COI Gazette – 2nd February 2018

Mission with young adults not as difficult as you think, says new research

Church Army Research Unit

Church Army Research Unit

Church Army has released the ndings of a research project on mission with young adults in England, to discover what’s working – and what isn’t – in the Church when reaching out to 18 to 30-year-olds.

“The findings are really encouraging in that they suggest that mission with young adults, whilst challenging, is not as difficult as one might think,” says Church Army’s Director of Research, Dr Tim Ling.

The research was commissioned by the Church of England’s Strategy and Development Unit on behalf of the Archbishops’ Council, to counteract dwindling church attendance among the younger
age group. Church of England attendance data suggests that just 0.5% of 18 to 24-year-olds currently attend an Anglican church.


 

Editorial

SURVIVE OR THRIVE?

A diocese “in distress”. That is how Laurent Mbanda described it when he was appointed as Bishop of Shyira in Rwanda, back in 2010. After his appointment he became aware that the diocese was over $3 million in debt – a challenging situation by any standards.

In the years since 2010 the Diocese of Shyira has not only been making strides towards financial stability, it has also found the energy to be involved in community development, education and discipleship. The number of local congregations has grown from 292 to 345 and it has a membership of 100,000. Of this total membership, some 30,000 people are involved in community Bible studies. Laurent Mbanda has been chosen to be the next Primate and Archbishop of Rwanda. An article on page 8 gives some insight into how the Diocese of Shyira responded to its challenges.

From Rwanda, we come to Bristol. St Nicholas’ Church in the city has been a museum for 65 years, following serious bomb damage during World War II. The population profile of city centre Bristol is interesting. Sixty per cent of those who live there are aged between 15 and 29. As well as being a young community it is also diverse. Is it an auspicious time to reopen a church building that has been used as a museum for decades? The diocese of Bristol thinks so. It is in the process of reopening St Nicholas’ Church to serve the city of Bristol and assist in future church plants (see page 9).

Church of England attendance data suggests that just 0.5% of 18 to 24-year-olds currently attend an Anglican church. Yet a recent Church Army research project on mission with young adults in England concludes: “that mission with young adults, whilst challenging, is not as difficult as one might think”. One of the case studies was The Hub Church in Hitchin, Hertfordshire (see front page). The report notes that some 30-35 people have come to faith since they started, and in the last few years seven people have been baptised. Around 50 people attend each Sunday. On the Sunday that the Church Army research team visited, two thirds of the attenders were under the age of 35.
What is the common thread in all these stories? It is that in even the most challenging of circumstances the Church can hope to do more than just survive – it can thrive.

Looking at how a dictionary defines ‘survive’ is an interesting exercise. Words and phrases such as “sustain oneself, cling to life, pull through, get through, hold on, hold out, make it, keep body and soul together” are listed to describe the state of surviving. Compare this with how ‘thrive’ is described, with words such as “to grow or develop vigorously, to progress toward or realise a goal despite or because of circumstances”.

Aspiring to thrive, more than survive, does not mean denying reality. The story is famously told of King Canute. He sat on his throne on the seashore, waves lapping round his feet, commanding the sea to retreat. It didn’t! Unfairly King Canute has become a byword for failing to look reality in the face – commanding the sea to retreat despite the evidence of wet feet suggesting otherwise.

Apparently, Canute had tired of his flattering courtiers declaring that he was “so great, he could command the tides of the sea to go back”. Canute was fooled neither by the flattery nor the physics. He decided to prove a point … and his own limitations. One day he had his throne carried to the seashore and sat on it as the tide came in, commanding the waves to advance no further. When they didn’t, he had made his point. He was not all-powerful and the laws of physics would not obey him. Living in the realm of reality is always better … and drier. But surely it is possible for the Church to live with reality but still to have hope.

With a commitment to looking reality in the face, how do we contemplate the future as members of the Church of Ireland? The experiences outlined at the beginning of this editorial suggest it is possible for churches, even in the most challenging of circumstances, to hope to thrive. This aspiration is also being lived out by parishes in all parts of this island, of all brands and theological hue.

Is our aspiration for the Church to survive or to thrive?


 

Home News

  • Portrait of Bishop Michael Burrows – a modern portrait for a modern bishop’s house
  • Dr Kirsten Birkett addresses Evangelical Fellowship of Irish Clergy
  • The Irish Huguenot Archive
  • Clive West Memorial Annual Lecture
  • Crossing the road St Macartin’s Cathedral, Enniskillen  By Zack Twamley

 

Kaleidoscope

Rethinking Church – Living a marginal faith

Life Lines – All your billows


 

World News

  • New Primate and Archbishop of Rwanda brings unique experience
  • Evangelist Luis Palau announces cancer diagnosis
  • Bristol church to re-open as youth mission resource centre
  • Salvadorans at risk of losing immigration status in US find support in churches
  • North Korea reported as worst place for Christian persecution

 

Letters to the Editor

Down and Dromore Diocesan Synod

THE ACCOUNT of the Down and Dromore 2017 Diocesan Synod (Gazette 3rd November 2017) reports Bishop Harold Miller’s suggestion that, in the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the Church may be in the midst of another tectonic shift. However, the report, as submitted, is significant for what it omits.

In my 43 years of ministry in the diocese I cannot recall in a diocesan synod such depth of criticism of the financial statements of the Diocesan Council. There were speakers who effectively argued that the financial statements we had been given were simply not fit to be voted on.

However, after a decidedly tense debate, the synod voted on whether or not to receive the financial statements. While they were passed, 70 people, clerical and lay, voted firmly against. This is quite unprecedented. I find it extraordinary that such an important matter is simply ignored in the report.

