COI Gazette – 30th November 2012

C. of I. paying ‘lip service’ to possibility of women bishops – Canon Michael Kennedy, senior women’s ministry campaigner

Canon Michael Kennedy

Canon Michael Kennedy

Following last week’s defeat in the Church of England General Synod – principally due to theological differences – of draft legislation to allow for women bishops (World News, page 7), the long-time campaigner for women’s ministry in the Church of Ireland, Canon Michael Kennedy, pictured, has challenged the Church of Ireland over the nonelection of a woman bishop during the 22 years since the development was approved in the Church of Ireland.

Canon Kennedy, who is rector of Lisnadill and Kildarton in Armagh Diocese, a member of the Chapter of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, and a noted scholar of the Church, told the Gazette that, with two bishoprics shortly becoming vacant, it was “high time that we in the Church of Ireland stopped paying lip service to the possibility of women bishops and appointed at least one”.



Last week’s defeat in the Church of England General Synod of draft legislation allowing for women bishops was a highly charged and emotional moment. It was so near, yet so far. Not only were the eyes of the wider Anglican Communion and of other Churches focused on the Church House, Westminster, proceedings, but so also was wider society, which looked on with not a little bewildered puzzlement as the result was announced and publicly analysed. As Archbishop Rowan Williams has said, much explaining has to be done.

It is indeed disappointing that the Church of England has not been able to move forward on this issue and, given the tortuous path of the draft legislation so far, it is no doubt also frustrating for those involved. The extreme narrowness of the margin of defeat might tempt one to think that it can easily be remedied, but there should be no mistake about it: this result came after gargantuan efforts in discussions and negotiations and therefore actually making up the difference could be more difficult than would at first appear. What cannot be risked is an eventual return to the General Synod only to find a replay of last week’s scenario. Nonetheless, those who opposed the draft measure have said they are ready for further talks and that offer will, no doubt, be taken up.

Of course, there have been many questions here in Ireland, following the English vote, surrounding the situation in the Church of Ireland. Given that we approved the ordination of women as priests and bishops as long ago as 1990, it has been asked why we have not, in the intervening 22 years, seen a woman bishop consecrated.

That is a natural and good question, particularly with two episcopal vacancies arising in the New Year (Gazette report, last week). Probably the answer lies at least in part in the fact that it takes time for clergy to gain the necessary experience, twenty years or so not being an abnormally long period for that – but if this is the reason, it is in fact fast becoming a ‘non-reason’.

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Letters to the Editor

Causes of same-sex attraction

Eimhin Walsh (Letters, 9th November) wrongly portrays me as asking: “Is sexuality a matter of choice?” The Gazette had correctly quoted me as saying something quite different – that “environmental factors … early in life may be influential in shaping sexual orientation”.

Dr Walsh argues that the expression of a gene may be influenced by environmental factors. This is true but, by contrast with his example of diabetes, no genes linked to homosexuality have been found and without these the question of gene expression simply does not arise.

Indeed, the essence of my criticism of the Royal College of Psychiatrists is that they deny any role to postnatal environmental influence (as in diabetes) in the development of homosexuality.

For identical male twins where one is homosexual, Bailey’s study found that, in 89% of cases, the other is not (unlike with skin colour, for example). Dr Walsh sets aside the 89% and focuses on the 11%. This 11% may well include a genetic component, but it may also include postnatal environmental influences that the twins have both shared. This would reduce the genetic element still further.

The elephant in the room, however, is the 89%. Despite what the Royal College says, it is difficult to believe that this does not contain a substantial environmental component unique to the individual.

The implications of the Karolinska study are currently being debated (as far as I know it has not yet been replicated). This will require careful evaluation as we have been here before with Simon le Vay’s ‘gay brain’ theory which most scientists have now abandoned.

The book under discussion (to which I contributed), The Right to Decide: Seeking justice for choices around unwanted same-sex attractions, by Michael R. Davidson, is available from the Good Book Shop and Amazon.

Dermot O’Callaghan Hillsborough Co. Down BT26

I don’t represent any group. I am not a geneticist.

I am not a theologian. I am a heterosexual mother and grandmother who tries her very best to live the basic tenets of our faith, to love God and love my neighbour as I love myself.

I can recall, in the late sixties, the struggle I had to break into a heavily maledominated profession. I heard Victorian arguments about the biological, intellectual and social unsuitability of women for the professions.

There were prophets of doom who foretold the inevitable collapse, not only of the professions but also of family life, should women be permitted over the threshold of the hallowed space.

Now women enter the professions and succeed in equal numbers and neither the professions nor family life has collapsed.

In my simple way, as a human being who knows many gay people, I can again hear similar arguments of exclusion.

Gay people are described as ‘not normative’ or ‘other’. Some experience rejection and are afraid to come out lest they be denied Communion or the possibility of ordination.

Speaking just for myself, I believe that gay people are children of God in the same way as I am. Our Church is made richer because of its capacity to open its arms to all God’s people who wish to be part of our community.

Our debates should be centred on inclusion and not on exclusion. I embrace gay people who bring to my worship and to my Christian life their diversity and talents, be that as members of my congregation or as clergy or as bishops.

Patricia Barker (Prof.) Malahide Co. Dublin

The Masonic Order

I was very disappointed to read in the News Letter (22nd November) the editor’s assertion that the Masonic Order had in some way been responsible for the delay in the appointment of the first women bishops in the Church of Ireland.

I have been a member of the Masonic Order for 52 years and at no time have I ever heard a discussion on this subject at the many meetings I have attended. The fact is that discussion regarding any particular religious denomination is strictly prohibited.

