COI Gazette – 30th September 2011

The Rt Revd John McDowell is pictured following his consecration as Bishop of Clogher with his wife, Mary, and daughter, Dorothy. (Photo: Dr Paul Harron)

Front Page

Bishop John McDowell consecrated for Diocese of Clogher

Last Friday (23rd September), the Rt Revd John McDowell was consecrated as Bishop of Clogher in St Macartin’s Cathedral, Enniskillen.

Consecrating were the Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin, accompanied by nine other serving and retired Bishops of the Church of Ireland; the Rt Revd Suheil Dawani, the Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East; and the Rt Revd Ingeborg Midttømme, Bishop of Møre, Church of Norway, who was representing the Porvoo Communion of Churches.

The new Bishop of Clogher is the Church of Ireland member of the Porvoo Contact Group. Since 2007, he has served as Clerical Honorary Secretary for the Diocese of Down and Dromore and, since 2009, as one of the Clerical Honorary Secretaries of General Synod.


Hope for Afghanistan must not be lost

whoever was responsible for organising last week’s suicide bomb assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, the Chair of the Afghan High Peace Council with the brief of negotiating with insurgents, the result not only brought grief to Mr Rabbani’s family but also a sense of crisis about the future in Afghanistan.

The High Peace Council was understood to have been on the verge of an important breakthrough in peace negotiations. Although the Taliban has so far not been clear about its responsibility, Mr Rabbani’s killer reportedly claimed to be a representative. He had brought explosives into a meeting, in Mr Rabbani’s home, hidden under a turban.

Mr Rabbani was an Islamist, having forged links with the Muslim Brotherhood in earlier years while he was studying in Cairo, and led resistance to the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He knew how to be politically opportunist, holding office as President of Afghanistan from 1992 to 1996 and also for just over a month in late 2001. while he led the Afghanistan National Front, the main political opposition to Mr Karzai’s government, the extent of the loss to the Karzai administration caused by Mr

Rabbani’s killing lies in the fact that he had a deep knowledge of the whole context and could relate personally to the insurgents. He had been well-placed as a peace negotiator in the current circumstances.

Setbacks in the search for peace are demoralising, but it is precisely at such times that tenacity and perseverance are required. Afghanistan is a country that is tired of war, which has been tearing it apart for decades. while a peaceful future in that part of the world may seem an extremely remote prospect, given all the history, hope for a different life for the country must not be lost. Some people are inclined to the view that engagement in Afghanistan was a Nato undertaking that could never succeed; certainly for it all not to come to nothing now, support will be needed for President Karzai and his government. The best future can only be an outcome of peace talks with the Taliban and, for that reason, Mr Karzai must move swiftly to find a new Chair for the negotiations. Finding the right successor will be difficult, to say the least. The Church prays often for the situation in Afghanistan and surely now that prayer can well be focused on the renewal of peace negotiations.

Home News

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  • ‘Global neighbours now local neighbours’ – Bishop Williams tells interfaith conference
  • Co. Monaghan school block named in honour of Archbishop of Dublin
  • Statement to the Standing Committee of the Church of Ireland by the Archbishop of Armagh on 20th September 2011
  • Bishop Burrows issues denial of Church of England Newspaper report
  • C. of I. theologian robustly critical of Martin McGuinness’s presidential bid

World News

  • Global South Primates reject central Anglican structures
  • Largest Anglican congregation in Canada leaves
  • Lutheran Church seeks global context for homosexuality discussion
  • Pope’s trip to Germany fails to meet ecumenical hopes

Focus on Down and Dromore

Annette McGrath, Diocesan Communications Officer for Down and Dromore, contributes this month’s Diocesan Focus article.

Letters to the Editor

Civil partnerships controversy

IT IS with a sense of dismay that I read of disquiet in northern pews on the matter of civil partnerships.

Unlike mrs wilson (letter, 16th September), I know the Dean of Leighlin, maybe not very well, but enough to know the valuable work he has done over many years for the Church of Ireland – work that has been distinct and distinctive and for which the Church owes him much. The same is true for his partner.

