COI Gazette – 5th July 2013

Church of Ireland rejects Obama reference to ‘segregated’ education in Northern Ireland

President Obama speaking in Belfast’s Waterfront Hall last month (Photo: Pete Souza/ White House)

President Obama speaking in Belfast’s Waterfront Hall last month (Photo: Pete Souza/White House)

The Church of Ireland has rejected US President Barack Obama’s description of the educational system in Northern Ireland as, in the President’s terminology, “segregated”.

In the wake of controversy over the President’s remarks on educational practice in Northern Ireland in his 17th June Belfast Waterfront Hall speech – while en route to last month’s G8 summit in Co. Fermanagh – the Gazette posed the Church of Ireland, through the Press Office, a series of questions on the issue.

Asked if the Church considered it accurate to refer to education in Northern Ireland as a “segregated” system, the Secretary to the Church of Ireland’s Board of Education (N.I.), the Revd Dr Ian W. Ellis, responded, saying it did not.



The publication last week by The Irish Independent of recorded conversations between top Anglo- Irish Bank officials in 2008, regarding the financial situation of the bank, conveys an image of moral collapse and cynicism that is truly shocking. It was revealed that the strategy of Anglo-Irish Bank was to indicate initially to the Central Bank of Ireland that €7 billion was needed to enable the former to survive, when in fact it was known that the amount was much greater. The Anglo-Irish Bank strategy was revealed as drawing the State into a rescue operation at €7 billion and then gradually seeking more and more. Anglo-Irish Bank was taken over by the State in January 2009 at a cost of €30 billion.

Negotiations at this level inevitably involve a degree of tactical play, but the vulgarity of the conversation, with such contempt for the regulator, conveys an utter disregard for others and a disrespect for those who were actually seeking to help. Laughing off concerns about abuse of the Irish bank guarantee scheme is simply outrageous. That people who bear so much responsibility for the wellbeing of others can think and speak in the manner revealed, and with such reckless arrogance, is deeply disturbing. The callousness of joking about “another day, another billion” of deposits going out of Anglo-Irish Bank is a sorry reflection on the prevailing attitude within that bank.

The singing of Deutschland über Alles in jest while German money was rescuing Anglo-Irish Bank led the Deputy Leader of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party to speak of the recordings as “unbearable” to hear. He told RTÉ: “We are offended. If you have a feeding hand you shouldn’t bite into it.” Ms Merkel herself said she regarded the débâcle “with contempt”.

The low level of behaviour revealed in the taped conversations cannot but lead to a further questioning of confidence in people in positions of financial responsibility and leadership in the country. The Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, has rightly observed that the revelations are a liability in relation to the Republic’s international reputation, saying that the tapes made him “seething with anger”. Further, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton, in supporting a proper investigation into the whole affair, has echoed the widespread frustration with the length of time it is taking to convict anyone regarding breaches of policy and regulations in the financial sector.

Whatever course an inquiry takes, the establishment of some real moral authority in the financial industry is badly needed, with those who have acted in probity having been so badly let down by their industry colleagues.

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Letters to the Editor

Church of Ireland/Methodist interchangeability of ministries

Following the overwhelming vote of support at the General Synod of this year for the first stage of synodical legislation to permit an interchangeability of ministries between the Church of Ireland and the Methodist Church in Ireland, a number of queries have been raised in the letters page of the Gazette.

It should be noted that there was nothing new in anything that was proposed at this year’s Synod; the theological and ecclesiological presuppositions underlying the proposals have been under discussion at the General Synods of the past three years.

These have been reported, and they appear in the journals of the Synods, all on public record. Perhaps one or two misconceptions might usefully be noted for your readership.

A permitted interchangeability of ministries does not imply a uniting of the polities of the two traditions. The Church of Ireland and the Methodist Church in Ireland remain distinct entities, and we should therefore not feel any necessity to impose the language and terminology of one polity onto the other.

