COI Gazette – 9th February 2018

Finding vocation in a changing landscape

Participants at conversation on vocation - CITI

Participants at conversation on vocation – CITI

Lay and ordained people from throughout the Church of Ireland gathered in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute (CITI) recently to examine how vocations can be nurtured in today’s changing landscape.

Organised by the Commission on Ministry and the Central Director of Ordinands, Canon David Gillespie, the day-long conversation was facilitated by Philip McKinley.

Participants from every diocese, who ranged from university chaplains and lay ministers to clergy and bishops, looked at the strengths, weaknesses and challenges of the current pathways to ordination. They also came up with recommendations. Their deliberations will be included in a report which will be presented to the Commission on Ministry, the House of Bishops and CITI.



The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland recognises the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn child. It was brought into Irish Law by the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution Act, 1983, following the referendum which passed by 66% for to 33% against. When it was passed in September 1983, it enshrined within the Irish Constitution recognition of an unborn child’s right to life, and so makes it impossible for any government to introduce legislation allowing for terminations in the womb except in exceptional circumstances.

Abortion is technically legal in Ireland since The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act was passed in 2013, allowing for abortion if there is an imminent and substantial risk to a woman’s life, including suicide. However, campaigning for repeal of the Eighth Amendment has continued since the original vote for it in 1983. There is nervousness about how the debate may unfold – but unfold it will. So, how may we contribute to the debate?

A number of years ago the Church of Ireland Hard Gospel project was set up to address the issue of how we, as members of the Church of Ireland, should deal with difference in a constructive manner. Whilst being established for a particular context, the principles outlined at that time seem more relevant than ever as we look towards the referendum campaign, bringing us to a vote in May of this year.

Surely one of the foundational principles for dealing with those who differ from us is to refuse to demonise or dehumanise any person or group with whom we disagree. The debate on the Eighth Amendment inspires the deepest of feelings – how could it not? When an issue touches deep passions it is easy to
move beyond arguing vigorously for what we believe to attacking the humanity of the person with whom we disagree. To put it more colloquially, it is to end up ‘playing the person and not the ball’. That phrase seems hardly adequate for what we are talking about, but the meaning is clear. Added to that, Christ did not qualify whom we may or may not love.

To be emotive is to do something to arouse feelings or emotions in someone else. It is unlikely that the debate on the Eighth Amendment is going to escape the temptation to be emotive. How is it possible not to feel emotion when we are talking about such profound issues – of life and death, as both sides will argue?

The Eighth Amendment debate will result in a decision being made, one way or the other, about the issue of abortion.

As we note on pages 8 and 9 of this issue, to this day, the Eighth Amendment remains one of the most morally, socially and politically divisive issues in modern Ireland. There are likely to be a range of reasons for this. Some may see it as symbolic of the profound social change that Ireland has been going through in recent years. Others may regard it as a symbolic knock at the power of the Church in the emerging Ireland. Whilst all this may be part of the mix, there is something much more important underneath it all – human life itself. The lives of pregnant women and the lives of children in the womb are what we are talking about.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says that: “This is now a matter for the Irish people. It is in their hands.” The people of Ireland will need to be clear exactly what they are being asked to put their name to.


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The Eighth Amendment Referendum


Letters to the Editor

The Eighth Amendment

AS A CHRISTIAN living in the Republic of Ireland, I am greatly disturbed and saddened by the pressure to reject the sanctity of life at every stage. Media and politicians are encouraging us to believe that our laws, in particular the Eighth Amendment to the constitution, are endangering women’s lives and denying them appropriate medical care.

This ignores WHO statistics which show that Ireland has comparable maternal mortality rates to other developed nations and, indeed, slightly less than the UK. Also, all the pro-choice arguments disregard the rights of those who do not have power to choose, the unborn, including those who are severely disabled, or those who through no fault of their own have been conceived through rape.

As Christians, we must expect that following God’s will, as revealed in the Scriptures, will result in going against popular opinion. God clearly forbids taking the life of another (Exodus 20: 13) and he speaks of knowing individuals intimately before their birth ( Jeremiah 1: 5, Psalm 139: 16).

As we follow God’s Word (i.e. through voting to protect life at every stage, even younger than the proposed 12 weeks’ gestation limit) let us rejoice in the wonder of God’s knowledge and care for each unborn child, which was each one of us at one time too.

