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Church of Ireland General Synod: round-up of other sessions

19 May 2023

Church of Ireland

Display at a service of Choral Evensong on the eve of the Coronation at Belfast Cathedral

Display at a service of Choral Evensong on the eve of the Coronation at Belfast Cathedral


A MOTION to offer congratulations to King Charles on his accession and Coronation was carried with little controversy by the Synod on Saturday afternoon. The Revd Mark Lennox (Down & Dromore) introduced his private member’s motion by saying how wonderful it was to see the four main Churches in Ireland represented in the Coronation service, at which the Archbishop of Armagh carried the King’s Orb.

The Revd Peter Jones (Connor) then seconded the motion, speaking of the series of events parishes had had to mark since the last Synod: first, the late Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, then the sadness of her funeral, and, more recently, the King’s Coronation.

The Bishop of Tuam, Limerick & Killaloe, the Rt Revd Michael Burrows, said that he was in favour of sending congratulations to any Christian monarch who had jurisdiction over the islands served by the Church. He thought, however, that it was wise for any message sent to be more nuanced. Both the late Queen and the new King had visited the Republic of Ireland, and were careful to respect Ireland’s dignity as an independent and equal nation.

Bishop Forster concluded by asking if the motion could be amended to reflect how the Synod represented the “genius of Irish Anglicanism”, and become a prayerful message from those who considered themselves loyal subjects of the Crown, and also from those who consider themselves merely respectful friends.

The Revd Ian Linton (Down & Dromore) supported the motion, and said that many had come to his church recently when celebrating the Coronation who never normally worshipped with them. He recalled how a previous President of Ireland had spoken at the Synod in 2008, and asked if it were possible to invite a senior royal to similarly speak at a future meeting.

The motion was then carried.


Marriage Council

TWO new policies to support clergy were launched at the meeting of the Synod. One dealt with the stipends and pensions policy for priests unable to work owing to ill health. The other supported clergy after the birth or adoption of a child, making leave of up to 26 weeks available on full stipend. Members voted their assent to both policies.

The Revd Jonathan Campbell-Smyth (Connor) introduced a report from the Church of Ireland Marriage Council. He said that the council, which he chairs, had reviewed its own functioning, and drawn up new aims for the coming three years. It was running an online marriage course over the whole of Ireland, and investing in marriage preparation. But too many clergy were not aware of its resources; so they were working on making these more accessible.

The council was also looking to expand its work to include people who were approaching remarriage, or spouses struggling with ill health, Mr Campbell-Smyth said. He showed the Synod a preview of a new video produced to promote counselling and support. The Synod then received the report and approved the appointment of Kay Clarke to join the council.

A technical motion passed on Saturday amended a loophole in election rules, to ensure that anyone co-opted on to the standing committee of the Representative Church Body now needed to be re-proposed and seconded if they wished to stand for a second term. Another electoral reform passed without controversy allowed for an earlier deadline (than the current three weeks before Synod meets) for nominations for the diocesan posts on the Standing Committee, and to permit electronic voting rather than postal ballots.


Lighten Our Darkness

THE agenda gave more than an hour on Saturday to a presentation on a youth-led climate-change initiative. The Bishop of Meath & Kildare, the Most Revd Pat Storey, introduced the project Lighten Our Darkness, which was the initiative of young people from a parish in her diocese. Most agree in theory that something has to be done, Bishop Storey said, but we don’t know what. The Church urgently also needs to reach out to young people before it is too late. “Happily, the Lighten Our Darkness project has merged both these concerns by engaging many young people with their passion for the planet.”

One strand of the project — God’s Gardens of Hope — encouraged churches to turn their churchyards into habitats for biodiversity; other aspects would focus on reducing energy usage and minimising destruction of the environment.



THE Five Marks of Mission shaped a short presentation from the Council for Mission, led by the Revd Timothy Wright (Meath & Kildare), the Council’s honorary chair, who introduced its latest report. He said that the Council had been encouraged to hear stories of what was happening on the ground in Ireland. Church structures were in place; so now was the time to get down to business, Mr Wright urged the Synod.

Mission was God’s idea not theirs, he said; it flowed from his nature and not their need, and so all they are being asked to do was get involved in his plan. Videos on each of the Five Marks of Mission were now available online, and Mr Wright commended them to the Synod. Podcasts to communicate good practice were also in preparation. “Try something, and then share what you’re doing with others,” he urged.

The Bishop of Down & Dromore, the Rt Revd David McClay, reminded members of the persecuted Church around the world, including many Anglicans. What set them apart from their secure sister churches in the West was not just the repression they suffered, but their commitment to still “proclaim in every way Christ as Lord”, he said. The Synod then voted to receive the report.


Methodist relations

ON SATURDAY, the Synod considered ecumenical relations with the Methodist Church. The Covenant between the two Churches was approaching its 21st birthday, Canon Maurice Elliott, the director of the Church of Ireland’s Theological Institute, said.

He highlighted a Bill to be considered at the Synod later, which would allow occasional, one-off local interchangeability of ministry between Anglicans and Methodists. If the Bill was passed, the next step would be to find ways to give tangible expression to what had just become permissible: “to find ways of stocking the shelves in addition to an impressive window display”.

The Synod then voted to receive the report and approved a motion to amend the membership of the Covenant Council.

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