COI Gazette – 31st January 2014

Church representatives in coordinated initiative on Syria talks in Switzerland

Pictured at the ecumenical conversation on Syria are (from left) the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, WCC General Secretary; H.E. Lakhdar Brahimi, UN Joint Special Envoy for Syria; and H.H. Catholicos Aram I, Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church - Holy See of Silicia/ Co-president of the Middle East Council of Churches. (Photo: Peter Williams/WCC)

Pictured at the ecumenical conversation on Syria are (from left) the Revd Dr Olav Fykse
Tveit, WCC General Secretary; H.E. Lakhdar Brahimi, UN Joint Special Envoy for Syria; and
H.H. Catholicos Aram I, Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church – Holy See of Silicia/
Co-president of the Middle East Council of Churches. (Photo: Peter Williams/WCC)

Shortly before the crucial Geneva II talks on Syria started last week, some 30 Church leaders from Syria and around the world gathered for three days at the headquarters of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva and called for substantial action to be taken at the talks to end the armed conflict.

The United Nations peace talks mediator, Lakhdar Brahimi, consulted with the group during part of the proceedings.




Martin Bucer may be regarded as the most important of the German leaders of the Reformation after Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon.

A conciliator, he strove to bring about a common understanding between the Swiss and Germans Reformers and he was also involved, albeit unsuccessfully, in talks to find common ground between Protestants and those loyal to Rome. In his final years in exile in England, he had some influence, although it is hard to quantify, on the 1552 edition of the Prayer Book.

In his ecclesiastical career, Bucer was originally a Dominican monk, but having heard Luther speak at a disputation at Heidelberg, he became a Protestant and, basing himself at Strasbourg, he became one of a group promoting the ideals of the Protestant Reformation. His views were more in line with the Swiss Reformers than with the followers of Luther, but he made strenuous efforts to bring about agreement on the main issue dividing the Reformation, namely, the doctrine of the Eucharist. His disappointment following the failure of Luther and Zwingli to agree at the Colloquy of Marburg (1529) is palpable: “If you immediately condemn anyone who doesn’t quite believe the same as you do as forsaken by Christ’s Spirit, and consider anyone to be the enemy of truth who holds something false to be true, who, pray tell, can you still consider a brother? I for one have never met two people who believed exactly the same thing. This holds true in theology as well.”

When the Emperor Charles V (a devout Roman Catholic) invited the Reformers to submit a statement of their beliefs, Bucer produced his Tetrapolitan Confession, differing in some respects from the Confession of Augsburg (1530), the classic statement of Lutheran belief. At a later stage, he was involved in a Conference at Regensburg (1541) attended by Cardinal Contarini, which was helpful in some respects but failed to produce complete agreement.

Following pressure from the Emperor at the Diet of Augsburg in 1548, Bucer left Strasbourg as a refugee and, at the invitation of Archbishop Cranmer, settled in England, where he became Regius Professor of Divinity in Cambridge. At Cranmer’s invitation, he produced his Censura – a critique of the original (1549) Book of Common Prayer. He has been described as a proto-ecumenist, as when he said: “If he, our Saviour, God and Lord, who is love itself, lives in us, then we are also united with all our fellow members in true divine love, one body, one loaf, sharing in one loaf.”

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

Conference on Middle East situation

My wife and I have just returned to the UK after seven years in the Middle East. The first two and a half years, we were based in Cyprus and visiting around the region; the last four and a half years, we were leading the Englishspeaking congregations at All Saints’ Cathedral in the centre of Cairo.

Every weekday morning, we prayed in the Cathedral: “The night has passed, and the day lies open before us. Let us pray with one heart and mind.” Sometimes we’d laugh. It wasn’t irreverence, honestly. Just that we’d never known what “the day lies open before us” really meant before we moved to the region. You never know who’ll turn up, what needs you’ll face, how even planned events would turn out. “T.I.E.,” we’d say. “This is Egypt!”

Then came the uprising. Everyone has seen the situation unfold. Hopes were high, as dictators stumbled and regimes crumbled. Then longings were dashed as extremists hijacked the events.

Christians found themselves under much greater pressure than usual. Many have left and many are still trying to leave. Meanwhile, Libya stumbles on. The Sudans are in crisis.

