Added on 01/05/2012
The Standing Committee of the General Synod met on Tuesday 24 April 2012. The meeting was opened with a scripture reading and prayers. The Archbishop of Armagh paid tribute to Canon J.L.B. ‘Barry’ Deane who died recently, describing him as ‘a servant of the Church over many years’, which was followed by an extended tribute by the Ven. Robin Bantry White recalling Canon Deane’s ‘critical and central contribution’ to the General Synod – of which he was a member for fifty years and a lay Honorary Secretary from 1968 to 1992 – to the Representative Church Body, and to many of the Church’s committees and structures, including the Standing Committee, the Board of Education in the Republic of Ireland and the Church of Ireland Pension Fund; Archdeacon White recalled that Mr Deane, who had been conferred with a lay canonry by Archbishop Eames in recognition of his lifetime of lay service, was a ‘chief originator’ of the current clergy pension arrangements, as well as highly involved in the Diocese of Cork, Cloyne & Ross.
The Archbishop of Armagh noted that the meeting was the last of a triennium and he expressed his thanks to those members who would not be returning to the Committee, while urging all to ‘keep up the good work’ in serving the life of the Church.
At the Archbishop of Armagh’s request, Standing Committee agreed that the Honorary Secretaries convey gratitude to the Chief Officer of the RCB, Mr Denis Reardon, for his 10 years of service as he prepares to retire later this year, and also to welcome formally Mr Adrian Clements, currently Head of Finance, to the role of Chief Officer which he will assume upon Mr Reardon’s retirement.
Honorary Secretaries’ Report: General Synod, Standing Committee elections (and co–options) and ‘Sober Reflections’ conference
The Honorary Secretaries reported on the finalisation of preparations for the General Synod which will meet in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin from Thursday 10 to Saturday 12 May (see also the General Synod Preview elsewhere in the Gazette). Details on proceedings have been sent to Synod members.
Elections to the new Standing Committee for the 2012–2015 triennium are underway. It was also resolved later in the meeting that the last day for the receipt of nominations for co–option to the Standing Committee is Wednesday 30 May 2012 and the final day for return of voting papers is Thursday 14 June 2012.
Archdeacon Robin Bantry White reported on a successful one–day conference marking the centenary of the Ulster Solemn League and Covenant which was held at Moira Parish Centre on Saturday 24 March. The conference which was entitled ‘Sober Reflections’ and was attended by 100 people from a wide range of backgrounds, examined the historical detail and context of the Covenant and also explored how the Covenant might be addressed theologically by the contemporary Christian conscience. It lays the foundations for future events marking significant Irish historical dates during the ‘decade of centenaries’, 2012–22.
Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief
Following discussion at the last meeting of the Standing Committee (held shortly after the Bishops’ Conference) which sought to develop a process responding to what had been raised in the course of the conference, the Archbishops and Bishops have prepared three draft resolutions which they will present to the General Synod in May for members’ consideration.
These three resolutions will relate to the doctrinal stance of the Church of Ireland, to pastoral attitudes and to developing a projected way forward on these matters. After a period of discussion, the Standing Committee resolved to note the intended motions from the Archbishops and Bishops and also resolved that in order to enable members of General Synod to consider them as much as possible beforehand, the Honorary Secretaries circulate the motions to the members of General Synod in advance as well as to add them to the Agenda paper for discussion after the report of the Standing Committee on the first day of General Synod.
2011 Census Figures in RoI
Preliminary findings of the 2011 Census figures in the Republic of Ireland as they relate to the Church of Ireland and religious affiliation in Ireland in general were brought to members’ attention. It was noted that the Church of Ireland population is recorded as 134,635 representing 2.93% of the total population, an increase to the total figure since the previous census of 7%, slightly below the general population increase of 8.2%. There have been marked increases in the Islamic and Orthodox populations (now 1.07% and 1% of the population respectively) and in the number stating ‘no religion’ (5.88% of the population, up 44.8%). Further detailed information from the Central Statistics Office will be released in October 2012.
It was noted that Malcolm Macourt’s book Counting the People of God – the Census of Population and the Church of Ireland published by Church of Ireland Publishing in 2008 provides a useful context to these new figures. It was felt that future analysis and discussion of statistics relating to the Church of Ireland across the island would be important to understanding movement and in developing the mission of the Church effectively.
Education – Church of Ireland Schools in RoI
Dr Ken Fennelly, Secretary to the Board of Education (RoI), provided an overview of developments in Education in the Republic of Ireland and specifically with regard to the proposed cuts to small schools which will impact dramatically on denominational education and Church of Ireland schools in particular, especially in scattered rural areas. Cuts leading to single–teacher schools in some instances as well as issues relating to transportation provision may lead to concerns over sustainability over the longer term as well as questions over health and safety and good practice in child protection. The cuts pose very significant issues for school patrons, as articulated in a statement of principles by Episcopal patrons issued on 26 March (see: http://ireland.anglican.org/news/4017). There has been a considerable level of lobbying to the Department for Education as well as regional meetings held across the country, led by Dr Fennelly, which will continue in order to offer a coherent and credible Church of Ireland voice on these matters. After an extensive discussion – highlighting the importance of the issues and how they impact upon Church of Ireland identity and witness, as well as parental choices in education – Dr Fennelly was thanked warmly for his continuing efforts in these challenging circumstances.
Board for Social Theology in Action
It was resolved that the Revd Elaine Murray be appointed to the Board with special responsibility to address ecological concerns, an area in which she has special interest and expertise.
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