I am greatly saddened when I read unfair, unjust and untrue criticism of the Order.

I personally am most grateful to the Masonic Order due to the fact that my father died when I was 10 years old and I was educated at the Masonic School in Dublin.

After six years as a pupil, I became a junior master in the school and for the next five years, the Masonic Order paid my fees at Trinity College Dublin; otherwise, it would have been impossible for me to have been ordained in the Church of Ireland, as at that time there were no Church grants available for ordinands.

I had the privilege of following in the footsteps of other junior masters, such as Archbishop Buchanan and Bishop Quin, and many others who would not have been ordained only for the Masonic Order.

Stanley Coulson (Canon) Portrush

Note: The editor did not assert that the Masonic Order had been in some way responsible for the delay in the appointment of the first women bishops in the Church of Ireland but referred to membership of groups outside the Church, such as the Orange Order, the Masonic Order and ‘old school’ networks, as having exercised influence in the past in aspects of Church life.


TCD responds to C. of I. College of Education

In response to the article published in The Church of Ireland Gazette on 23rd November 2012, Trinity College Dublin notes the public announcement from the Church of Ireland College of Education (CICE) that it is ending the long-standing relationship with us.

We respect the CICE’s decision that in the emerging consolidation of initial teacher education provision, it would prefer a closer relationship with other institutions; indeed, we see that there may be certain benefits over continuing with Trinity.

However, we cannot accept the statement by CICE quoted in the article that Trinity was not prepared to honour the CICE’s four guiding principles which in fact share many common elements with our own mission.

In April 2012, a group, consisting of equal numbers of members from both TCD and CIC E, was set up to develop proposals on how the two institutions could best work together for the benefit of initial teacher education and continuing professional development in Ireland. Its terms of reference required a report to be presented to the Provost and to the Archbishop of Dublin.

During these discussions, five options were explored: (i) To retain CIC E’s existing status as an Associated College, (ii) To incorporate CIC E as a separate School within TCD , (iii) To incorporate CICE into the existing School of Education as a department with its own head of department, (iv) To incorporate CICE as a separate department, with its own funding stream and head of department, into the School of Education (confederal model), (v) To incorporate CIC E into an enlarged School of Education.

Any of the five options could have enabled CICE to continue all of its existing activities, and all would have been acceptable to Trinity. Trinity College recognizes the importance to CICE of protecting its ethos, culture and traditions and was open to considering, within its governance arrangements, a name that would reflect its history. That Trinity is a secular university would not have prevented this, as CICE is quoted in the Gazette article as suggesting. Indeed, we understand that all publiclyfunded universities in Ireland are secular.

In July 2012, the CICE team took the decision to withdraw from the negotiations. It did not provide a response to the options presented, nor propose any alternatives. It was, therefore, not possible for Trinity, in turn, to respond to CIC E’s concerns in respect of each of the five structures proposed, or to consider any alternative proposal, since no alternative proposal was made.

At this stage, CIC E had decided to explore other options for collaboration, and it seems that these were perceived to be more favourable than what Trinity had to offer. CIC E withdrew from discussions with us.

We wish CIC E well with their plans “for the merging of the Church of Ireland College of Education (CICE) with the Mater Dei Institute of Education (MDI), St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra (SPD) and Dublin City University (DCU ) into a single Institute of Education” (published in The Church of Ireland Gazette, 14th September 2012), but we do wish to have on record our preparedness to honour the CIC E core guiding principles.

We would like Gazette readers to know that the College maintains and values its relationships with both the Archbishop of Dublin and the Principal of CIC E and wishes them well in the leadership of the CIC E in the future.

Furthermore, we wish to state that we greatly value our continuing relationship with the Church of Ireland Theological Institute and re-affirm our commitment to supporting and co-teaching on the innovative Master in Theological Studies (MT h) programme.

Shane Allwright (Professor) Registrar Trinity College Dublin

Debate needed on educational changes

The announcement that changes are afoot regarding the Church of Ireland College of Education (CICE) gave rise to a statement at the Dublin and Glendalough Synods which unwittingly appeared simultaneously autocratic and defensive.

It implied that any decisions, being a matter for the governors of the College, were not for discussion, although there was a promise of consultation at some point in the future.

No one can deny the role of the governors, but the attempt to quash discussion unfortunately gives rise to conspiracy theories and, more seriously, does not allow primary school boards of management, parishes or parents the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to discussion about the future of initial teacher education.

The very fact that the College has been held in such high esteem has engendered a sense of anxiety in the community and this might perhaps have been allayed by a greater openness, particularly as a subsequent press release implied a done deal.

The development of a multidenominational and multicultural secondary school under Church patronage in Greystones has already been widely welcomed and it will generate an interesting challenge in balancing a Church of Ireland ethos with others’ expectations.

However, over 40% of Protestant children leaving Protestant primary schools in Dublin and Glendalough are unable to transfer to schools with a comparable ethos and the Secretary of the Secondary Education Committee, which administers grants for needy families, says that that body has no role in regard to the level of fees charged.

Religious Education in our primary schools was devised with the approval of the reformed Churches and dovetails into the State’s second level RE curriculum.

However, it was disappointing that none of our Church leaders challenged Minister Quinn when he announced the development of Education about Religion and Beliefs (ERB) and Ethics programmes which would, he said, supplement existing faith formation programmes.

Could there be an open and transparent debate on all these issues in which the governors and patrons of schools and other academic institutions would participate freely and not use Acts of Parliament, charters and trust deeds as an excuse to keep matters in pectore?

John McCullagh (Canon) The Rectory Station Road Rathdrum, Co. Wicklow

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