Archbishop of Dublin touches on global issues in Christ Church sermon
In the course of his Christmas sermon in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, the Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Michael Jackson (pictured), raised the issues of the effects of the market economy and the situation in Syria.
However, he has declined a Gazette request to comment further on his remarks on either issue.
THE MARKET ECONOMY
Dr Jackson, having referred to a Porvoo Communion consultation on Economics and Ethics which he had attended in November at Bad Boll, Germany, voiced trenchant criticism of the contemporary market economy when he told the Christ Church congregation that market forces had brought about a situation of “inhumanity” and that the market economy “does not create a society of dignity”.
While Dr Jackson declined to respond to a Gazette enquiry as to how he envisaged an alternative economic approach, a spokesperson for him told us that Dr Jackson had not been making an “explicit” reference to the Republic of Ireland’s economy.
However, in his sermon, by way of illustrating his point, the Archbishop had referred to how “a man has died in a doorway in Dublin”.
The Archbishop’s comments struck at the heart of Western economic models which, while varying in government regulation, are essentially based on the market economy.
The European Union requires that acceding countries must be “functioning market economies” and must have, by the date of accession, “the capacity to cope with competition and market forces within the EU”.
The European Commission states that being a functioning market economy requires, inter alia, “a free interplay of market forces”.
Referring in his sermon to the crisis in Syria, Dr Jackson said: “The repeated delaying of Western intervention has, in fact, rendered every intervention more difficult and less effective.”
The Gazette had asked the Archbishop to indicate what kind of intervention by the West he felt would have been beneficial for the Syrian people.
The question of Western intervention in Syria has been a fraught political subject. In an August 2013 vote in the House of Commons, MPs ruled out possible British military strikes.
Speaking in the House of Lords at the time, on the subject of the situation in Syria, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, warned that there was “as much risk in inaction as there is in action” and cautioned that the “Just War theory says that the step of opening fire is one that must only be taken when there is no possible alternative whatsoever, under any circumstances”.
Just over a year later, in September 2014, Prime Minister David Cameron voiced support for British military intervention in Syria, as well as Iraq, to confront Islamic State, with MPs overwhelmingly supporting action in Iraq.
As American-led international military action in Syria commenced in September 2014, Mr Cameron expressed the view that there was “no legal barrier” to this, but accepted that British involvement was not the will of Parliament.
Writing last October in the magazine, Prospect, on the subject of dealing with Islamic State and jihadism, Archbishop Welby did not rule out “some use of force”, but stated that such action had to be part of a struggle “for the heart and the spirit, not only for our security and undisturbed wealth”.
On 18th September last, Defence Minister Simon Coveney told the Dáil that he would not, under any circumstances, send Irish troops who were on a UN peacekeeping mission in the Golan Heights into a civil war involving Syria.
According to Christian Aid, which is running a Syria crisis appeal, since the start of the conflict in Syria some three and a half years ago, more than 190,000 people have been killed, another 6.5 million people have been displaced inside the country and more than three million people have become refugees.
The Stormont House Agreement
In December, during the last days of last year’s political talks in Belfast – aimed at reaching agreement on flags, parades, the past and welfare reform – it at first seemed that the experience of just twelve months previously with the Haass-O’Sullivan negotiations would simply replay; that is, that talks would go ‘to the wire’ but that there would be no agreement. However, after the First and Deputy First Ministers met with Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday 15th December in Downing Street during a session of the Joint Ministerial Committee, with Mr Cameron indicating that he could go beyond his £1bn financial package offer of the previous week, despondency gradually gave way to some degree of optimism and, indeed, the Stormont House Agreement of 23rd December represented a triumph of hope over experience in that an agreed way forward, albeit leaving much implementation work still to be done, was concluded.
The Church’s interest in these matters focuses on moral content. Reconciliation is a clear priority in Christian thinking, as are freedom of expression, concern for the vulnerable and respect for the rule of law. The moral dimension in politics is the reason why the Church cannot simply retreat and let politicians ‘get on with it’. On the contrary, the Church must encourage dialogue and has an obligation to highlight moral responsibilities.
With regard to flags and parades, it is important that people’s freedom of expression is protected, but it is equally important that people use that freedom in a considerate manner. Neither flying flags nor parading should ever be done in a sectarian way and, equally, objecting to flags or parades should never lack a generous
spirit towards those who wish to express themselves. Compromises are vital when competing demands arise and, in fact, locally constructed agreements have been shown to have the best prospect of success.
By contrast with the two main previous attempts to find a resolution of issues surrounding the past in Northern Ireland – the Consultative Group on the Past (which reported in 2009) and the 2013 Haass- O’Sullivan negotiations (which resulted in a final but not agreed draft) – the Stormont House Agreement presents decisions without accompanying narrative. While it does not show a resolution of the issue of the statutory definition of a victim, it is significant that the Stormont House Agreement states that further work will be undertaken to seek “an acceptable way forward” on the proposal for a pension for severely physically injured victims (para. 28). That work will necessarily entail framing a distinction between those who were acting within the law and those who were not, a moral distinction the importance of which Lord Eames highlighted in widely noted comments to the Gazette last year (issue, 4th July). Indeed, the Stormont House Agreement stresses the importance, in any approach to the issue of the past, of respect for the principle of upholding the rule of law (para. 21).
