COI Gazette – 9th March 2012

The Dean-elect of St Patrick’s, Canon Victor Stacey

The Dean-elect of St Patrick’s, Canon Victor Stacey

Dean-elect Stacey approaches new role with ‘hope and joy’

Commenting to the Gazette shortly after his election last week as the new Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, Canon Victor Stacey said that while he was “somewhat in awe of the responsibilities”, he was approaching the task “with a sense of hope and joy, which are at the centre of the christian message”.

In a comment suggesting a contrast to the often controversial and stormy tenure of the post by his predecessor, Dr Robert MacCarthy, Canon Stacey said it would be his aim “to restore an atmosphere of harmony, peace and calm to the cathedral”.

The cathedral community has been very welcoming of his election.



FIGURES IN CHURCH HISTORY – 23 Peter Abelard (1079-1142)

Peter Abelard, one of the most stimulating thinkers of the medieval period, created so many problems for himself that he wrote an autobiography actually entitled, Story of my Calamities. He was born in the village of Pallet, near Nantes in Brittany, and was intended for a military career but, as he said himself, exchanged ‘mars’ for ‘minerva’ and instead became an academic.

A wandering scholar, he studied under some of the great scholars of his day, especially William of Champeaux at the cathedral school at Notre Dame in Paris. an acute logician, he defeated some of his academic superiors in argument and attracted a wide following of students from all over europe. Pride coming before a fall, he fell in love with a gifted pupil, Heloise, and had a child by her. when news of a clandestine marriage came out, he was mutilated on the instructions of his father- in-law, also a canon of notre dame, and lost his position. subsequently, he became a monk at the abbey of st denis, and Heloise became a nun. she, living an exemplary life, ultimately became the abbess of a monastery founded by Abelard himself.

Having an unfortunate knack of antagonizing people, abelard not only fell out with the monks of St Denis and parted company with them but also later had to leave another monastery of which he had become the superior, when the monks there actually tried to poison him. He resumed an academic career, but had made so many enemies that he found his works condemned by some of the highest authorities.

Abelard’s leading opponent was the authoritarian, St Bernard of Clairvaux (editorial, 27th January), one of the most influential churchmen then alive, who accused him of a remarkable variety of heresies, including Arianism, Pelagianism and Nestorianism, and secured his condemnation at a council held at Sens.

It is probably true to say that Abelard was an exceptionally stimulating writer who spent much of his time asking awkward questions, as when he published his Sic et non, rather mischievously putting contradictory passages from the Early Fathers side by side without attempting too strenuously to reconcile them. he helped to establish the philosophical authority of aristotle – an important development – and took part in arguments between ‘nominalists’ and ‘realists’, a significant issue at the time.

In his teaching on ethics, he laid stress on the importance of a person’s intention in establishing whether their actions were right or wrong, and in his doctrine of the atonement, he emphasized the moral example of Christ’s suffering on the cross.

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Letters to the Editor

Same-sex relationships

As a new author (having published a devotional book in november 2011 and with another, different book in the pipe-line), I am interested in new publications for reference and reflection.

However, I don’t think the premise of my published work, Love and Joy and Peace, reflections on the fruit of the Spirit, will sit well with Changing Attitude Ireland’s (CAI) publication, Moving Forward Together, which many clergy have received as a PDF file. My premise is that, through accepting Christ as saviour, the Holy Spirit transforms our life, our character, at the deepest level, laying aside our old nature with its practices, making us new creations.

While CAI’s publication is thought-provoking, I feel it does not show, through scripture, why those who hold an Orthodox position should change their mind on homosexual practice or why they feel God is doing a new thing amongst us through the Holy Spirit. We are in danger if we feel we can decide which aspect of the Spirit’s work is simply a cultural nuance. Another book that I have recently read is Sacred Living, on celtic spirituality. Among the six aspects of celtic spirituality is reverence for creation, the celtic world seeing creation as a revelation of the divine.

At the heart of creation is God’s goodness which is to be restored by christ, as in Romans 8, when he returns. In the Genesis creation narratives, God creates man and woman as companions and the basis of the family unit. Is this not the good image God seeks to restore in us through the Holy spirit and what he will affirm in Christ?

So, if we, for example, are to hold that creation is God’s revelation to mankind, that celtic (irish) spirituality supports this orthodox belief, how can folk from CAI explain where homosexual practice fits in? has God changed his mind somewhere?

