High-level Porvoo Communion consultation on marriage
The Porvoo Communion (Anglican-Lutheran), of which the Church of Ireland has been a member since 1995, last month held a high-level consultation in Turku, Finland, on the theme of marriage.
The Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Michael Jackson, and the Bishop of Cashel and Ossory, the Rt Revd Michael Burrows, attended from the Church of Ireland. Archbishop Jackson had been invited to give a series of Bible studies and Bishop Burrows acted as a Group Convener.
Each member-Church of the Porvoo Communion was invited to submit copies of its marriage liturgies and regulations. Dr Jackson told the Gazette that this material, together with lectures on the interpretation of biblical passages related to marriage, on theological arguments surrounding the issue of same- sex marriage, and on aspects of human genetics “gave scope and shape to the discussions”.
The Archbishop said that in a climate of “tension” relating to marriage practice across the Churches of the Porvoo Communion, the consultation had been conducted “in a spirit of attentive listening and courteous interchange of ideas and experiences”.
The Church of Sweden allows for same-sex marriage, but both Archbishop Jackson and Bishop Burrows indicated to the Gazette that they disagreed with this practice.
Dr Jackson told us: “I reiterated my own and the Church of Ireland’s position that Holy Matrimony is between one man and one woman in faithful, committed relationship and that husband and wife ought to love and respect one another mutually, mirroring the relationship between Christ and the Church (Ephesians, Chapter 5). I both accept and hold that the magisterial sweep of the spirit of the Bible is for the fidelity within marriage built on the combined witness of Genesis 1 and Jesus in the Gospels.”
Commenting on his own rejection of same-sex marriage, Bishop Burrows told us that he regarded himself “as what in former times was called a ‘Prayer Book churchman’”.
Referring to the Turku consultation as a whole, Bishop Burrows said it had been “very valuable for the member-Churches of the Porvoo Communion to learn from each other about their marriage liturgies and about the pastoral and legal contexts in which their ministry is set”.
He added that it had been “instructive” to learn of reactions within the Church of Sweden to same-sex marriage and of that Church’s “travails regarding the matter”.
However, the Gazette has been informed by the Church of Ireland’s Commission for Christian Unity and Dialogue that neither Archbishop Jackson nor Bishop Burrows was officially representing the Church of Ireland at the Turku consultation but that, in future, nominations of individuals to attend Porvoo events would be sent to the Standing Committee for appointment, thereby formalizing what in the past had been a more informal approach.
We were also informed that the Archbishop of Armagh, as Primate of All Ireland, and the Bishop of Clogher, as the current Porvoo Contact Person in the Church of Ireland, would not require the approval of the Commission to attend any Porvoo event.
Figures in church history – 21 St Anselm (c.1033-1109)
Anselm, who was Archbishop of canterbury from 1093 to his death, was one of the greatest spiritual leaders and thinkers of his age. He is thought of by many as a ‘Doctor’ or Teacher of the universal Church.
Born in Lombardy in Italy, from an early age, Anselm felt drawn to the religious life. He entered the Benedictine Abbey of Bec, where he became a disciple of Lanfranc, who was later to precede him as Archbishop of Canterbury. As prior and the abbot at Bec, he exercised a deep and lasting influence on the community through his spirituality and his teaching. He visited England, where the impression he made is indicated by his being called upon to minister to William I (the ‘Conqueror’) on his deathbed.
There was a strong desire for Anselm to succeed to the Archbishopric of Canterbury, which he was reluctant to accept and which met with opposition from William Rufus, the successor to William the Conqueror. However, following Lanfranc after a vacancy of four years, he became embroiled in various controversies with William Rufus about a range of issues, including the restoration of Church lands which had been alienated to the Crown, and recognition of Urban II as true Pope at a time when there was a rival claimant to the position.
Anselm’s relationship with Henry I (successor to William Rufus) was no happier and he endured periods of exile from Canterbury in both reigns, his differences with Henry centring on the Investiture Controversy, in which he denied the right of the King to invest bishops with symbols of their ecclesiastical authority. His importance for later generations lies not only in his steadfast adherence to principle in the face of royal intransigence, and loyalty to the traditions of faith and order of the Church, but also in his theological and philosophical reflections which have continued to exercise a fascination, even where some of his ideas have not proved universally acceptable.
Like Augustine, Anselm used both faith and reason in his search for truth. ‘Faith seeking understanding’ was his motto, indicating that faith comes first but that reason should follow to demonstrate the rational character of faith. His most famous argument was the so-called ‘ontological’ argument for the existence of God, in which he attempted to show that God, defined as “that than which no greater can be conceived” – in other words, perfect being itself – must exist because a non-existent God would be imperfect and would not conform to the definition. In his Cur Deus Homo (‘Why the God-man’), he set forth his well-known ‘satisfaction’ theory of how, through the coming of Christ, we are reconciled to God.
This editorial is one in a series of occasional reflections on figures in Church history, following a chronological sequence as they appear.
- Biblical Association for Church of Ireland announces Lent Bible study and future plans
- New music appointment at Belfast Cathedral
- Church event puts spotlight on community engagement
- New seasonal book written by Diocese of Cork cleric
- Tribute – Canon Eric Herbert Despard
- Diocese of Connor cleric launches first book
- Portadown flower festival helps provide Bibles for Ethiopia
- Cathedrals becoming rallying points for anti-capitalist protesters
- Norwegian Christians and Muslims condemn religious extremism
Letters to the Editor
Civil partnerships controversy
Having reflected on the Bishops’ recent Pastoral Letter, I have two suggestions related to the conference planned for next spring.
Since some present members of General Synod will be retiring just before Synod, but will presumably be invited to attend the conference, we shall have the awkward situation whereby newly-elected Synod members will be expected to participate in any discussion of human sexuality at Synod without having had the benefit of attending the conference.