Regarding welfare reform, the needs of the most vulnerable in society need to be given proper weight within government policy and the financial package associated with the Stormont House Agreement, almost £2bn, will go some way towards addressing those needs, as well as assisting the Northern Ireland economy to become less dependent on the public sector and more supported by trade and industry.
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Letters to the editor
CANON POULTON’s reflections (Gazette, 12th December) on his experiences on a board of nomination for a vacant parish could be shared by many, like myself, who have worked on such boards.
Referring to parishes as ‘vacant’ is of itself a problem. It creates a picture of nothing happening, of everything being on hold and no prospect of advancing until a new rector is appointed.
This gives a lie to the activity of faithful parishioners who continue to give leadership through select vestries and other groups.
It also fails to acknowledge the work of visiting clergy and readers in the facilitating of worship.
Rather than the term ‘vacant’, a much more appropriate term would be ‘in transition’ with ‘interim’ clerical support. These are terms used widely in North America and their positivity affirms the continuing activity of the parish, while using the time between clerical appointments for a creative engagement with the whole parish about vision for the future, the examination of weakness and the addressing of solutions.
This is a process in which all parishioners could participate. Such prayerful engagement could then inform all nominators, diocesan and parish, as to the needs of the benefice and lead to a less functional portrayal of the parish in the appointment advertisement and in the parish profile that would go to applicants.
Having come from a rural parish and served for 12 years as rector and curate in that positive environment, I too sense the sorrow of parishes where appointments take a long time. This is a discussion not only for rural but also urban church communities and I feel we could all benefit from a change of focus in how we address ‘in transition’ parishes.
Scott Peoples (The Revd) 5 Uppercross Ballyowen Lane Lucan, Co. Dublin
AS A former lay nominator, then as a diocesan clerical nominator in several dioceses, I was interested in Canon Poulton’s experience of his first Board of Nomination (Letter, Gazette, 12th December).
There is nothing wrong with the method of appointment to parishes laid down in the Constitution, but there is everything wrong with the way it is often applied.
The lay nominators are led to believe that the appointment lies with them and they go about this task in wildly different ways. In some cases, the candidates are interviewed by the whole parish and, in others, the nominators turn out to hear candidates preach. Often, just one name is brought before the Board and this sidelines the diocesan nominators.
The lay members of the Board have no idea what the clergy do, nor do they recognise that no appointment is better than the wrong appointment which the parish then has to put up with for maybe 10-15 years. Their great concern is to fill the vacancy.
Instead of what so often goes on at present, the candidates should be interviewed by the whole Board and then everyone will know what has been said to the candidates and the clerical members will know how to evaluate the responses.
All of this will simply make the present system work as it is intended to work. It is one instance where the institutional Church could learn from the secular world.
The Church will not introduce new patterns of ministry which Canon Poulton seems to favour. He and I were at a largely attended meeting (mainly of clergy) in Portlaoise which was addressed by Canon Andrew Bowden of the Church of England.
Canon Bowden described the working of ‘ministry teams’ in England, which would do away with the ‘Jack-of-all-trades’ ministry we have inherited from the Middle Ages. However, I have to say that there was no appetite expressed for what he was describing. This was regardless of the fact that it is much closer to the ministry of the New Testament – not to mention that practised in the Celtic Church.
So where do we go from here?
R. B. MacCarthy (The Very Revd) Dublin 8
The Irish language in the Church of Ireland
I WAS pleased to see the constructive letter concerning Irish in the Church of Ireland, from Dean Victor Griffin in the edition of The Church of Ireland Gazette for 12th December.
It might be worth drawing the attention of readers once more to the existence of the Cumann Gaelach na hEaglaise (The Irish Guild of the Church), which has been celebrating 100 years since its foundation in 1914. It has been celebrating that and has responded to the surge of support for the use of Irish among all classes and creeds.
For many who look for leadership from the Church of Ireland in supporting those of us who find a deep spiritual resource in Irish as the language of our prayers and worship, the Cumann Gaelach na hEaglaise provides a significant boost – and promotes regular services in Irish in different parts of this island.
The full Bible is available in Irish, as it is in each of the languages of Ireland and Britain (including Scots Gaelic, Cornish,Welsh and English), as also is the Book of Common Prayer and An Chomaoineach Naofa (The Holy Communion) – an edition of which was published by the Cumann in 2013.
I make a special appeal to all members of the Church of Ireland and others who feel that their spiritual life would benefit from the use of Irish as the language of their choice in the Church to consider as a New Year resolution joining the Cumann Gaelach na hEaglaise – the details of which are easily ascertainable on its excellent website.
As a special, personal plea from Cork, I hope anyone who would be interested in promoting regular Irish language services in Cork might consider contacting me (085-72 35 088) in the hope that these may be advanced, with the help of the Cumann Gaelach na hEaglaise.
Risteárd Mac Annraoi
An tSr. Rómhánach Corcaigh
SEEING JESUS AND BEING SEEN BY HIM Author: Christopher Cocksworth Publisher: SPCK
DONALD CAIRD: CHURCH OF IRELAND BISHOP. GAELIC CHURCHMAN. A LIFE. Author: Aonghus Dwane Publisher: The Columba Press; pp.248
CRY OF WONDER Author: Gerard W. Hughes Publisher: Bloomsbury
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