What is recognised is a “sufficient consonance” in the understanding of the ordained ministry in both traditions – including the continuing personal episcope given to a President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, along with both communal and collegial episcope in the polity of the Methodist Church in Ireland – such as to warrant an interchangeability of ministries in particular circumstances.

This is certainly a step towards unity, but it is not a final step. Nor would an individual instance of interchangeability be informal or casual, but would happen only with the specific permission and subject to the usual regulations of the ‘receiving’ Church in each and every case.

Although the participation of Church of Ireland bishops in the consecration of a Methodist episcopal minister (as the Methodist Church in Ireland has gladly accepted as a designation of a President, and hence former President) with the concomitant participation of Methodist episcopal ministers in the consecration of Church of Ireland bishops will signify an acceptance of the theology of personal episcope present in each other’s traditions, there will be a period of anomaly – a not uncommon corollary to ecumenical progress – to cover previous ordinations and consecrations.

This has ample precedence in the formation of the Church of North India. Of most importance, there is undoubtedly a unanimity of ‘intention’ in the making of a bishop and of a Methodist President. There is here a clear parallel with the participation of Anglican bishops in Porvoo consecrations and vice versa, as is now common practice.

Nothing has been lost and, with the strength and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, much will be gained in the future of the covenantal relationship between our two Christian traditions.

Barry Forde (The Revd) Secretary, Covenant Council 22 Elmwood Avenue Belfast

In his letter on the recognition of Methodist ministry (7th June), Canon Michael Kennedy quotes Archbishop Bramhall but omits the following sentence which comes after the one he cites: “But we are now to consider ourselves a national church limited by law, which among other things takes chief care to prescribe about ordination” (The Works of the Most Reverend Father in God John Bramhall, I, p xxiv).

In short, Bramhall was taking a relatively conciliatory line (in common with Charles II in England at this stage), but he still insisted on episcopal orders.

Canon Kennedy also omits to mention that Bramhall re-ordained conditionally any Presbyterians who wished to conform and that in exile on the continent during the Interregnum he had refused to receive communion from the Hugenots at Charenton (Sykes, Old Priest and New Presbyter, 1956, pp120, 152 ). Bramhall was in general strongly pro-episcopal in his views (e.g. The Works, III, pp. 531-536).

While Canon Kennedy is correct in stating that 17th century divines were reluctant to unchurch foreign reformed clergy, it should be noted that cases of such ministers serving in the Churches of England or Ireland were few in number and that in at least one case the foreign cleric concerned received conditional re-ordination (Sykes, Old Priest, pp.88-90). Also, while foreign non-episcopal orders were not repudiated wholesale, on account of an argument from necessity, those of domestic nonepiscopal Churches were.

I am not aware of any foreign non-episcopal minister received into the Churches of England or Ireland after the restoration without being re-ordained. Supporters of the scheme for recognition of Methodist orders may appeal to Church history if they wish, but they would be advised to look elsewhere than to the Stuart Anglican divines.

C. D. C. Armstrong 34 Donegall Road Belfast BT12 5JN

Belfast Cathedral Request

Belfast Cathedral is very fortunate to have a complete set of plans and drawings from every stage of its development. We are trying to acquire a large AO size Architectural Plan Chest in which to store this valuable archive in order that they are preserved for future generations.

If anyone has a plan chest which they no longer require, I would be very pleased to hear from them.

Paul Gilmore St Anne’s Cathedral Donegall Street Belfast BT6 9LF

Mental health care of clergy

It is estimated that, according to current research, as many as one in three clergy in the Church may experience serious mental health problems in their lifetime.

In the light of this statistic, I am beginning to do research – on a psychological and theological basis – into the pastoral care of clergy who have had, or have, mental health problems.

If any clergy have comments in this connection, or personal experience to relate, I would appreciate hearing from them.

D. Morrow (The Revd) 93 Ballyronan Road Killyfaddy Magherafelt BT45 6EW

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