Leading Church figures address theme of mission at annual QUB C. of I. Theological Lectures
The 58th annual Church of Ireland Theological Lectures at Queen’s University Belfast recently took place in the university’s Great Hall.
To mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Chaplaincy Centre at Queen’s, the event departed from the normal pattern. Instead of hearing from one visiting speaker, four leading Church figures – representing the Church of Ireland, the Methodist, the Presbyterian and the Roman Catholic Churches in Ireland – each addressed the theme of ‘The Mission of the Church in Northern Ireland in 2015: Obstacles and Opportunities’.
At a pre-lecture reception, the former QUB Church of Ireland Dean of Residence, Canon Edgar Turner, who inaugurated the Theological Lectures at the university, marked the significance of the occasion in a short speech recalling that the lectures had been established to convey “all that is best in the Church of Ireland and Anglicanism” – criteria to which, he felt, the organisers had faithfully adhered over the years.
FIGURES IN CHURCH HISTORY – 44 NICHOLAS FERRAR (1592-1637)
Nicholas Ferrar, like his great friend, George Herbert, was a courtier turned clergyman. Born in London, he was educated at a boarding school in Berkshire and at Clare College, Cambridge. He was appointed to the service of Princess Elizabeth, daughter of James I, who married the Elector Frederick V, and travelled to the continent. In the coming years, Ferrar travelled widely and, a brilliant scholar, learnt to speak Dutch, German, Italian and Spanish, as well as engaging in the study of medicine in Leipzig and Padua.
On his return to England in 1618, Ferrar was involved with the London Virginia Company, which was the family business, and he was also, for a time, a Member of Parliament. In 1626, following ordination as a deacon by the controversial Bishop (later Archbishop) William Laud, there was a major life-change when he and his extended family moved to the manor in Little Gidding in Huntingdonshire and restored St John’s church for their own use. There they lived a life of extreme simplicity, devotion and practical service.
It was said of the family that “their apparel had nothing in it of fashion, but that which was common; yet plain; and much of it for linen and woollen spun at home. They gave no entertainment but to the poor, whom they instructed first, and
then relieved, not with fragments but with the best they had. The devil had the less power to tempt them that he had never found them idle. Four times every day they offered up their supplications to God; twice in their family, with several petitions for their own needs, and for such as desired, upon special occasions, to be remembered by them to God. By night they kept watch in the house of the Lord, and two by turns did supply the Office for the rest, from whence they departed not till the morning.” (Ed. J.E.B. Mayor, Nicholas Ferrar – Two Lives)
The Ferrars had some highly developed skills, including bookbinding, and they produced harmonies of the Gospels that are still in existence and are regarded as some of the finest ever produced. Their way of life was famed and they had many visitors, including King Charles I who came to Little Gidding three times, the last of which occasions was in order to take refuge after the Battle of Naseby (1645).
Sadly, Ferrar died in 1637, but the community at Little Gidding continued for a number of years after his death.
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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Chair of C. of I.’s Church and Society Commission welcomes DUP MLA’s ‘conscience clause’ move
Responding to a Gazette request to the Church of Ireland for comment on the Democratic Unionist Party MLA Paul Givan’s proposal to enable people with strong religious views lawfully to refuse to provide some services if to do so clashed with their religious convictions, the Chair of the Church and Society Commission (CASC), the Revd Adrian Dorrian, told us: “I welcome what Mr Givan is trying to achieve and I will be urging my colleagues on the Commission to continue to feed into any legislative process to ensure a just and fair outcome that provides reasonable accommodation for as many people as possible.”
Mr Dorrian said that he welcomed “the broader conversation in the public forum” that has been raised by the proposed ‘conscience clause’ and “the motivation behind his [Mr Givan’s] raising this matter”.
To this end, Mr Givan had introduced in the Northern Ireland Assembly a Private Member’s Bill – the Northern Ireland Freedom of Conscience Amendment Bill (also known as the Conscience Clause Bill) – sparked by a case involving Ashers Baking Company which, last year, refused a customer’s order for a cake with a slogan supporting same-sex marriage because, the owners said, the request was “at odds” with their Christian beliefs.
The company subsequently found itself facing legal action (Gazette, 14th November 2014, page 3).
Mr Dorrian told the Gazette that he believed there was “a real watershed moment before our society, based around issues of rights and of reasonable accommodation for minorities – in this particular instance, the LGBT community and those Christians who hold a traditional biblical view of marriage and relationships”.
He asserted that “a truly tolerant society will have room for a multiplicity of opinion and it will protect those with minority views, as well as provide space for competing and conflicting opinion; conscientious objection is not the same thing as discrimination”.
This, Mr Dorrian said, was “enshrined in the thinking of the Church of Ireland, as affirmed by our commitment to a listening process around human sexuality in the context of Christian belief”.
Whilst acknowledging that “a legislative arena may not be ideal for resolving what is a much broader moral question”, Mr Dorrian accepted that “it may be the best tool presently at our disposal as a society” and he urged Mr Givan and his Assembly colleagues “to continue to facilitate a broad- ranging discussion around the accommodation of rights”.
Mr Dorrian’s comments to us continued: “CASC has not made a formal written response to Mr Givan’s consultation, but I have been in touch with him and will be meeting with him alongside CASC colleagues in the near future.
“It is likely that we will raise questions around the scope of the proposed amendment and safeguards to ensure it cannot be used to facilitate discrimination against members of the LGBT community.
“We will certainly encourage a comprehensive conversation around religious and civil freedom in Northern Ireland and I will be affirming the Church of Ireland’s position that marriage ‘is part of God’s creation and a holy mystery in which one man and one woman become one flesh’.”
ROMAN CATHOLIC AND PRESBYTERIAN RESPONSES
Last week, a Roman Catholic Church delegation, led by the Bishop of Down and Connor, the Most Revd Noel Treanor,
met representatives of the DUP to discuss the Conscience Clause Bill.
Following the meeting, Bishop Treanor said that it was “important that our politicians accept there is a real problem here that needs to be addressed [as] our laws as they stand are having an unjust and disproportionate impact on those of religious faith”.
He hoped that ways would be sought to give “greater recognition to freedom of conscience and religion as a fundamental human right and a cornerstone of a diverse and pluralist society”.
The Presbyterian Church in Ireland responded to Mr Givan’s Bill in a 22-point submission document from its Council for Church in Society which emphasised individual human dignity, the importance of upholding the right to freedom of conscience and the need for appropriate balance and reasonable accommodation.
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