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Church of Ireland General Synod round up

12 May 2017

Gregg Ryan reports from the Church of Ireland’s General Synod in Limerick

Peter Cheney/Church of Ireland

The Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Richard Clarke, gives his presidential address

The Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Richard Clarke, gives his presidential address

CHRISTIANITY must recognise and promote, as a fundamental mission, the recognition of identity crises, and stand together with all who suffer the consequences of a phenomenon that causes massive difficulties around the world, the Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Richard Clarke, said at the opening of the General Synod in Limerick, on Thursday of last week.

A feature of the problem, he said, was a corruption of truth to feed into prejudices that support demonisation of different cultures and pollutes the moral foundations of society.

“Many of the extraordinary changes on the world scene over the past year might reasonably be seen as revolving ultimately around a single conception: that of identity. Massive difficulties arise when there is a serious clash between differing perceptions of fundamental identity; when each side in the discussion seeks to demean, threaten, or even destroy the other — and we have indeed seen many examples of this over recent months, and in many places, near and far.

“What then can easily follow is a willingness to replace any obedience to truth with whatever risible nonsense will reinforce our prejudices as we seek to demonise the ‘otherness’ of those we see as different from us, and hence is highly dangerous.

“The casual arrival of such a tactic — totally unblushingly — into public discourse in the society of today, in the supposed interests of maintaining one’s own cherished identity, has polluted the moral foundations of society itself.”

Dr Clarke said that, as Christian disciples, “we recognise that we do indeed have a basic identity that we must share with all others: that of being made by God in his image and likeness. This means that others — all others — must be treated with a complete dignity and with an utter respect.”

Dr Clarke also spoke about domestic abuse and violence. Globally, he said, one in three women, or up to one billion women, had been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in their lifetimes. In the Republic of Ireland, one in five women in a relationship had been abused by a present or former partner.

“In Northern Ireland, the police service responds to an incident of domestic violence every 19 minutes on average, day and night, seven days a week. In Ireland as a whole one in seven women, and one in 17 men experience severe domestic violence.”

He described Ireland’s response to the acceptance of refugees as “a mixed picture”. “Northern Ireland is taking very few refugees, but there is an indication of good organisation for those who will be allowed into that jurisdiction. The Republic of Ireland has agreed to take a far larger number, proportionately, but there is little sign that an infrastructure is yet ready for this.

He also said: “We need to be ready to protect, in every way we can, and in every part of this island, those refugees and asylum-seekers who are already here in Ireland, but who are now being treated with indifference, or with suspicion, hostility, and even violence.”



SUFFRAGAN bishops could be a feature of the Church of Ireland after a motion that encouraged the Bishop of Limerick & Killaloe, the Rt Revd Ken Kearon, and the Bishop of Tuam, Killala & Achonry, the Rt Revd Patrick Rooke, to bring proposals from ongoing talks to the General Synod in 2018.

One of the options being considered in the talks between the two dioceses would allow for the creation of a suffragan bishopric, which at present does not exist in the Irish Church.

Last year, a Bill that would have provided for amalgamations and alterations of boundaries affecting both dioceses, and also those of Dublin & Glendalough, and Meath & Kildare, was withdrawn when agreement could not be reached.

Instead, a joint working group was established between Limerick and Tuam to see how best to reorganise oversight of the two dioceses, which between them stretch along the whole West Coast from County Mayo to County Kerry.

The working group is concentrating on two options: the amalgamation of the two dioceses under one bishop, but with the assistance of a suffragan bishop for Tuam, Killala & Achonry, who would also serve as an incumbent; or retaining two separate dioceses, the Bishop of Tuam also serving as an incumbent.

The motion was carried.


Registers Bill passed.

A BILL requiring parishes to add confirmation to the list of registers of baptisms, burials, and marriages was placed before the Synod.

Proposing, the Bishop of Clogher, the Rt Revd John McDowell, said that no similar requirement existed in relation to records of confirmations that took place in a parish, although many parishes did so, and maintained a confirmation register. The pattern of practice varied between dioceses, and within dioceses of the Church of Ireland, he said.

Bishop McDowell said that some might require a confirmation certificate at times, including anyone offering themselves for ordination or Reader training. This might or might not be available, depending on the practice of or within particular parishes and dioceses.

The purpose of this Bill was to ensure that records of confirmations that took place in a parish were recorded within that parish, and uniformly in parishes throughout the Church of Ireland.

The Bill, seconded by the Archdeacon of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, the Ven. Adrian Wilkinson (Cork), was passed.


Climate change.

A MOTION calling on the Representative Church Body (RCB) to ensure that the Church of Ireland further improves the carbon footprint of its investment portfolio was passed at the General Synod.

The motion, in the names of Stephen Trew and Kevin Bowers, calls on the RCB to support the Environmental Charter passed at the General Synod 2015.


Maternity hospital.

THE Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Richard Clarke, and the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, urged caution over the question whether the new National Maternity Hospital should be in the ownership of the Irish Sisters of Charity (News, 5 May).

The issue should be part of a wider discussion on the part played by Church and State in hospitals, schools, and other institutions, Dr Clarke said.


Closing sermon.

IN HIS sermon at the Synod eucharist at St Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, the Bishop of Limerick & Killaloe, the Rt Revd Ken Kearon, a former secretary-general to the ACC, noted that the Church of Ireland had gathered in synod for 145 years. “And so, in the spirit of that gospel, we gather from all corners of Ireland to transact the business of the Church of Ireland for another year, just as we’ve done every year for the last 145 years.

He quipped: “We gather as synod, not as a conference — though often it will look like a conference; not for a reunion, though there will be many elements of that; nor for a party, though if you visit the restaurants and pubs around, over the next few days, it will often look like that.”

Bishop Kearon noted the Catholic and Reformed nature of the Church of Ireland, and, with the other churches of the Reformation, the past difficulties of giving expression to the term “Reformed”.

“We meet as a Church which is both Catholic and Reformed, with a distinctive approach to authority. We are Catholic because we look to the Bible and the early centuries of the Church for the basic formularies of our faith in the creeds, and for the shaping of our common life around sacraments and ministry,” he said.

“Churches influenced by the Reformation have struggled over the centuries to give expression to that insight. Our Church really only gave formal expression to it in 1871 with the first meeting of this body: General Synod, with its carefully balanced interrelationships among laity, clergy, and bishops.

“So we meet in the middle of the busy city of Limerick. Like every other city in Ireland, outside are the offices, the shops, the apartments, tourists, the suburbs. It’s got its traffic jams, homeless crisis, its migrants and refugees, just like everywhere else; its office parks, industrial estates, third-level institutions and schools.

“In the middle of all of this we meet as a Church, seeking the mind of God for our Church, praying that our faith will help us make sense of it all; that God will guide and sustain us all — not for the sake of the Synod, but for the sake of the world; to be a Church in the world, of the world, and for the world.”

The Church of Ireland Synod is made up of three orders: bishops, clergy, and laity, who sit together as the two houses of Bishops and Representatives: the latter elected by diocesan synods, and who hold office for a triennium, of which 2017 is the third year of the present term.

The Synod is made up of the 12 dioceses of the Church in both Northern Ireland and in the Republic, and consists of 660 people.

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