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Irish General Synod news in brief

20 May 2016


Decision time: "Brexit – The Big Debate", hosted by Newry, Mourne and Down district council, in October

Decision time: "Brexit – The Big Debate", hosted by Newry, Mourne and Down district council, in October

BREXIT would have “a massive effect on the Church of Ireland and on the island of Ireland”, the Arch­bishop of Armagh, Dr Richard Clarke, said at the Archbishops’ press confer­ence.

Dr Clarke, flanked by the Arch­bishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, said that Brexit would have a serious impact on the country, north and south, “socially, econom­ic­ally, and politically”. He said that he was conscious, however, that his views were personal, and it was not a theological issue.

Dr Jackson said that to change the relationship with Europe flagged “tremendous warn­ing lights about leaving”. He recog­nised, he said, that the Northern Ireland First Minister, Arlene Foster, a member of the Church of Ireland, was in favour of leaving the EU, and would not want to contradict her. But, he said, “There are warn­ings. It’s very often when some­thing’s gone that you realise it was quite good.”


Dignity charter
A REPORT from the Standing Committee declared that the Dignity in Church Life Charter was one of the most significant issues since the last General Synod.

The charter seeks to articulate the Church’s commitment to harmon­i­ous relationships in church life, with reference to the Christian prin­ciples underpinning those relation­ships. It also empowers the Repre­sentative Body to develop policies, regulations, and rules to give effect to the charter, and submit them to the Standing Committee for approval.

Policies and procedures under the charter were developed in three areas: dignity in church life and the prevention of bullying and harassment; grievances of members of the clergy; and the management of long-term illness of members of the clergy.


Liturgical innovation
THE report of the Liturgical Advis­ory Committee, received by the General Synod, highlights the com­mittee’s ongoing work with the Church of Ireland Historical Cen­tenaries Working Group in provid­ing liturgies pertinent to the decade of centenaries. It also focuses on the supplement to the church hymnal Thanks and Praise, which was launched in September, and work on the Companion and a CD, which are progressing towards publication.

Proposing the report, the Bishop of Down & Dromore, the Rt Revd Harold Miller, drew attention to the committee’s plans for the future, and, specifically, work on a potential Morning Prayer Three and a series of Collects of the Word. He said that the committee would reprint the Book of Common Prayer this year, as stocks had run out.

The Revd Gary McMurray (Clogher) recommended an app and website, PrayerMate, for daily prayer points, which can be downloaded from mobile phones, Facebook, and Twitter.

In reply, Bishop Miller supported people being innovative, but encouraged them to do so in a liturgically sensitive way. Many modern songs were quite complex, he said, and he hoped that the CD would clarify this. He said that the Church of England used monitors rather than screens. “If Cranmer was around now, he would probably be using PowerPoint.”


Charity law
CHANGES by governments in both jurisdictions of Ireland regarding the administration of charities led to the bringing of a Bill before the Synod to clarify the legal obliga­tions of select-vestry members to comply with the Charities Acts in both the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.

A working group had received several queries regarding changes to the Acts relating to trustee respon­si­bilities of select-vestry members. The committee decided that it was important that the legal obligation of vestry members to comply with such legislation should be clarified by decisions at the General Synod.

The Charities Registration Monitoring Working Group highlighted some practical issues in registrations, and these were the points on which direction was sought at the Synod.

The Bill makes clear the statutory obligation on all members of a select vestry, both clerical and lay, to register according to the laws as amended, and that failure of clergy to execute any documentation required under the Act could be liable to exclusion from a select vestry until compliance was achieved.

The Bill was passed.


Common Vision endorsed
A MOTION endorsing the Church of Ireland’s response to the World Council of Churches’ document The Church: Towards a common vision was passed by the General Synod.

The motion asked the Synod to adopt the Church of Ireland’s response, as endorsed by the Commission for Christian Unity and Dialogue and received by Standing Committee. The document was produced by the World Council of Churches’ (WCC’s) Faith and Order Commission.

Proposing the motion, Sam Harper (Cashel) said that the document grew out of several years of work by the WCC’s Faith and Order Group. Joanne Martin (Connor) sought clarifications on the Church of Ireland response.

Mr Harper said that the Church of Ireland response to the document was to consider and work towards agreement. The motion was carried.


Greetings from Presbyterian Church
A FORMER Moderator, the Revd Dr Norman Hamilton, brought greetings from the Presbyterian Church to the Synod. He talked about high-profile lobbying. “If we are not lobbyists in the public square, what are we doing in the public square?” he asked.

He said that everyone should be pastors in their community — at council, parliamentary, and legislative level. He also said that there was not space for a Methodist, a Church of Ireland, and a Presbyterian view on education in the Republic, and much could be gained from working together.

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