IN HIS presidential address to the General Synod in Christ
Church Cathedral, Dublin, the Archbishop of
Armagh, Dr Richard Clarke (right), challenged the
political establishment and Irish society generally to measure up
to the expectations of those on the margins.He called on the Church
to do likewise by living out its mission as demanded by Christ in
St Matthew's Gospel: "Freely you have received: freely give."
He asked "what the outsider would see if they looked at the
Church objectively; but, more particularly, what the outsider
should see as characteristics of the organism that is the Church of
"We could produce a long list: outward-looking,
mission-orientated, lively, committed, faithful. The list could go
on and on. I want to suggest a word that might well encapsulate
virtually anything we would want to say about theChurch and its
characteristics. It is the word 'giving'. The Church as an organism
that is characterised byits giving nature; its people, whoare
characterised by being giving people."
The Archbishop questioned society's priorities, especially in
the areas of poverty, and funding for hospice provision, and
demanded a fresh approach by politicians.
"We must be a Church which looks beyond itself, and looks beyond
the present, and also encourages others to do so." He challenged
politicians "to tell us what they wish to offer - to give - to the
future, to our children and grandchildren. It surely cannot simply
be 'more of the same' that we wish to offer. . .
"There is continuing political paralysis in Northern Ireland; a
culture of entitlement for those who, in the Republic, already have
plenty; and an austerity which assaultsthe poor more than the
wealthy in both our jurisdictions. . .
"Around us we see that it is the poorer who are becoming poorer,
and, in some cases, genuinely destitute, right before our eyes. . .
The generosity of so many people in supporting foodbanks is, of
course, wonderful - a fine example of giving - and must be
encouraged; but should this particular form of individual giving
actually be necessary? Surely not in a functional humane society
that looked after its weakest as a matter of course."
Turning to end-of-life care, he related: "A hospice I visited
recently, on the edge of Armagh diocese, has to raise two-thirds of
its financial requirements through its own fund-raising operations.
We simply have to ask, as Christians living in modern society,
where public priorities are."
Dr Clarke also spoke of the Synod legislation concerning the
Covenant between the Church of Ireland and the Methodist Church in
Ireland, and interchangeability in ministries.
"It would be easy to see the legislation for an
interchangeability in ministries to be regarded simply as an
ecumenical structural arrangement. This would, I believe, be a very
limited view of the matter. There will, of course, be wholly
practical outworkings of a new arrangement if this were to pass
through the General Synod, but I would like us to take a broader
view of the matter.
"This is also about the mission of the Church, and it is about
the gifts that each tradition might give to the other, and hence to
the wider world. We have gifts to bring; we have gifts to
He cautioned against being overly preoccupied with the problems
of the present, to the exclusion of the long-term legacy of the
"What of us as the Church of Ireland? We cannot ask of others,
if we will not look at ourselves and what our hopes might be for
the future. I am not, I believe, alone in fearing that the Church
of Ireland has become so concerned with dealing with present
concerns under our noses - all of which are, indeed, pressing, and
critically important - that we have somehow lost the vision and
hope to look further into the future, and to ask what we as a
church community might propose to give as a legacy to future
"In partnership with others already mentioned above, I am asking
that the Church of Ireland as a whole takes a deep collective
breath, and looks to the long-term future, and begins to work
collaboratively towards what we might wish to be - let us say, in
20 years' time, 2034 - being a Church for the long term, being in
word and deed a long-term Church.
"This might be our gift to the future. Not for us, but for our
children and grandchildren."