The diocesan auditors, Finegan Gibson Ltd, Chartered Accountants and Statutory Auditors, clearly stated that they could not give an audit opinion on the financial statements they had received, as the audit evidence available to them was limited. They cite three specific areas, to a combined value of just under £1.2 million, upon which they were unable to obtain the appropriate audit evidence. These areas were:

• … the ownership of land and buildings with a carrying value of £750,000;

• the recoverability of debtors with a carrying value of £265,613; and

• the existence of creditors with a carrying value of £132,905.

The auditors conclude: “… we have not obtained all the information and explanations that are considered necessary for the purpose of our audit; and we were unable to determine whether adequate accounting records have been kept.”

I believe this is a matter of the utmost seriousness. The bishop and the members of the Diocesan Council are to be the Trustees of the Diocese of Down and Dromore, in terms of the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008.

I understand that the diocese must now register with the Charity Commission NI, in the same way as the parishes have already been required to register. Due to the auditors’  opinion it will surely be very difficult for the Charity Commission to accept these accounts. Whether adequate accounting records are being kept cannot be a matter for any doubt.

The bishop is correct. The Church is indeed in the midst of a tectonic shift, but maybe not one he envisaged. No longer can churches or charities regard themselves as not having to give account with regard to the conduct of their financial affairs. Not only does old-school morality demand financial transparency, the contemporary charity legislation in these islands now also requires it.

The bishop and the Diocesan Council have work to do. If, due to lack of evidence, the auditors are unable to give an audit opinion concerning any monies, no matter the amounts, nor determine whether adequate accounting records are being kept, the bishop and the Council must act as soon as possible to put the correct procedures in place. Jonathan Barry (Canon Dr) Comber Co. Down

Freemasonry

I WAS delighted to read in my local press that 140 people attended the ‘Pathway to Peace’ interfaith celebration in Omagh recently.

Included were politicians and religious leaders from the locality. Just two of those photographed were from the Christian churches, a local priest and a Church of Ireland curate. Other faith groups present were Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Bahai.

The DUP Member of Parliament present referred to the need to understand other minority faiths present. The general feeling of those attending was that the way to peace lay in dialogue and communication.

In view of the members of other faith groups present, including Jews, it is worthy of note to consider how many of them, worldwide, would be associated with Freemasonry.

It is important to be aware that Freemasonry does not claim to be a religion, nor a religious organisation. We must each support our own faith and, before being admitted, must acknowledge our own supreme being. We all attend our own places of worship for spiritual advancement. We also seek to inculcate a standard of behaviour which is acceptable to all creeds, but refrains from intervening in the field of dogma or theology. It is not competing with any religion but complements it.

It causes me, and many others who are ‘good churchmen’ much grief to find a few ecclesiastical brothers and sisters appearing to have great difficulty in understanding the universality of the Masonic Order.

As a Clerk in Holy Orders, I have, from my baptism, professed to being a follower of Christ. My religion is based on an act of faith, not just in Ireland, but as I travel worldwide with men of goodwill.

Sadly, in some places at home Lodges are not permitted to join in acts of worship, despite the fact that in Christian acts of worship we use the same Holy Bible as we do in the Lodge Room. Other faiths use their appropriate holy book, showing brotherly love and affection, always distinguishing ourselves as men and Freemasons, always faithful to our God, our country and its laws.

Harry Trimble (Canon) Castlederg

Co. Tyrone

Same-sex issues in Uganda

THE VIDEOS referenced by the Revd Rupert Morton (12th January) demonstrate the deep antipathy of many Ugandans towards same-sex practice. Some additional background information is needed, however.

In the 1880s the Kabaka of Buganda executed 45 young Christian men who refused his homosexual advances. The list at www.buganda.com/martyrs.htm is heart- breaking: Make (dismembered and burned), Musa (speared), Anderea (beheaded), Kitoogo (castrated), etc.

If we are to influence  attitudes in Uganda, we need to acknowledge and utterly repudiate these evil deeds.

We must also report recent events accurately. The Revd Moreton’s videos, unfortunately, misrepresent the Kato murder as a homophobic act, whereas it is reported that he was actually killed by a gay sex partner in a row about payment for sex.

This opens a window into a feature of gay life that is not widely known – intimate partner violence (IPV). A report entitled Intimate Partner Violence among Men Who Have Sex with Men, by Finneran and Stephenson (2014) says: “IPV occurs in male-male partnerships at alarming rates.” A respected book by Island and Letellier, Men Who Beat the Men Who Love Them, regards IPV as “the third most severe health problem facing gay men today” in the USA, after HIV/AIDS and substance abuse.

In other words, IPV is a more serious issue than homophobia, and gay men are in more danger from their partners than from society.

Dermot O’Callaghan Hillsborough Co. Down

INEVITABLY, Dr Alan McCann wishes to inform your readers of what “happened” to David Kato. The story he spins is contested; and it relies on faith in a “justice” system that only failed to impose the death penalty for the “crime” of homosexuality because of international pressure. The penalty is now life imprisonment.

Dr McCann’s assertion that homophobic murder is “abhorrent” would be more convincing were he to acknowledge the despicable disruption of David Kato’s funeral by a violent mob.

I am not using David Kato’s murder “for my own ends”. I am responding to a sacred call to proclaim and support the value of human life, and to condemn the hatred – abetted by so many Christians from the so-called Global North – that results in marginalisation, oppression, and – yes – murder.

May David Kato rest in peace; and may God forgive us all. Rupert Moreton (the Revd) Joensuu Finland


 

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