If resources will allow, it would seem sensible to invite to the conference both existing and new members of Synod.
My second suggestion is prompted by Canon Kennerley’s letter (Gazette, 18th november) which states her view that sexual orientation is “one of the variables in human nature as God created it”.
I do not share that opinion and this difference of view will need to be addressed at the spring conference. I suggest that, in addition to the stated agenda of “biblical, theological and legal issues”, the conference will need to address the question of science.
A useful starting point would be the book, The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality (SPCK, 2008), which describes itself as “an official book of the Anglican Communion”. It contains a chapter on science written by two distinguished Anglican scientists (who might be invited to address the conference).
Dermot O’Callaghan- Hillsborough Co. Down
According to Canon Michael Kennedy (Letter, 11th November), I’m “completely fanciful” in suggesting that the response “And with thy spirit” acknowledges the spirited gifts bestowed at ordination to the sacred ministry.
If I’m fanciful, I am in good company, for this response has always been in use in Catholic and Orthodox Christianity and now, after a lapse, has been reinstated by Rome to replace “And also with you”.
Indeed, the Annotated Book of Common Prayer, while slightly affirming the priesthood of the laity, also recognises a separate order of priesthood as essential for the ministration of God’s worship.
Thankfully, we now have Diocesan Readers, so the present usage, “And also with you”, is appropriate. However, “also” is unnecessary and is out of place, since it destroys the natural sequence and rhythm of the response. “And with you also” would have been better.
I welcome especially the Eucharistic liturgy in our present Book of Common Prayer, while still holding fast to what I was taught in the TCD Divinity School by learned professors and now confirmed by Rome. Certainly no Semitism here.
Victor G. Griffin (The Very Revd) – Limavady BT49 ODW
A summary of a joint response issued by the Church of Ireland Evangelical Fellowship, the Evangelical Fellowship of Irish Clergy, New Wine and Reform Ireland to the recent Pastoral Letter, including the 2003 Letter, from the House of Bishops
We welcome the Letter and have responded by addressing six key areas, primarily relating to the purpose and function of the spring conference. In summary, these are:
1. A discussion of the content of the Letter: We welcome the affirmation of marriage/Holy Matrimony, and seek that the Church continues with its current life and teaching. We welcome the distinction drawn between marriage and civil partnerships, as well as the perception of civil partnerships as being equivalent to or an imitation of marriage. We observe the tone that Bishops are responding to a debate within the Church or following the actions of clergy. However, there has been a failure by the Bishops to engage in any process since 2003. Further, it seems that the recent civil partnership of Dean Thomas Gordon took place with the foreknowledge and/or approval of a Bishop or Bishops. We would seek a greater acknowledgement by the Bishops of their own role in allowing this crisis to emerge.
2. Assisting the Church in becoming ‘more fully informed’: We welcome the opportunity to become more informed as to why we are in this present situation and through listening to others. We are wary that any inference may be drawn that those who wish to maintain the current teaching of the Church are somehow ‘less informed’ or, as per the language of the 2003 letter, are less aware of the ‘developing understanding’ of human sexuality.
3. Exploring wider issues related to human sexuality: We encourage all to do so in a spirit of honesty, sensitivity, truth and grace. However, sexuality is a presenting issue but not the defining issue. This is our vision of God and what it means for his people to represent him in his mission of love to redeem his world. Our discourse must not be confined to the ethics of sexual behaviour and practice, but rather with the language of creation and new creation, sin, separation, redemption, adoption, transformation. We respectfully submitted that this purpose be amended to ‘explore issues that include and may be related to human sexuality’.
4. Further study in biblical, theological and legal issues: We add that liturgical and ecclesiastical issues also need to be addressed. We queried who will undertake such work formally in advance of the conference and how will this be conducted and presented before, during and after the conference. We expressed a willingness of our respective organisations to engage in such work, if so requested by the Bishops.
5. Invitees to the conference: We queried as to who might be invited and if the Bishops will be seeking suggestions as to who might contribute. With 2012 being a triennial year, we recommended that outgoing and incoming members of General Synod be invited to attend.
6. The conference – not an end in itself: The conference will be influential for shaping 2012 General Synod. As such, it must point towards a definitive end, especially given that we are not engaging in theoretical dialogue but in debate in reaction to actions that have already taken place. The context has changed and the public nature of the recent civil partnership requires a public response, in accordance with the life and teaching of the Church as it is now received and practised. The action of Dean Gordon and the inaction of Bishop Burrows must not become a precedent to which others appeal.
As individuals and organisations, we are committed to, and our lives more routinely filled with, issues of outreach, mission, the needs of the two- thirds world and the agencies that seek to support the same. We are mindful, however, of how the present situation calls us once again to reflect upon how we are heard (or not, as the case may be) on such issues of critical importance. We look for a swift resolution to the position of the Church on human sexuality in order that future conferences might be called to focus on mission, growth, unity and service. We are committed to prayer in the hope that this situation, with all its potential for division and bitterness, will bring glory to God and hope and peace to his people.
Columns and Features
- Focus on … Bishops’ Appeal ( Bishops’ Appeal visit to Burundi and Rwanda )
- Soap – Down at St. David’s
- Rethinking Church – Stephen Neil- Less of the ads breaks, please!
- Life Lines – Ron Elsdon – Tower of … Europe?
- JOURNEYING WITH MARK Authors: James Woodward, Paula Gooder and Mark Pryce Publisher: SPCK; pp.111
- GUNNING FOR GOD: WHY THE NEW ATHEISTS ARE MISSING THE TARGET. Author: John C. Lennox Publisher: Lion
- Standing Committee News November 2011