Anglican Communion Secretary-General speaks at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute
On Wednesday of last week (22nd February), the Church of Ireland Theological Institute (CITI) hosted a visit by the Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Josiah Idowu- Fearon who, addressing a group of invited guests and students, delivered a lecture entitled ‘Global Anglicanism – Where are we now?’.
Referring to David Goodhew’s recently published book, Growth and decline in the Anglican Communion: 1980 to the present, the Archbishop observed that while the Communion is growing rapidly in numerical terms in the Global South, Anglicans in the Global North are taking a lead in many new forms of evangelism and outreach.
A primary purpose of Lent is preparation – preparing ourselves in heart and mind for the sacred remembrance of Christ’s ultimate giving of himself on Calvary. Holy Week in particular will focus on the final events leading up to that event but throughout the coming weeks of Lent we are to prepare for that concentrated focus. Lent is a penitential season, a time for self-examination which is surely helped by self-denial, being that bit tougher on ourselves than perhaps is our usual wont.
The whole of Christ’s earthly life was characterised by obedience to the Father’s will and this obedience was to come to its climax on Golgotha. Of course, Easter would come, but we cannot fully celebrate the glorious victory of Easter without first having thought through all that went before.
The importance of reflecting on the way to the Cross is that it is, precisely, to be our way in life too. Each Christian person must take up his or her cross, for Jesus said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16: 24) In the following verse, Jesus sets forth one of the many great paradoxes of the Christian life, telling us that “whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it”.
Losing, we find. What is more, that ‘losing’ of ourselves is typified in the Cross. The Christian way is the way of the Cross. It is always, always, always, about giving of ourselves in obedience to God, ready for the sacrifices that giving necessarily entails.
It is difficult always to be giving of oneself. It is a demanding course because our lesser instinct is to
look out for ourselves first. Can we really give in such a way? Can we really always forget ourselves? Can we really always be making sacrifices and not caring about our own wishes and our own needs?
The truth is that none of us fully succeeds and we are repeatedly falling short. Yet, the point about the call to the way of the Cross is that we are to set before us the ideal of Christ’s own sacrificial life and to try, try and try again to exemplify it in our own lives. Moreover, when we do succeed, we are not to let up but must go on to give of ourselves again and again.
This Christian life requires spiritual strength. When in our baptism we are signed with the sign of the Cross, we are incorporated into the great fellowship of Christ’s body, the Church, the community of pilgrims on the way of the Cross. It is there, in the Church, that we will find the means of grace and the support and help of our fellow pilgrims.
The Holy Communion has its special role in imparting spiritual strength to us as the sacrament of bread and wine which wonderfully become Christ’s body and his blood, conveying to our deepest selves his very life. Alongside the ‘breaking of bread’ is the ‘breaking of the Word’, the delving into the deep truths of God’s message to us through the pages of Holy Scripture. The Bible contains the words that lead us to the Word. So, Scripture, as the Word of God, with all its life, renews and refreshes us. There is to be a diligent searching of Scripture, yes, but that searching is always rewarded with a renewed heart and a renewed spirit. Word and sacrament nourish us and strengthen us as we journey, this Lent, and always, on the way of the Cross.
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Letters to the Editor
Bethany Home and the Irish Church Missions
I DISAGREE with Canon Brian Courtney’s attempt (Gazette, 10th February) to distance the Irish Church Missions (ICM) from the Bethany Home, that left the remains of 227 children in Mount Jerome Cemetery.
His observation that the Historical Institutions Abuse Inquiry did not find systemic “sexual abuse of children by staff” in Manor House, an ICM children’s home, is misleading.
The HIAI reported:
a) “systemic failing on the part of the staff to take proper steps to prevent, detect and disclose [physical and sexual] abuse;”
b) “a systemic failure by staff to take all proper steps to prevent, detect and disclose peer sexual abuse in the home.”
Manor House was referred to at one stage as a “dump”.
It is of little consolation to victims that staff were guilty merely of systemic negligence.
Canon Courtney suggested that ICM clergy on the Bethany Home Management Committee, or who presided at meetings, were “not … in any way representing the [ICM]”.