Desperate fighting in Syria has impacted all its neighbours. Lebanon’s tensions increase as refugees pour in, and Jordan is filling up; Churches have made remarkable journeys from resentment to response.

Christians are responding.

National Bible Societies are putting Scripture out like never before, tailoring their messages to the changing scene. When they’re attacked, as Egyptian churches were so severely last summer, their leaders called them to stand firm, keep praying and forgive. It is a remarkable witness to the presence and power of Christ.

This is the time for us to demonstrate our support for our brothers and sisters in the Middle East by our prayer, by our gifts, by our people. While some say the whole region will implode, our friends there are embracing what’s happening – even the extra pressure and harassment and suffering – as a time of Gospel opportunity for all people, especially those from Muslim backgrounds.

Let’s stand with them.

The Middle East Christian Outreach (MECO) Ireland Conference 2014 will be held in Drumbeg Parish Church Halls – beside St Patrick’s church, Upper Malone Road, Belfast – on Saturday 15th February, from 10.30am until 3.00pm, and all will be welcome.

Mike Parker (Canon) International Director Middle East Christian Outreach 22 Culverden Park Road Tunbridge Wells Kent TN4 9RA Tel. 07977 911421

Children of mixed marriages – new book project

The Northern Ireland Mixed Marriage Association (NIMMA) is seeking volunteers to feature in a new book about the children of mixed marriages.

The paperback will give at least 10 individuals the chance to tell in their own words how they were affected as the children of couples who put love before traditional allegiances.

Under the working title, Both Sides Now, the book will be the first of its kind about the subject and is being produced and published entirely by NIMMA.

We will choose as broad as possible a cross-section of contributors to the final publication from the many who come forward to reflect the real story of the mixed marriage child’s experience on this island.

Our previous book project, Mixed Emotions, was designed specifically to highlight the mixed marriage experience in Northern Ireland and encourage more people to talk about it, to tolerate it and to hear first hand from couples, who themselves were being encouraged – for the first time – to speak out.

Our latest project is also about increasing awareness of mixed marriage, especially among the young, and we see the book as a natural sequel to our earlier efforts. Already, our first book is being used by pupils at secondary level to raise awareness of tolerance and reconciliation.

Anyone interested in contributing to this publication, and all enquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence, should contact NIMMA on Belfast 028 9023 5444 or email: info@nimma.

Ken Dunn Chairman Northern Ireland Mixed Marriage Association Bryson House 28 Bedford Street Belfast BT2 7FE

Church Leaders on the Hass proposals

Innocent Victims United (an umbrella organisation for 21 victims’ groups) welcomes the clarity provided by the individual Church leaders with respect to an interview given by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Dromore, the Most Revd John McAreavey (Gazette report, last week).

Within the BBC interview, Bishop McAreavey had been described as “representing the four main Church leaders” when, in fact, he was representing his own personal view that the absence of political agreement being struck on the seventh draft of the Haass proposals represented “a missed opportunity”.

It was necessary for the Church leaders to clarify the position they hold in respect of the Haass proposals. Bishop McAreavey’s comments represented a distinct departure from the 8th January joint statement issued by the leaders of the four Churches and caused considerable alarm to many within our organisation and beyond.

In recent times, we have met with Archbishop Clarke (Church of Ireland), the Rt Revd Rob Craig (Moderator of the Presbyterian Church) and Dr Heather Morris (President of the Methodist Church) and we have a meeting scheduled with Archbishop Brady (Roman Catholic Church) in late February.

We made clear to each of the religious leaders the concerns and issues that the innocent victims and survivors of terrorism had with the Haass talks process and unfortunately these concerns were manifested in the final report that was produced. Like the Church leaders, we want to see resolution to the contentious issues that were discussed through the Haass talks, but we will not assent to the ‘re-writing’ of this country’s history nor the equating of perpetrators with victims (who, by definition of the word ‘victim’, are innocent).

We stated to each of the Church leaders that their flocks required moral leadership and pastoral care and that what they do not need is Church leaders assuming the role of quasi-politicians.

We have been heartened by the relationships that are being cultivated with the Church leaders. Our cause should and must be their cause also, delivering justice and truth for those affected by terrorism and encouraging the healing of our people through a process bringing about reconciliation.

Kenny Donaldson Innocent Victims United 1 Manderwood Square Manderwood Park Lisnaskea Co. Fermanagh BT92 0FS



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