As David says in Psalm 139: “You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

I would like to encourage us to speak out and (when the time comes) to vote to protect the lives of the most vulnerable. In particular, I would like to call on our church leaders to speak out to encourage the same (as leaders of other denominations have already done).
Ruth Bridcut

Blanchardstown Dublin




Female contributors to book on preaching

I WAS GLAD to hear of the publication of a new book on preaching, Perspectives on Preaching: A Witness of the Irish Church, published by Church of Ireland Publishing (CIP). Even more so when it advertised that it included “a wide range of notable preachers” and was ecumenical too.

I was heartened to read that, in the words of its editor, it was based on “the underlying conviction that biblically grounded, Spirit-filled and culturally relevant preaching is a sine qua non for the health of any local church”.

Unfortunately, as I read on I was deeply disappointed to see that 11 of the 12, undoubtedly all very fine contributors, were men.

To be truly culturally relevant
one must seriously engage with, listen to and reflect the voices of people who have experienced exclusion, who have not been at the top in society and who have been treated with suspicion by those who hold on to the reins of power.

For so many generations in Ireland the voices of women have been silenced. Our history records the actions of men whilst many of the women’s voices are lost altogether.

Unfortunately, even our relatively recent history contains a litany of injustices perpetrated against women – the Mother and Baby Homes, and the Magdalene Laundries.

As I write, the events of the Kerry Babies Tribunal are being revisited and, of course, the Eighth Amendment debate is revving up.

Into this maelstrom arrives a book on preaching, speaking from an overwhelmingly male perspective, and although the sole female voice offers the welcome and much- needed insight of someone who originates from beyond Ireland, there is no female Irish contributor ordained or lay.

It seems bizarre to me that this should even be an issue, after almost 30 years of women’s ordination. But it is, and if the counter argument is made that there are not enough suitable women, then I would suggest that this poses an even bigger question. Susan Green (Canon)

Tullow Co. Carlow


Plastic Bag Levy

AM I BEING unduly cynical at the support from retailers for compulsory plastic bag charging? Apart from the few companies who claim to donate this income to charity, the rest will be laughing their way to the bank!

More to the point would be to allow customers to use the empty cardboard boxes in which products have been delivered to the shop. My local supermarket used to have piles of these, freely available at the checkout. Plastic bag use was minimal as a result.

Nowadays, these must be disposed of by retailers at vast cost. Surely far better for them to be taken home and disposed of by customers as domestic waste at no cost to traders?

John Hein

Edinburgh Midlothian



President Trump and Jerusalem

US PRESIDENT Donald Trump has cancelled his visit to the UK to open the new US Embassy there, and good for him. Here is a man who won’t be pushed around or swayed by public opinion when mounting criticism builds for his words or actions.

There are few politicians today with the gumption and determination of Donald Trump. Whether we agree with the President on every issue, I think we can see that when he says he will do something, he is not afraid to carry it through and that takes gravitas.

Donald Trump was never going to cut the ribbon on an embassy that was an Obama project from the beginning. It is clear how different the two men are, even on subjects like Israel and foreign policy. Threats of protesters in London would not have made him welcome in Britain anyhow, so why should he subject himself to that?

I am sure the Queen will welcome him on a future State visit, as she has done so for many controversial world leaders in the past. I’m sure she wouldn’t miss the dinner- table talk for the world.

The US Embassy that Trump should be concentrating on opening is the new one in Jerusalem, apparently to be built on the site of a former
British army barracks there. That is a State visit the Queen has failed to make during over 60 years on the throne, obviously due to pressure or ‘advice’ from the Foreign Office, which has always been notoriously pro-Arab since the failures of the British Mandate in Palestine from 1917-47.

The Bible states that the nations of the world will all go up to Jerusalem (to visit their embassies?) and those that don’t will get no rain.

God says in the book of Zechariah, “I am zealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with great zeal. I am exceedingly angry with the nations at ease … The Lord will again choose Jerusalem … The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord has chosen Jerusalem. The Lord will take possession of Judah (‘West Bank’) as his inheritance in the Holy Land and will again choose Jerusalem.”

God raises up leaders to achieve his purposes throughout history. Even the horrors of the Antichrist are predicted by the Almighty. The US is far more ready to bless Israel than the pro-Arab nations of Britain and Ireland. It is still not too late for the Queen to visit Israel. It could be the jewel in her crown. Colin Nevin

Bangor Co. Down


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