Civil partnerships are fully legal in our society in both parts of Ireland, and in this part at least, we are being challenged and led, by leaders from President McAleese down, to positions of tolerance and inclusion, and our society is steadily moving in those directions.

Given the wreckage of so much human life because of a lack of understanding of homosexuality for so long, it can only be good that we have reached this point of better understanding.

The Scripture moveth us in a few obscure places to a view that homosexuality is inherently wrong, but then, Scripture has some other very strange things to say on all sorts of matters. The reality is that we have no record whatever of what Jesus might have thought or said on the matter. In fact, the whole thrust of the life of Jesus seems to bring us the Jesus who consistently sought to include all of those who did not tick the boxes that conventional society demanded.

What happens in the Dean’s bedroom, or in anyone else’s bedroom, is none of our business, and I believe that Bishop Burrows is a wise man, and that, as such, he is quite right in having no discussion on that matter.

Mr Loney (Letter, also 16th September) is at a loss to know what the Church of Ireland believes. May I tell him that it believes in a series of very Jesus-based concepts, like love, peace, live-and- let-live, tolerance and unity. Surely it is these that are the basis of social morality and Christian discipline.

Cecil Mills (Canon) 2 Verona Queens Park Monkstown Co. Dublin


I HOPE that the civil partnership controversy will lead to a radical conversation between theology and biology. we can try to force biology into a human, theological construct or we can mould the principles of theology around the realities of biology. After all, we have adapted the scriptural world view to account for the fact that the earth is not flat.

Before anyone resigns, or again has the effrontery and arrogance to call for someone else’s resignation, the Church needs a no-holds-barred exploration of what it means to be a primate (ape, not archbishop).

I am no expert in the matter of the determination of sex in the mammalian embryo, and neither am I well versed in the psychology of gender identity, but having taught embryology for 30 years and, having read around the subject a little, I am certain that these topics are beautifully complex.

Knee-jerk responses are inappropriate and I am always suspicious that loud voices may be protesting too much. I pray that some of the Sofia of the godhead may enter this discussion.

W. S. Monkhouse (The Revd Dr) The Rectory Coote Street Portlaoise Co. Laois 


IT IS so sad to see this ‘pious’ but prurient judgmentalism over Dean Tom Gordon’s civil partnership, which many faithful members of the Church of Ireland, north and south, joined in celebrating with him and his partner in their home at the end of July.

Dean Gordon allowed his name to go forward for nomination to his present ministry only on the assurance given to him that his identity as a partnered gay man was known and accepted by both the parishioners and the Bishop. He had previously withdrawn from parochial ministry out of consideration for those who might find his orientation unacceptable.

Anglicanism now embraces a wide spectrum of understanding and discipline in relation to human sexuality; and synods everywhere are grappling with questions of justice, faithfulness and the needs of the Church in this area.

The recent turn to openness regarding sexual orientation in Church circles has been the cause of considerable alarm and conflict, but also of a degree of delight. At last, it is being admitted that a proportion of the most effective clergy have always been homosexual. Are we really at such a level of denial as to suggest that Tom Gordon is the only gay and partnered priest to have ministered in the ranks of our clergy?

I believe it is accepted by most Christians in Ireland today that the intimate expression of affection between mutually committed adults in private is nobody’s business but their own. I see nothing in the Ten Commandments to indicate that this is not so. “Bearing false witness”, however, is forbidden.

Let us, therefore, respect the integrity and courage of those who prefer to be frank about their sexuality rather than evading the issue or hoping that their orientation will not become known beyond a narrow circle of friends.

There have been calls recently for the House of Bishops to adjudicate on the gay clergy issue; but since their opinions on it vary greatly, it seems unlikely that any helpful statement can be produced. what they could do, however, would be to call on all of us to drop preoccupations with sexuality and concentrate rather on the core challenge of Christian faith: to love one another as God loves us; and to act justly, relate faithfully and play our part in the bringing in of God’s kingdom on earth.

Ginnie Kennerley (Canon) 4 Seafield Terrace Dalkey  Co. Dublin 

Features & Columns

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Book Reviews

Authors: Claire Mitchell and Gladys Ganiel Publisher: University College Dublin

Author: Joan Chittister Publisher: SPCK; pp.224


News Extra

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