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Church of Ireland Synod: Anglican-Methodist relations, unity and dialogue, and more

08 October 2021


The Revd Dr Sahr Yambasu, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, greets the Church of Ireland Synod

The Revd Dr Sahr Yambasu, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, greets the Church of Ireland Synod

Anglican-Methodist relations

THE President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Revd Dr Sahr Yambasu, brought greetings to the Synod and made a plea for the co-operation of all in addressing issues of global warming, climate change, and unpredictable weather conditions, which, he said, had brought the most suffering on the poorest and most vulnerable.

“When we co-operate, we can successfully address threats to our existence,” he said. He warned that, despite the rhetoric of human rights and justice, vaccine injustice had revealed deep-seated divisions between rich and poor.

The Black Lives Matter movement had highlighted as never before “the result of centuries of inhumane interactions with black people”, he said. The global problems of forced migration, war, hunger, and poverty were issues of compassion, but “increasingly draconian measures” were being used to keep migrants out of the countries in which they were seeking refuge.

He rejoiced at the Covenant relationship, referring to the three united Methodist/Church of Ireland congregations as “giving me particular joy at grass-roots level”. In conversations about closer unity, “we are committed to work through our differences and called to co-operate in ministry and mission.”

On a personal level, Dr Yambasu described himself as “left awestruck” at the level of acceptance, respect, and kindness that he had received from the Church of Ireland. “‘Until all are safe, none are’ is as true of all the issues facing our local and global communities,” he said.

Unity and Dialogue

INTRODUCING a report of the Commission of Unity and Dialogue, the Bishop of Limerick & Killaloe, the Rt Revd Kenneth Kearon, spoke of the welcome development of engagement with networks of the Anglican Communion, which were “relevant to own life and areas of engagement”. These were: the Safe Church, Environmental, Peace and Justice, Family, and Women’s Networks.

The Church of Ireland’s 377,860 members made it larger than many other Anglican Churches around the world, he said. “They may look to the Church of Ireland for wisdom and experience. Engagement in Anglican networks is an important step forward.”

Brexit implications continued to be monitored by the European-affairs working group, he said. He noted that the Church of Ireland was now in a unique position, “having members in the EU and outside the EU at the same time”.

Bishops’ Appeal

ONLY one motion was voted against during the course of the Synod: a bid from the oversight committee to change the name of the Bishops’ Appeal, the Church of Ireland’s World Aid Development Programme, set up in 1972.

Its outgoing chairman, the Bishop of Tuam, Killala & Achonry, the Rt Revd Patrick Rooke, acknowledged the committee’s concerns that the name was confusing, as it was “neither owned nor run by the House of Bishops, nor simply an appeal”. But he would be voting against the change, he said, because the programme was “embedded in the DNA of the Church of Ireland”, and had been enabled by four substantial legacies, amounting to half-a-million euros, in the past two years.

Jocelyn Sanders (Killaloe) suggested a compromise: keep the name, but add a strapline such as the Church of Ireland Appeal for Overseas Relief and Development. The Bishop of Cashel & Ossory, the Rt Revd Michael Burrows, also thought that it could be augmented by a good explanation or strapline. He was cautious about any name change, as there was “a high recognition of the brand and its purpose. It is something in the very DNA of the Church of Ireland, and known to national and international agencies. It has helped our work to be fruitful and visible.”

The Synod agreed, voting the name-change motion down by 204 votes to 120. It agreed, however, to a relaunch in celebration of the appeal’s 50th birthday.

Fossil fuels

THE Church of Ireland will complete, by the end of the year, its commitment to disinvestment from companies that derive more than ten per cent of turnover from the extraction of fossil fuels.

It made the announcement in a press release issued at the Synod on Friday. “The Representative Church Body (RCB) seeks to mitigate and lower the climate change impact within its investment portfolios and has taken several steps in this regard over the past number of years, including collaborative engagement, investments in wind and solar energy and forestry, the implementation of restrictions for investments in coalmining and tar stands, and several disposals and divestments,” the statement says.

The RCB is a member of the Church Investors Group (CIG) and the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC), which provides investors with a collaborative platform for engagement with public policy-makers and the exchange of expertise on climate change issues.

It is also a founding signatory and supporter of the initiative Climate Action 100+, which engages with the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters with a view to curbing emissions, strengthening climate disclosures, and improving climate governance.

Columba’s birth

DONEGAL is celebrating the 1500th anniversary of St Columba’s birth in Garton. The Bishop of Derry & Raphoe, the Rt Revd Andrew Forster, declared himself delighted to be preaching the sermon at the General Synod eucharist at the outset of the meeting from St Augustine’s, the “Wee Church on the Walls” in Derry, the site of Columba’s first abbey.

From here, his network of monasteries had spread out across Ireland and eventually beyond, as centres of mission sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, the Bishop said. The view from his monastery would have looked very different, but Columba had looked out at people who knew the hardship and uncertainty of life.

“Disease and illness brought to them both physical weakness and fear,” he said. “The tribal divisions were the sectarianism of the day that drove both conflict and division. It was a fragile and fractured world, and it was into that environment that Columba became a pioneering missionary with the confidence in the good news that he shared.”

The parallel was clear, he said: “We all know the fragility of living through this pandemic, and, unfortunately, the continued fracturing of our society, whether on sectarian, racial, or economic lines, is all too real. As we seek to play our part in rebuilding Church, and indeed society, I believe Columba’s example can inspire and help us.”

He concluded, “I always think our parish structure gives us a great advantage: it’s almost Columban if we see our parishes as mission stations throughout our island to our fragile, fractured world. Each one of us has a role to play with prayer as our fuel, with a message of peace in a challenging world.”

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