THE Christian Church in Ireland is in retreat, the Bishop of Kilmore, the Rt Revd Ferran Glenfield, said on Thursday of last week, on the first day of the meeting of the Church of Ireland’s General Synod.
Preaching at a service at St Columb’s Cathedral in Derry, the first Anglican cathedral, worldwide, to be built after the Reformation, he said that the Church needed to recapture and retell the story.
“It goes back to Disestablishment, when the Church of Ireland was emancipated from state control,” he said. “It stretches back to the Reformation, of which this very cathedral is testimony to the renewal of the church at that time. It goes further back to the Celtic Church of Brendan the Navigator, whose day we mark, and to Columb.”
He recalled the observation of the late Archbishop Henry McAdoo about Acts: “It is our pattern and our model. The Anglican understanding of what is a real authentic Church is based on the Early Church in the aftermath of Pentecost”.
Bishop Glenfield said of the standing of the Church in today’s society: “Is there any word of encouragement when there is so much to discourage us? The tide is going out for Christianity in Ireland. Denominations like our own are in retreat. Dark threatening clouds loom over the political, economic, social, and environmental landscapes. Hope is in short supply. Is there any word of encouragement?”
He said that the answer was to be found in the gift of God in Christ and the Holy Spirit: “God in us mediating the presence of Jesus in the life of the believer, transforming us deep within. Changed lives, changing churches and changing communities, turning the world upside down or right side up.”
It was time to return to basics, he said. “One of the great principles of human development is that, in order to go forward, we must go back. Ad fontes, back to the source, back to the Bible, back to God. As Jürgen Moltmann reminds us: ‘The Church does not have a mission: the missionary God has a Church.’ It is my hope and prayer that the Church of Ireland would be that Church. Now, that would be a real encouragement.”