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The Church of Ireland

The Church Of Ireland
General Synod 1998


REPORT FROM THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH COMMITTEE 1998

1.MEMBERSHIP

Ex Officio

The Archbishop of Armagh

The Archbishop of Dublin

Elected by Standing Committee

The Bishop of Clogher

The Bishop of Connor

Mr. T. Sargent T.D.

Dr. K. Milne

Senator M. Henry

Lady Sheil

Rev. Canon W.A. Lewis

Ven. D.S. McLean

Rev. Canon K.A. Kearon

Dr. M. Darling

Co-opted Members

Mr. W.T. Morrow

Dr. B. Walker

Mrs. J. Whiteside

Mr. N. Cox

Dr. J. Simpson

Mrs. M. Creeve-Flanagan

Honorary Secretaries - General Synod

Very Rev. H. Cassidy

Ven. G.C.S. Linney

2.GENERAL

1997 has seen the start of a new triennium and with that, the election and co-option of a number of new members to the Role of the Church Committee. As in previous years, the Committee has continued to carry out its work through a number of sub-committees; a working method which has operated very successfully to date.

With the formation of the new Committee the following working groups were agreed in November 1997:-

Medical Ethics; European Affairs; Social/Economic Issues; Political Developments.

Each group has recently begun to deal with a number of agreed issues and the results of their will work will be reported to next year's General Synod.

Discussions have taken place with representatives of the Boards for Social Responsibility in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which have resulted in a sharing of research and information.

Documentation was received and noted by the Committee from the organisation "New Agenda" which exists to enable wider society to engage constructively in the political process to help bring about a mutually acceptable accommodation. It works through a network of groups and individuals from `civil society' including business, trades unions, the churches, the voluntary sector and the academic world. It is pursuing its aims by :

(a)engaging political parties and government;

(b)stimulating public and popular debate; and

(c)working with and through the media.

3.MEDICAL ETHICS WORKING GROUP

Since its inception the Medical Ethics Working Group has had considerable impact in a number of areas and its advice has continued to be sought during the year on a range of issues, some of which are on-going items. Matters raised have included Bioethics, IVF, the withdrawal of feeding tubes and embryology.

The Group also prepared the following statement on the subject of sperm freezing, in response to an enquiry :-

Sperm Freezing

Marriage and family life have always been valued by the Church and the importance of children within that has always been emphasised.

The Role of the Church Committee recognises that the inability to conceive children often leads to disappointment, frustration and a sense of failure for the couple concerned. The Committee welcomes the efforts of gynaecologists and others in the medical profession to overcome this difficulty by the introduction of various techniques, including the storage of sperm by freezing where the future ability of the man to procreate faces compromise due to the progression or the treatment of a medical condition. This would enable the man to achieve fatherhood during his lifetime which may not be possible otherwise, and is to be welcomed.

 

4.POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS WORKING GROUP

The Political Developments Working Group continues to maintain an invaluable link with many organisations and individuals. It has continued its involvement in a wide number of political concerns, some of which are listed below:-

Glencree Peace Consultation

Early in 1997 the Group made a submission, on behalf of the Role of the Church Committee, to `A Believers' Inquiry', organised by the Glencree Centre for Reconciliation. Three representatives of the Group - Dr. Kenneth Milne, Mr. David Meredith and Canon Walter Lewis - attended a two day `Workshop' and were interviewed at a Saturday morning `Hearing' at the Glencree Centre. The text of their submission which was made in July 1997 is contained in Appendix A of this report. The full Believers' Enquiry Report will be published in April 1998.

Meetings - Irish News and Belfast Cathedral Group

On April 28, the Group met with two senior political journalists from the `Irish News' newspaper. At the request of the Standing Committee it also met with the `Belfast Cathedral Group' to discuss their submission to the Standing Committee and to provide a response.

Submission on Strategy for handling `Sectarianism'

In early 1997 the Group conducted extensive research and produced a detailed and comprehensive report with recommendations on a way forward for the Church of Ireland in dealing with `Sectarianism'.

Meetings with political parties

Following the restoration of the IRA Ceasefire, contact was made by Sinn Féin with the Group. An official meeting between Sinn Féin and the WGPD was held in Belfast on November 13. Preparatory and follow-up meetings also took place.

Preliminary meetings with the UUP to arrange an official meeting took place in December. The proposed official meeting, scheduled for late December, was postponed because of the emergency political situation.