Really? We are not considering tiddlywinks club membership.
ICM Superintendent the Revd T.C. Hammond spoke at foundation meetings on 8th May 1922. The Archbishop, Dr Gregg, spoke also (of saving ‘fallen’ women). Money was donated through the Archbishop.
Hammond was on Bethany’s Management Committee until 1935. After that, Reverends Parkinson-Hill and then Smallhorne served. They presided at Bethany Home meetings and at ICM public meetings.
ICM Superintendent the Revd R.J. Coates presided at Bethany’s 1965 42nd annual meeting and referred to ‘illegitimacy’ as a “social sin”.
The ICM and the Church of Ireland did not run Bethany, but their clergy managed and endorsed it.
Bethany sent children to the ICM’s Boley orphanage, in Monkstown Co. Dublin. Bethany children were also sent to the US, and Manor House children to Australia. One Bethany survivor sent northwards from the Boley, to an ICM affiliated family, was renamed ‘Paddy from the home’.
The ICM regulated unmarried mothers as much as Bethany. ICM Superintendent W.L.M. Giff gave evidence at a November 1949 murder trial. He persuaded a mother, against her judgement (and that of her husband), to take back an ‘illegitimate’ child from the Boley, after the mother married.
The nine-month old was found buried soon afterwards on the family’s Sligo farm and the mother was charged with murder. The jury deliberated for five minutes and found her not guilty, despite deliberately inflicted injury. Jurors took pity on the defendant and considered persons not before the court as partly culpable.
Canon Courtney’s is a familiar refrain. The ICM sometimes observes that the Church of Ireland does not represent its version of Anglicanism. I suggest that the ICM found common cause in Bethany, that also had a proselytising mission.
The ICM could allow examination of its records to reveal further connections. It would first have to relinquish a ‘nothing-to-do-with- me’ attitude.
Instead of picking holes in arguments, why not pick up the pieces of this sad history?
Why not seek redress from the Irish state that turned its back on its abandoned Protestant and Roman Catholic children?
That seems to me like a good mission.
Chairperson, Bethany Survivors Rugby Warwickshire
C. of I. census
AT THE risk of being tiresome in intervening as a retired clergyman, I feel I must make some points in favour of the recent Church of Ireland census, about which in the Gazette’s correspondence columns there has been weariness worthy of the writer of the Book Ecclesiastes.
First, far being the fond invention of some unnecessary committee seeking a raison d’être, it was initiated by Standing Committee with the encouragement of other committees and commissions, as a result of many years of prompting by ordinary members of the General Synod.
An anxiety has intensified that churchgoing trends are changing in ways that may threaten the very structures and patterns of the way we do our worship and organise our church.
It is necessary to discover something of the facts.
Best practice has been followed from some of the dioceses which have already been doing this for some time. An external benchmark of the figures from the Civil Census in both jurisdictions was chosen.
The results from the last church census highlighted many thought- provoking trends. For me, one was that the Church of Ireland was doing best in terms of percentage churchgoing relative to Civil Census figures, in the Republic at least, and in rural areas, where it was still very much present in numbers in the community.
However, it would appear that this also coincides in part with those parts of the country which, in other studies, have been identified as among the most socially conservative.
As regards the recent census, I am glad that new questions have been introduced about the continuity of churchgoing.
A wide assumption was made by many people last time that, if the congregation averaged 28 on all three Sundays surveyed, the sum total of those attending the church was indeed 28. Of course, and especially in this age, this is unlikely to be so.
About half of the 28 may well be there on almost all Sundays. The other half may well consider themselves committed church people, but who attend much less frequently, regrettably due to pressures of work, leisure, family life and the general trends of modern living.
This is an important question and may well shape our mission, especially if this coincides with the younger families. I await with interest the analysis of the figures.
As regards the use of the Civil Census figures, in a Church with a very open membership model, this would seem essential, avoiding as it does the vicissitudes of figures collected in dioceses for assessment purposes.
For myself, having endured being chastised with Civil Census figures for many years by the late Canon J.L.B. Deane, I have long been of the opinion that their use is fully justified.
Robin Bantry White (The Ven.) Paulstown
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