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Church of Ireland hears of education provision challenges

15 May 2015


Presenting the Board of Education report: the Rt Revd Ken Good

Presenting the Board of Education report: the Rt Revd Ken Good

THE General Synod has heard of the "labyrinthine" and challenging complexities surrounding education in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Presenting the report of the Board of Education (RI), the Bishop of Cork, Cloyne & Ross, the Rt Revd Paul Colton, said that the organisation of schools was "a challenging crucible of confusion to many", as well as an immense privilege and trust. There were many sources of regulation of schools. New legislation and its implications for schools is outlined in the report.

"It is a bewildering, and in many ways it is an inaccessible, world into which are thrown teachers whose primary vocation is to teach, and into which are thrown clergy whose primary vocation is preaching the gospel and pastoral ministry," the Bishop said. The Church was indebted to all who worked within these structures, he said. He also thanked the staff in the education department, in both North and South, as well as those in interlinked departments.

Bishop Colton said that the financial resources invested in the work on education in the Republic of Ireland were relatively small. Research projects were also important, he said. He highlighted the clarity that the Secondary Education Committee had received on the Block Grant.

In the case of Northern Ireland, the Bishop of Derry, the Rt Revd Ken Good, presented the NI Board of Education report, and said that the complexity of education in Northern Ireland was remarkable, and was labyrinthine in its structures.

He gave details of the background to education structures in Northern Ireland, with the maintained, controlled, voluntary, Irish-medium (education provided in an Irish-speaking school), and integrated sector.

Bishop Good said that he thought 2014 was a milestone year for education in Northern Ireland. It had resulted in one education authority instead of five library boards. There was also funding agreed for a controlled sector support body, he said.

There were also moves towards shared and jointly managed church schools, where two schools of different traditions in an area might not be viable, but could come together to form one school under joint management.

Bishop Good paid tribute to Dr Ian Ellis, who has moved on to pastures new.

He also welcomed Dr Peter Hammill as secretary to the Board of Education NI.

C of I builds bridge with Moravians

A MOTION that may pave the way for ministerial interchangeability between the Church of Ireland and the Moravian Church of Great Britain and Ireland has been approved by the General Synod.

The motion, in the names of the Bishop of Cashel & Ossory, the Rt Revd Michael Burrows, and the Bishop of Clogher, the Rt Revd John McDowell, called on the General Synod to welcome and affirm the conclusions and proposals contained in the report of the recent dialogue between the two Churches.

It also asked the Standing Committee to ensure that legislation providing for the interchangeability of ministry between the two Churches was laid before the Synod for consideration as soon as practicable, and after further examination of the developing relationship between the Moravian Church and the Church of England.

Proposing the motion, Bishop Burrows said that this was a big moment in ecumenical life in Ireland, and that the Moravian Church was one with a very rich tradition. He welcomed the Revd Sarah Groves and Bishop John McOwat, of the Moravian Church.

The current motion, he ex-plained, looked forward to interchangeability of ministry between the two Churches. Bishop McDowell said that the motion was a recognition of what each Church had always been, and an exploration of how they could continue the work of God.

Ms Groves spoke of the Church's being relational, and said that relationships were at the heart of what Christians did and said. She emphasised the importance of the conversations with the Church of Ireland. She was deeply grateful to the Church of Ireland, she said, for the time it had given to them. She said that the understandings and practices of both Churches were similar. She prayed that the lead of the Church of Ireland would inspire the sister community in England.

Increased infirmity provision

THE General Synod gave a third and final reading to a Bill that seeks to streamline and expand provisions for clergy who are rendered permanently unable to perform their duties owing to illness.

Until now, the relevant section has referred only to mental infirmity, but the new provisions will include physical incapacity. Previously, the procedure has been that a bishop notifies the Court of the General Synod of the case, having first ensured adequate provision for the future maintenance of the clergyman or -woman.

The court was empowered to make a judgment that would have the same effect as if the member of the clergy involved had resigned. The new Bill will provide for a decision-making body, described as a "church panel". It will consist of the chief officer and secretary of the Representative Church Body, an honorary secretary, and an archbishop or bishop. The panel will be advised by a group of medical experts.

The Court of General Synod will continue to be involved in an appeals context in case of disputed evidence which would require legal consideration.

A sub-section of the Bill makes provision for clergy who have availed themselves of the measure, but consider themselves no longer permanently incapacitated, to allow them to take up an office to which they are offered appointment.

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