Church leaders express concerns over poverty and political instability
The Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Richard Clarke, last week joined with other Irish Church leaders in a statement expressing concern at poverty levels and the effect of political instability in Northern Ireland on the most vulnerable members of society.
The other signatories to the statement were the Revd Brian Anderson, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland; the Most Revd Eamon Martin, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh; the Rt Revd Dr Ian McNie, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland; and the Revd Dr Donald Watts, President of the Irish Council of Churches.
Following consultation with representatives of faith-based charities, the Church leaders said: “As Northern Ireland’s elected representatives continue to negotiate the future of our political institutions, an awareness of their shared responsibility for the common good needs to be at the heart of the discussion.
FIGURES FROM CHURCH HISTORY – 49 WILLIAM LAW (1686-1761)
The replacement of the Roman Catholic James II by William III in the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688 created a crisis of conscience for many Church of England clergy who, while not necessarily admiring the former King, felt that as they had given an oath of allegiance to him and to his successors, they could not give their oath to anyone else. Many of them consequently resigned their offices and in effect became lay communicants; they were known as the ‘Non-Jurors’.
Others who, like William Law, failed to take the oath at the accession of George I following the death of Queen Anne in 1714, can be counted as their second generation successors. The loss of such highly principled and independently-minded churchmen as the Non-Jurors undoubtedly weakened the Church’s witness in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, although their influence lived on in their writings.
William Law had been educated at Cambridge and was for some years a Fellow of Emmanuel College, but was deprived of this position. He found employment for 10 years as a tutor to Edward Gibbon, father of the great historian. Having retired from this position, from 1740 onwards he engaged in educational, social and charitable work and lived a life of great simplicity and devotion.
Law’s writings included Three Letters to the Bishop of Bangor (1717-1719), a strong defence
of High Church principles against a notorious Latitudinarian, and Absolute Unlawfulness of the Stage Entertainment, a strong attack on the evils of the theatre. In 1727, there appeared On Christian Perfection, the first of his great works on Christian spirituality, and this was followed by his great masterpiece, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life (1728). The latter drew on some of the great medieval mystical writers, including Tauler, Ruysbroeck and Thomas à Kempis, all of them strictly orthodox on the fundamentals of the faith.
Law emphasized the putting into practice of the precepts of faith. It is said of him that his work had more influence than any other spiritual book in the post-Reformation period except The Pilgrim’s Progress and it was valued by both John Wesley, the founder of Methodism and, in the 19th century, by John Keble, whose Assize Sermon was reckoned by Newman and others as the beginning of the Oxford Movement. Later works, which indicated to some extent a deviation from his earlier emphases – although he always remained faithful to the Church of England – were The Spirit of Prayer and The Spirit of Love and were less influential.
This editorial is one in a series of occasional reflections on figures in Church history, following a chronological sequence as they appear.
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Letters to the Editor
The Anglican Church in North America
I WAS interested to read that the rector of the Church of the Cross, Bluffton, in the Diocese of South Carolina, has just preached at an ordination in Raphoe Cathedral.
The manner of this event’s reporting on the Church of Ireland’s webpages might lead one to suppose that this was an entirely normal event. It was not.
The ‘Diocese’ is part of the schismatic Anglican Church in North America, which has split with much acrimony from the Episcopal Church.
In spite of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s latest and ill- advised manoeuvres, the Church of Ireland remains part of the Anglican Communion. Inviting representatives of schismatic Churches to preach at Irish ordinations is at best unhelpful and at worst contributes to division.
I understand Father Owens has been invited to speak to many parish and clergy groups in the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe in the coming days. This is not the first time that representatives of ACNA have been accorded such a welcome: the Diocese of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh seems no less proud of its links with South Carolina.
In the Nordic and Baltic countries, Lutherans have grown weary of the (largely unsuccessful) incursions of the Missouri Synod. It seems the Diocese of South Carolina is following that Church’s model, and that there are many in the Church of Ireland who, if not indifferent, actively support such interference in the Church’s polity.
Rupert Moreton (The Revd), Joensuu Finland
THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT by the Church of Ireland was issued to the Gazette following our enquiry as to whether or not the Church of Ireland is in communion with ACNA:
“As a Province of the Anglican Communion, the Church of Ireland is in communion with the other Churches or Provinces in the Communion. There has not been a definitive position taken by the Church of Ireland in respect of any Church that has emerged from structural changes or divisions in another Church or Province in the Communion – as in the case of the Anglican Church in north America and The Episcopal Church.
“Following the Archbishop of Canterbury’s call for a gathering of Primates in January 2016, it seems likely that a period of discernment will ensue to determine the ways in which Churches within the Anglican Communion and other Churches in an Anglican tradition relate to one another and that this is likely to take considerable time.”
Studying the Bible in the original languages
CONGRATULATIONS TO St George’s Church, High Street, Belfast, on the plans to start a group to study the Bible in the original languages (Letter, 11th September), with the first meeting planned for 29th September.
Let’s hope that at least one such group will be started in every diocese in Ireland at least. Perhaps we can look forward in the long term to having such groups throughout the Anglican Communion or even – on an
interdenominational basis – throughout the world.
I remember reading of the origins of the Bible Society. A clergyman wanted to start a society to print the Bible in Welsh. In the course of the discussion, someone said: “If for Wales, why not for the world?”
R. Seathrún Mac Éin
Baile Átha Cliath D04
KILFENORA, KILLINABOY, SCATTERY ISLAND: A GUIDE FOR PILGRIMS IN COUNTY CLARE Author: Rosemary Power Publisher: Keeper Books
THE LETTERS OF SAINT PATRICK – AN HISTORIC NEW TRANSLATION Authors: John Luce and Marcus Losack Publisher: Céili Dé
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