Church of Ireland delegation meets Government representatives in Dublin
Education, Northern Ireland and rural issues were among a number of matters raised at a recent bilateral meeting between representatives of the Church of Ireland and the Government of the Republic of Ireland.
The Church of Ireland delegation, led by the Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Michael Jackson, met the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD; the Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn TD; the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD; and senior officials from the Departments of Health and Justice.
One of the key topics raised by the delegation was education, in which respect, the innovative model of patronage being undertaken with the new secondary school in Greystones, Co. Wicklow, was discussed.
The 2013 General Synod is to be held in the Armagh City Hotel from 9th-11th May and the Honorary Secretaries’ very helpful preview of the business for the Gazette (pages 8 and 9) reveals some weighty matters to be discussed.
One new departure announced is a conference-style discussion relating to the work of the Commission on Episcopal Ministry and Structures. In a way, the approach reflects the experience of interaction among Synod members at the Cavan Conference last year. Integrating this within the work of the General Synod itself will be an adventurous undertaking, but there must surely be more to Synod business life than a long succession of speeches, even with the occasional presentation. The attempt at a really new direction for common deliberation should be given every encouragement.
The synodical concept is intended to reflect the fact that, as members of a Church, we are on a common journey.
The meaning of the word ‘synod’, deriving from the Greek, suggests a common way or path and the walking of this way together. The General Synod is sometimes called a ‘parliament’, yet, while it is true that many of its procedures reflect parliamentary practice, the governance of the Church of Ireland (or of any Church, for that matter) is to be a deeper engagement than pure political duelling. It is to be marked by the spirit of ‘walking together’, even though there are important rules to follow in so doing.
The Church of Ireland certainly is changing in different ways, many of which are good and welcome and some of which, to put it at best, are challenging. However, what we must achieve as a Church is to get through difficulties at peace with one another. When there are differences, there is always the temptation to paper over cracks – but that is no solution at all.
However, engaging in persistent, prayerful dialogue with one another is not to paper over cracks but is to address difficulties in honest conversation, bearing with one another in a truly Christian way. To enter into dialogue, if it is to have any real meaning, does, moreover, require those taking part to be prepared to look at themselves critically and to be prepared to make sacrifices.
The 2013 General Synod will be the first under the presidency of Archbishop Richard Clarke. May it be, for the whole Church of Ireland, a time of renewed confidence in our service of the Lord of the Church, Jesus Christ.
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General Synod 2013 Preview
Letters to the editor
Select Committee on Human Sexuality
It is almost beyond belief that there is not a single member of the proposed Select Committee on Human Sexuality who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (Gazette report, last week).
While there is space for two co-options, that these must come from General Synod – which (as far as I am aware) has only one openly gay member – makes it entirely possible that the committee will remain ‘straights only’.
Can we envisage the Church of Ireland setting up a committee with an all-white membership to examine the experiences of the growing number of ethnic minority people in our parishes?
Or could we imagine the State establishing a commission on gender equality with an all-male membership?
Both these situations would be ridiculed as a reflection of institutional prejudice, and rightly so. Yet, somehow, when sexual minorities are involved, it is acceptable for us to be treated by our Church as if we are to be examined like lab samples.
Sadly, it seems that nothing has been learned from last year’s Cavan conference, which was a lesbian-free zone with only two openly gay speakers – both flown in from outside the island. General Synod would greatly diminish doubts as regards its sincerity if membership of the select committee were less restrictive.
In today’s Ireland, more and more of us live open gay lives, our relationships registered by the State, affirmed and celebrated by neighbours, colleagues, family and, in many cases, by the people with whom we worship each week.
However, once we deal with the exalted reaches of C. of I. committeedom, we are expected to accept marginalisation quietly.
The leadership of our Church may continue to marginalise us, but they should not be naïve enough to presume that we will be silent.
David McConnell Dublin 6
Mental health issues
I want to ask one very simple, direct and relevant question to the Church of Ireland: Why is it that the Church, officially, has nothing to say in relation to the one in four people who attend our parishes every Sunday, including clergy – as well as those who do not attend church – and at least one time in their life experience serious problems with their mental well-being?