 

5.EUROPEAN AFFAIRS WORKING GROUP

Membership

The Archbishop of Dublin

Mr. C. Bagnall

Rev. T. Scott

Mr. S. Morrow

Mr. E.W.R. Cookman

Ven. D.S. McLean

Mr. D. Cheatley

Mr. O.G. Paulin

Rev. J. Merrick

Very Rev. R.B. MacCarthy

Dr. K. Milne

Rev. D. Hutton-Bury

The O'Morchoe

Rev. E. Lynch

Mr. R. Roe

Co-opted Member

Rev. Canon C.A. Empey

Agenda

The number of issues that present themselves for the attention of the working group is very considerable. Fortunately, we receive many helpful publications from EU and Church sources, and have the advantage of attending seminars and briefings organised by the Institute of European Affairs, of which we are a member. This has enabled us to attend meetings concerned with two of the major items facing the Union: enlargement and monetary union. In addition to the regular meetings with the Dublin office of the EU that have been customary, we visited the EU office in Belfast in January, which was particularly appropriate as the United Kingdom's presidency of the Commission had just begun.

Agenda 2000 - Agriculture

It would be impossible for us to study in depth the entire range of EU business, however relevant, and must confine ourselves to those items of particular concern to the Church. Quite clearly, agricultural policy is of primary concern, and it is our hope to prepare a paper on the subject for submission to the EU, and which we hope to have ready in time for the meeting of the General Synod.

 

Information

There would be little point in our existence if the results of our researches and deliberations were not put at the disposal of the members of the Church. We have, therefore, decided to produce a regular news-letter for distribution to diocesan magazines, and three have been published since the General Synod last met.

Other Churches

We have been represented at two meetings held on the continent of Europe: the annual assembly of the European Ecumenical Commission for Church and Society in Antwerp in September, and a colloquy on Anglicanism in Europe, held in November in Strasbourg, under the auspices of the Archbishop of Canterbury's representative there. Given that the Church of Ireland ministers in two separate member states of the EU we have a distinctive perspective on a number of matters.

Mgr. Noel Treanor is secretary general of the Commission of European Episcopal Conferences, and he met us in February to discuss European matters of common interest to the Churches. We have also had exploratory discussion with representatives of the Presbyterian Church's Church and Government Committee.

6.CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW GROUP

A Constitutional Review Group was formed to examine the report of the Republic of Ireland's Constitutional Review Body, in order to determine any possible implications for the Church. In carrying out this task, the Group will obtain the assistance of a number of Constitutional experts. It is also intended to contact the Oireachtas All Party Review Group and submit comments to them.

 

 

APPENDIX A

SUBMISSION ON BEHALF OF THE CHURCH OF IRELAND TO

`A BELIEVER'S ENQUIRY' ORGANISED BY THE

GLENCREE CENTRE FOR RECONCILIATION

How can the Church of Ireland assist in the process of peace-building in [Northern Ireland,] Ireland and between Britain and Ireland?

What views do you have as to how other groups could work together with you in this endeavour?

`Northern Ireland' Omission

The matter of peace-building `in Northern Ireland' has been omitted from the first question. It is our view that peace-building in Northern Ireland is indispensable to finding a way out of the Northern Ireland conflict. We also assume that `A Believer's Inquiry' would not have been initiated if the ongoing conflict in Northern Ireland did not exist. We are, therefore, including a `Northern Ireland' dimension in this submission. [It appears that the first question may be re-phrased to include `Northern Ireland'. If this happens, the above paragraph will be deleted.]

Background Statements

In preparing this report we have given careful consideration to various official statements on the Northern Ireland conflict issued in recent years by our Church: most notably to the Opsahl Commission (1992), the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation (1994), by the Archbishop of Armagh, Most Rev. Dr. R.H.A. Eames, and by the Working Group on Political Developments (1996).

Christians - Called to be Peace-makers

"Blessed are the peace-makers". (Matt. 5,9). Christians have a divine vocation not only to pray for peace, and to will peace where there is conflict, but to be `makers of peace'. Our Lord expects his followers to be proactive and dynamic in overcoming division and hostility with peace. Peace-making requires specificity of thought, prayer and action.

The main thrust of our Lord's teaching and ministry was to reveal God's love for mankind and to call all people to faith in God and love for the friend, neighbour and enemy. Jesus reached out to individuals and groups beyond the religious, cultural and political confines of his day. Jesus' example is central to this work of peace-building.

IRA Ceasefire

The single, most-important step in peace-building is an immediate IRA ceasefire. It is also crucial that the CLMC sustain and entrench a credible ceasefire. Our Church is profoundly concerned at the continuing savagery of the violent intimidation of individuals, family groups and communities. The retention of arsenals, and the existence of organisations prepared to use them, is also a most serious obstacle to progress. These hinder the development of trust which is essential in the fostering of democratic dialogue and building of peace.

The Church of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Conflict

We recognise that there is an urgent task to break down the walls of division and mistrust in Northern Ireland. The divisions are deep-seated, complex and multi-faceted, caused by cultural, economic, social, historical, religious and other factors over many centuries. For this reason, we believe that the Northern Ireland conflict will not yield to the `quick fix' solution: experience demonstrates that effective peace-making will be painstaking, incremental and undramatic.

