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
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
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
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
Bishop Good paid tribute to Dr Ian Ellis, who has moved on to
He also welcomed Dr Peter Hammill as secretary to the Board of
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
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
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
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
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
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.