I don’t think so.

J. I. Carson (Canon), St Paul’s Rectory Lisburn Co. Antrim

WHILE THE publication of letters from Gerry Lynch and Richard Wood (Gazette, 13th January and 24th February respectively) were a welcome contribution to the debate on your Letters page about same-sex relationships, the question then arises as to why more gay members of the Church of Ireland have not also contributed to this debate.

It is very possibly because many gay people fear the reception they might receive from members of the straight community.

On the basis that a person has the right to be judged by their peers, I have increasingly been of the opinion that, in this matter, the sexual conduct of members of the homosexual and heterosexual communities should be primarily judged by the members of their own communities respectively, rather than by the members of the other community.

However, if our LGBT brothers and sisters have so little confidence in the reaction to them of society at large, does that not further call into question our credentials when it comes to making judgements about how they should or should not be conducting themselves?

John Budd (Canon)
The Rectory Lisburn Co. Antrim

Appointment to Leighlin

WHEN KATHERINE, my wife, was appointed Dean of St Canice’s Cathedral in Kilkenny on 23rd December 2009, it became immediately obvious that I would need to leave my Dublin parish and find one within striking distance of Kilkenny.

Bishop Michael Burrows suggested that the Parish of Leighlin, which would fall vacant in spring 2010, might be suitable, offering the position of Dean and rector of the small group of parishes and a role within the Diocese developing adult education and training.

Having no desire to leave Dublin, but compelled by circumstances, i thought Leighlin, a short drive from Kilkenny, offered the prospect of something a little different from my usual parish ministry.

Although the parish was not yet vacant, the parochial nominators agreed to an informal meeting, its informal nature meaning there were no oaths of secrecy. It became quickly obvious that I had neither the qualifications nor experience they sought, and the matter did not progress.

The Revd Tom Gordon was appointed to Leighlin later that year. He had never made any secret of the fact that he was gay, or that he was in a long- term relationship, and it had never seemed to have caused problems during his time as a member of the staff of the Church of Ireland Theological College (if it was a problem, perhaps someone would indicate where in public record this was indicated).

No comment was passed when he was appointed to Leighlin or when he was installed as Dean. Only when his civil partnership was registered on 29th July 2011 did people begin to claim that the church was confronted with a new situation. It was a baffling moment. what was new?

A belief grew that there was some liberal conspiracy that led to the appointment, yet if my encounter with the nominators of Leighlin on Saturday 6th February 2010 had had a different outcome, then the Church of Ireland would not be in its present situation.

I think it is appropriate to set the record straight.
Ian Poulton (Canon) The Rectory  Mountrath Co. Laois

Clergy and Bishops going wrong?

I HAVE read with some interest the recent correspondence concerning how I should conduct myself as an ordained clergyman.

I am to be an endless visitor and I am to sit on no committees, as to do so would be to take me away from visiting parishioners.

However, I must ask does that include select Vestry and chairing the annual bowling club prize distribution?

I must preach academically brilliant sermons, but in words that a babe in arms can understand. I am to remember everyone’s name and never ever say ‘no’ to a request.

The rectory is to be in pristine condition and my family is to be far down the list of priorities behind those of the parish.

I am to do all this whilst being nice to everyone, bringing the good news of Jesus to all in a relevant way, but never forgetting ‘how we have done things in the past’.

I am to be up to date, using the latest technology and appealing to young people and young families, whilst never alienating the older generation.

All this I am to do each day, whilst maintaining a personal relationship with Christ through reading scripture and prayer.

I will not venture to express an opinion on stipend because I am not supposed to be interested in finance, and if I ask for some money to be spent on the rectory, because of the mere fact that the roof is hanging off and I have a skylight where there wasn’t one in the original plans, I am deemed to be wasting vital resources on making my life more comfortable.

For all this, I am to be thankful each day because, as i am often reminded, the parish pays my wages.

All this is obviously meant to build me up and encourage me to be faithful to my calling.

Could I humbly suggest that praying for me as a Rector and some encouraging words would actually be a good place to start, instead of berating me from the pages of the Gazette?

As an ordained person, I already get battered and bruised daily by people and situations, but if I do not find fellowship and love in the parish in which I too worship God, then where will I find it?

Alan McCann (The Revd) Holy Trinity Church, Carrickfergus, Co. antrim

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