COI Gazette – 9th November 2012

A tale of two Anglican Covenants – one in the mind, another on paper, Bishop Victoria Matthews tells ACC-15

Bishop Victoria Matthews

Bishop Victoria Matthews

The Bishop of Christchurch, New Zealand, the Rt Revd Victoria Matthews, last week told delegates at the 15th Anglican Consultative Council meeting (ACC -15), being held in Auckland, that she thought there were two Anglican Communion Covenants: “One is the document that people have in their mind and the other is the Anglican Communion Covenant on paper.”

For that reason, she said, she wanted people “to read the Covenant and be focused on that” because often, when people start talking about the Covenant “what they describe in their mind as the Covenant is unrecognisable”.

Bishop Matthews, as a member of the Inter-Anglican Standing Committee on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO), was introducing an ACC -15 session on the history and progress of the Covenant.

She observed that the questions behind the Covenant were: ‘What is the best way?’, ‘Is there a way that will keep us together safely?’, ‘What is our deepest fear when we consider decision-making processes?’.

 

 


Editorial

REMEMBRANCE-TIDE

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the 1987 Remembrance Day, no-warning bomb in Enniskillen, when 11 people were killed and 63 were injured.

Ronnie Hill, one of the victims, died as a result of injuries in 2000. It was a merciless act of terror on the part of the perpetrators, none of whom has yet been convicted. News as we went to press that the PSNI is considering a report from its Historical Enquiries Team is a hopeful development at a time of great sadness for so many.

Remembrance Sunday is a time to remember before God with gratitude those who gave their lives in the defence of freedom in two World Wars and also in subsequent wars around the world and in countering terrorism in Northern Ireland.

War is a great blight on humanity’s existence, a terrible experience no matter when, no matter where. It is surely every human being’s longing to live in a world without violence. The vision of pure peace is a blessed vision, but it is more than a vision – it is also a promise. The Kingdom of God is the place of perfect peace, a Kingdom of which we already now have glimpses but which is yet to come in its fulness.

The former President of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower, who held office from 1953-1961, had a highly distinguished military career, rising to become, in 1945, the US Army’s Chief of Staff. Perhaps it is because soldiers know best the tragedy and suffering of war, Eisenhower, very shortly after becoming President, seized a moment to speak of peace. Not long after the death of Joseph Stalin in March 1953, he gave an address to the American Society of Newspaper Editors which has come to be known as his ‘Chance for Peace’ speech.

Eisenhower was aware of the sheer waste of money that would be involved in continuing a US -USSR competitive military build-up and saw the end of the Stalin era as an opportunity for a new direction. His words to the American Society of Newspaper Editors were indeed moving: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities… We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.”

Although the cold war was to ensue and military expansion was to continue, the words of Eisenhower, ringing, as they do, with a sense of justice and humanity, are well recalled at Remembrance-tide which is aptly coupled both with such a vision of peace and with the prayer of Lewis Hensley’s hymn, ‘Your kingdom come, O God; your rule, O Christ, begin’ (Church Hymnal, 509).


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Letters to the Editor

Twin studies and human sexuality

Dermot O’Callaghan’s obsession with homosexuality and twin studies is becoming a broken record (report, 26th October).

I can appreciate, I think, the fundamental and underlying question that Mr O’Callaghan is asking: Is sexuality is a matter of choice?

This is an important question, as it leads logically to the ethical question of responsibility.

However, his approach involves the homogenizing of ‘science’ in an effort to settle the question definitively. This is fallacious.

Of the problems in his method, first and foremost is the simplistic approach he adopts to the vastly complex realm of human genetics.

Mr O’Callaghan seems to be saying that ‘if genes say x, then the person will automatically express x’.

Many (if not most) scientists will agree that the expression of a particular genetically influenced trait is the result of a complex interplay between genetic and environmental factors.

Thus, two identical twins may have an equal genetic predisposition to develop diabetes, but the fact that one twin becomes a health food enthusiast, while the other becomes a sugar addict, will affect the expression of that genetic trait.

It follows that there is both a genetic and an environmental dimension.

A second problem is the selective dimension of his argument: if, as Bailey et al suggest, in 89% of cases where one identical twin is homosexual the co-twin is heterosexual, there remains 11% where both are homosexual!

A simple reading of these statistics would suggest that homosexuality, in at least certain cases, is genetically influenced. Ethicists must assess the implications of something being genetically determined and genetically influenced. Meanwhile, naïve approaches to genetics should not be entertained and certainly we should not allow genetics to be hijacked by campaigners on either side of the current discussion.

Third, there are more biological dimensions to the question than genetics alone. For instance, a 2008 study at the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, showed that, in some respects, the brains of homosexuals are more similar to those of the opposite sex. Reducing complex biological questions to genetic determinacies is unhelpful and misleading.

‘Science’ will not offer any quick resolution to the real question at the heart of this issue. Instead, I would suggest that we allow science to continue its investigations, and allow ourselves to get on with our theological task of figuring out how we tolerate difference in our Church.

Eimhin Walsh,  Harold’s Cross Dublin 6

Filling vacant parishes

Can someone please explain what is happening in the Church of Ireland regarding vacancies in parishes?

The parish I attend in Richhill, Co. Armagh, has now been vacant for a year and, so far, no Board of Nomination meeting has even been called!

Also, I am told, and perhaps someone can tell me if this is right, that when a rector is eventually called, he has to give three months’ notice to his parish if he is in the same diocese, and six months if he is in another diocese. If so, I find this incredible.

How can a rector plan ahead for a current parish when he/she is going to be leaving it in a few months, and knows that? Also, how can parishioners be settled when they face the same situation?

The whole thing seems crazy and in need of an urgent change.

During a vacancy, it is almost inevitable that some members will drift, as they have no spiritual leader there when they need help, and the Church of Ireland is losing enough members already, without an unnecessary extra diminution of numbers due to a needlessly prolonged vacancy such as we are enduring at present.

Will someone somewhere please do something soon to remedy this?

Stella Wilson (Mrs)  Tandragee Co. Armagh

 


 

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