Consideration of the complexity, and apparent intractability of the conflict, induces a sense of modesty and humility in the light of the extensive weight and range of scholarship, analysis and investigation which has been brought to bear on the Northern Ireland conflict over the last thirty years. The Church of Ireland offers its contribution to peace-building, mindful of the importance of contributions from the other Christian Churches, and from political parties and groups.

While we appreciate that there is a place for peace-building in Ireland, and between Britain and Ireland, we have consistently recognised that peace building is urgent at the locus of the conflict - in Northern Ireland. We, therefore, stress the need for an end to all paramilitary violence in Northern Ireland and for dialogue, co-operation and trust between the people of Northern Ireland: and between the people of Ireland, and Britain and Ireland. We note that throughout `The Troubles' the Churches have unanimously condemned the use of paramilitary violence and its tragic consequences for the victims and perpetrators.

How can the Church of Ireland assist the process of peace building in Northern Ireland?

The following are a list of what the Church has been doing, is doing, and may do in the future:

(1)Provide prayer support for politicians and all who seek to advance peace by means of mutual respect and dialogue.

(2)Encourage, promote and engage in open and frank dialogue at every level in an atmosphere of trust and without the threat of violence.

(3)Encourage, sustain and intensify contact between the Churches at all levels - in local areas, and through Irish Council of Churches, Irish Inter-Church Meeting, CEC/CCEE, WWDP, etc. In a society which is politically divided, Christians are called to share in Christ's ongoing ministry of reconciliation.

(4)Process the recommendations of the `Sectarianism' Report (1994) and support the ISE project `Moving Beyond Sectarianism'.

(5)Create opportunities for people to remember their history, to share their stories - the positive as well as the negative elements - in order to stop a build-up of grievance and resentment.

(6)Encourage people to envision a future of peace with justice, and to identify ways of achieving that goal: set down short, medium and longterm strategies.

(7)Establish and implement a training programme for peace-building, in association with other Churches.

(8)Encourage those Protestants who wish to see themselves as Irish people with British citizenship, and take pride in the Christianity and culture which they share with their Roman Catholic neighbours.

(9)Demonstrate support for a more pluralist society North and South, accommodating minorities - religious, cultural, linguistic and moral.

(10)Listen attentively to the voices of the victims of violence and their families. This is essential in the process of healing and peacemaking.

(11)Promote integrated housing as a long term goal which must be advanced. At the present time most people - in both state and private housing - live in areas where either a `Protestant' or `Roman Catholic' ethos predominates.

(12)Promote the development of `a common language' between nationalists and unionists. Terms such as `peace', `justice', `peace process' have different connotations for each side.

(13)Contact with political parties in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, to advance justice and peace.

(14)Advance mutual respect and accommodation between groups and individuals.

How can the Church of Ireland assist the process of peace building in the Republic of Ireland?

The following are a list of what the Church has been doing, is doing and may do in the future.

(1)Involvement with Government on current educational, social and economic issues.

(2)Inter-Church co-operation at Diocese and Parish levels.

(3)We desire an inclusive society. To this end the Constitution should be an inclusive document. There are Church of Ireland objections to the use of the Constitution as an instrument for determining complex social and moral issues.

 

(4)Our Church co-operates in an all-Ireland structure at every level, and simultaneously exists within two political jurisdictions. Within the Church of Ireland this is an example and model of North-South co-operation.

How can the Church of Ireland assist the process of peace building between Britain and Ireland?

The following are a list of what the Church has been doing, is doing and may do in the future.

(1) Promote meeting and dialogue between Churches and people on the two Islands.

(2)When responsible people have misgivings with regard to the implementation of justice in Britain, their views should not be disregarded.

(3)In general there are good relations between the people of Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. These would be greatly enhanced if, at governmental level, the unionist population could be assured that the principle of majority consent in Northern Ireland is firm and unequivocal, and if the nationalist population could be assured of fairness of treatment in Northern Ireland

(4)Through the Anglican Communion of Churches there is much contact between the Church of Ireland and the Anglican Churches of England, Wales and Scotland.

(5)The Church of Ireland is a full and active member of the CCBI, which includes the RCCs of England, Wales and Scotland as full members, and Roman Catholic Church in Ireland which has `observer' status.

(6)The North-West Triangle is a standing meeting of the Roman Catholic and Anglican Bishops of Liverpool, Glasgow and Belfast which meets twice yearly.

What views do you have as to how other groups could work together with you in this endeavour?

(1)Already there is much co-operation and shared effort between the Churches in seeking to find a way out of the conflict.

(2)The Church of Ireland supports, and through its members is involved in, the work of the agencies of reconciliation viz. Corrymeela, Cornerstone, Rostrevor Centre for Christian Renewal, the I.S.E., etc.

 

July, 1997


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