Anglican Communion ‘a gift, not a problem’, says Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury has used his Advent letter to the Primates of the Anglican Communion and Moderators of the United Churches to reiterate that the “Communion matters” to its members across the world and to the mission of God.
In the letter issued last week, Dr Rowan Williams highlighted how, over the past year, Anglican cooperation and fellowship had provided real support and encouragement to Anglicans undergoing challenges in countries such as Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan and Zimbabwe.
The Chief Executive Officer of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCC), Ian Elliott, last week said that six reports released by dioceses reviewed by the Board – Ardagh and Clonmacnois, Derry, Dromore, Kilmore, Raphoe, and Tuam – showed “improvements in the attitude to and understanding of child protection in those dioceses”. Mr Elliott further commented: “Most importantly, I found improvement in the area of implementation of systems to ensure child protection.” A statement from the NBSCCC indicated that marked improvements had also been found in prompt notification of the statutory authorities. John Morgan, NBSCCC Chairman, explained that the purpose of the reviews, which will continue in other parts of the Church, was “to assure lay faithful and clergy and, particularly, parents and young people that the implementation of the Safeguarding Guidelines is effective and that where it is not, we will identify it and take action”.
The clear impression that one gets from this latest series of reports is that, despite past deficiencies that are recorded, the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has turned an important corner in its whole tragic story of clerical child abuse – a tragic story that has indeed influenced the Church of Ireland in developing our own clear child protection policies in Safeguarding Trust. The corner that last week’s reports suggest the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has turned is, quite simply, from bad news to good news. The good news is that, in all six dioceses, there have been important improvements in practice regarding child protection, with the Diocese of Kilmore being described as “a model of best practice”, mainly as a result of the personal commitment to the issue on the part of Bishop Leo O’Reilly.
The energy that the wider Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has put into addressing its horrendous child abuse history is now seen as having had good effect, with real lessons having been learned and real changes made. It is important for all Christian Churches in Ireland that this is recognised by the public because, although separate institutions, the Churches are all on a common journey of discipleship. What happens to one affects all to a greater or lesser extent. It is for that reason that the progress that has been reported by the NBSCCC, showing how the welfare of children now clearly comes before the public standing of the Church as an institution, is both acknowledged and welcomed.
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Letters to the Editor
Civil partnerships controversy
HAVE followed with interest the correspondence on the civil partnership issue. Some things which perhaps need to be reflected upon by the Bishops and others in the quest for an informed debate might be:
• Why gender change is looked upon by the LGBT community as acceptable, yet orientation change is not, unless it is from heterosexual to homosexual.
• Why, if it is possible to change from being a heterosexual to a homosexual, it is not considered possible to change the other way, when others have testified to it in their lives?
• Why sexual expression for the homosexual community is considered essential, when our bodies were not designed for it.
• Does the demand for sexual expression by LGBTs not negate the self-sacrificing celibacy of single individuals down the ages who have not been able to marry for various reasons and have remained chaste in obedience to Christ’s teaching regarding marriage and all sexual expression outside it?
I offer these points not to start another lot of correspondence in the pages of the Gazette, but simply to give those involved in coming discussions an idea of some of the questions in the minds of not a few faithful members of the Church.
S. Wilson (Mrs), Tandragee BT62
IN YOUR report, ‘Civil Partnerships in places of Worship’ (Gazette, 25th november, page 7), it is noted that the Equality Minister in the UK has decided to remove the ban on civil partnerships being registered in religious premises that was contained in the Civil Partnership Act (CPA), 2005, s.6(1)(b).
This is correct, and is brought about by the decision to implement s.202 of the Equality Act 2010, a provision that has been on the statute books for almost a year.
Arguably, this will not result in civil partnerships being registered in churches, as the change does not remove the provision that “no religious service is to be used while the civil registrar is officiating at the signing of a civil partnership document” [CPA, s.2(5)]. It would seem unlikely that many denominations would favour such a secular registration in Church.
More likely is that denominations wishing to embrace civil partnerships would treat them in the same way as civil marriages (the legal provisions are almost identical), with a civil registration at a registry office followed by a blessing in church.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of this development is the increasingly complex landscape emerging in the UK for having a relationship recognised by the State. Opposite-sex couples can have a civil marriage outside a religious premises or a religious marriage inside a religious premises, but must enter the institution of marriage. Same-sex couples can have a civil partnership in a civil premises or in religious premises, but may not have a religious ceremony at either venue and cannot enter the institution of marriage.
The CPA was designed to create a scheme that mirrored civil marriage in all but name. These changes serve to undermine that intended symmetry and to increase rather than decrease the set of legal distinctions between same-sex and opposite-sex couples. As such, it represents a strange step towards any definition of equality.
Stephen Farrell ( The Revd) Zion Rectory Rathgar Dublin 6
The European Year of the Volunteer, 2011
AS THE European Year of the Volunteer, 2011 draws to a close, I would be very interested to hear if clergy celebrated the life-blood of the parishes given by volunteer parishioners throughout the year. I have put in a search on the Gazette’s website and found nothing about this.
They are the cleaners, maintenance crew, flower arrangers, organists, musicians, choirs, secretaries, treasurers, vestries, those who open up and remain to close churches, readers, prayer teams, welcome committees, the lay ministry, Sunday Schools/ clubs, mums and toddlers, older folk groups, women’s groups, men’s groups, youth organisations/clubs, parish magazine editors/news to diocesan magazines … and those whom I’ve forgotten do thou, O Lord, remember!
One cannot overestimate the importance of volunteers, but they too need support and encouragement. Like all volunteers, the work is done to use the talents that God has given us for the life of the Church and God’s kingdom, and to help the clergy so they can concentrate on their roles of pastoral care and service – but if this is not seen to be done …
Churches are now not able to meet their parish assessments. This is because parishioners have lost their jobs, hours and pay have been drastically reduced, pensions have been cut and many are struggling to keep a roof over their heads.
Clergy need to go out and meet and get to know their parishioners – learn what would help them in coming back to church or belonging to a church family before the churches are even emptier. I know many who haven’t been visited for years by their rector.
I recently attended a meeting organised by Kildare Volunteer Centre and was reminded that the Ark was built by volunteers. Yesterday, I assured one rector, who got me to climb a pulpit to take a photograph on ‘Back to Church’ Sunday – for a better view – that her job was safe. I never had a calling to serve God in this way!
Maybe, as I write on Advent Sunday – the start of the Christian New Year – Church of Ireland clergy could make this year one to celebrate their volunteers, but I hope to read how clergy may have celebrated the European Year of the Volunteer, 2011.
Two errors arose in our transcription of Dean Victor Griffin’s letter as published last week. In the first paragraph, “spirited gifts” should have read “spiritual gifts” and, in the third paragraph, “slightly affirming” should have read “rightly affirming”. We apologize for any misunderstanding that may have been caused.
These have been revised accordingly on the Letters section on the website. – WebEd
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