.

Liberal biblical revisionism cannot change what Scripture tells us.
Peter T. Hanna (The Revd) Co. Cork


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