There are a few references to the subject in old reports and I know that the Working Party on Disability is beginning to look at this issue. That is very welcome and many clergy and parishioners do much to help people with their struggles.
Yet, while there are plenty of resources on interfaith dialogue, building maintenance, liturgy, Church history, etc., there are no resources to help people who are struggling with mental health issues.
David Morrow (The Revd) Magherafelt
New Victims’ Charter
On Friday 19th April, Innocent Victims United (IVU) – an umbrella organisation with 15 member-organisations, supporting several thousand direct victims and survivors of terrorism in the South- West of Northern Ireland – launched ‘A Charter for Innocent Victims’. IVU hopes for Church support in desiring the following:
1. The development of a definition of victim/survivor of terrorism that would apply to all innocent victims and survivors of terrorism and their relatives in Northern Ireland and which could be replicated across the wider United Kingdom and also the Republic of Ireland.
2. An end to the onesided use of language where terminologies used have the effect of alienating the innocent victims/survivors of terrorism. Terms such as ‘conflict’, ‘combatant’, ‘war’, ‘State and non-State actors’ are examples of an agenda to dilute terrorism’s effects.
3. The Maze Conflict Transformation Centre project should be halted, as it would provide the means for former terrorists to return to the Maze as victims, educationalists and, quite possibly, tour guides – thereby cleansing themselves of crimes.
4. Formal acknowledgement must be made by the Republic of Ireland of its ‘flawed and insufficient’ security and extradition policies.
5. The system of means testing should never be applied where victims are concerned.
6. All incidents which resulted in loss of life should be equally investigated and comparable efforts made to deliver acknowledgement, truth and justice for the families affected.
7. We request that the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland Governments put in place a joint fund for the purpose of compensating those families who were forced to leave their homes because of intimidation, violence and/ or the threat of violence.
8. We call for the setting up of an independent task force which would examine capacity issues within the innocent victims’ support network and which would ensure the presence of appropriately and sufficiently resourced services to reflect the reality that those victims/ survivors who suffered most were those affected as a consequence of terrorism.
IVU appeals for people throughout the Church to support them in their quest – see Facebook page ‘Innocent Victims Utd’, where an e-petition in support of the Charter can be signed. We are non-sectarian and nonparty political.
Kenny Donaldson IVU Spokesperson 14 Derryraghen Road Cavantillycormick Coa Ballinamallard Co. Fermanagh BT94 2BN
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Diocese of Down rector elected chairman of C. of I. Press Ltd.
The Revd John Auchmuty was elected chairman of the board of the Church of Ireland Press Ltd., owners of the Church of Ireland Gazette, at the company’s recent annual general meeting held in the Canal Court Hotel, Newry, Co. Down.
Mr Auchmuty, who is rector of St Columba’s, Knock, East Belfast, Diocese of Down, succeeds David Pyle who stood down after six years as chairman, though he will remain a member of the board. Tony Forbes and Patrick Good serve as the board’s vice-chairman and honorary secretary respectively. On behalf of the members of the board, Mr Good paid tribute to Mr Pyle’s service to the company, particularly his contribution as chairman.
Presenting Mr Pyle with tokens of the board’s appreciation, Mr Good affirmed that he had been “comfortable with being in charge … a good listener, able to distil the consensus of the board … [had] displayed a sense of humour … and was a relationship builder”.
In reply, Mr Pyle expressed his appreciation of the board’s generous presentations. He said that he had enjoyed and valued his time working with board members whom he had always found to be “kind, helpful, constructive and supportive”.
Mr Auchmuty said that the company owed Mr Pyle “a great debt of gratitude for the wise council that he has given to our work over many years, first as a board member and then as chairman”.
Mr Auchmuty continued: “David always made attendance at our meetings a priority, irrespective of his health, and I would also like to pay a warm tribute to his wife, Mary Ena, for all the support which she gives him.”
The new chairman, who has been a member of the board for 10 years, thanked Mr Pyle for the personal help, kindness and consideration which he had always extended to him, especially during the five years which he [Mr Auchmuty] had served as honorary secretary.
Mr Auchmuty thanked board members for placing their trust in him, saying that he was “looking forward to working collectively with my colleagues to embrace with confidence the future opportunities and challenges which lie ahead for the board and the Gazette itself”.