Added on 25/06/2013
The Standing Committee of the General Synod met on Tuesday 18 June 2013 in Church House, Dublin and was chaired by the Archbishop of Armagh and the Archbishop of Dublin. The meeting was opened with a scripture reading and prayers led by Mrs Ethne Harkness, including prayer for the G8 Summit leaders meeting in Co. Fermanagh, that meaningful progress would be made on world peace, justice and food poverty as highlighted by the IF Campaign.
The Archbishop of Armagh asked members of Standing Committee to remember in silence the late Archdeacon Philip Patterson and to pray for his wife Eleanor and his family. The Archbishop recalled with gratitude Archdeacon Patterson’s strong and sincere contribution to the work of the Standing Committee.
Archbishop Clarke welcomed Bishop Ferran Glenfield, the new Bishop of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh to his first meeting of Standing Committee. The Archbishop conveyed his congratulations to the Northern Clerical Honorary Secretary, the Revd George Davison, on his appointment as the new Archdeacon of Belfast and to Canon David McClay, whose wife Hilary McClay is a member of Standing Committee, on his recent appointment as Archdeacon of Down.
Congratulations were expressed to the Synod Officer, Mr Garrett Casey, on receiving a First Class Honours Law degree from Dublin City University and to Bishop Paul Colton on his recent award of a Doctorate in Canon Law from the University of Cardiff.
Honorary Secretaries’ Report
The Honorary Secretaries reported on the progression of matters following the meeting of the General Synod including the convening of the Select Committee on Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief in September which will have an initial focus on building relationships between committee members. They also reported on a response by the Archbishops and Honorary Secretaries in May to the Northern Ireland Committee of Finance and Personnel regarding a Legislative Consent Motion in respect of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill currently making its passage through Westminster, whereby in the event of the Bill becoming law any same sex couples married under legislation in England and Wales would be treated in Northern Ireland as if in a Civil Partnership. The response was based on the resolution on Human Sexuality adopted by the General Synod in 2012 and held that as the legislative consent motion did not propose a change in the definition of marriage for the purposes of the law in Northern Ireland that it did not impinge on the Church’s understanding of marriage as between one man and one woman.
It was agreed that PricewaterhouseCoopers be appointed as Auditors of the accounts of the Representative Church Body for the year 2013, on terms to be agreed by the RCB Executive Committee and reported to the Standing Committee.
General Synod 2013
The proceedings of the General Synod held during May in Armagh were considered and the various Bills and Motions all noted. Discussion followed regarding the venue, proceedings, the benefit of the break–out session, timetabling issues and matters of attendance and representation in terms of both age and gender. The Honorary Secretaries agreed to consider all the feedback which had been received with a view to preparing with Church Committees and planning for the next and future meetings of the General Synod.
Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 – Church of Ireland Position
In May 2013, the Church received an invitation to make a second submission to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children in relation to the Heads of Bills for the proposed Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013. As established by the Standing Committee in January 2013, an Abortion Working Group prepared a response which has been duly submitted to the Joint Committee. The Standing Committee affirmed this response and thanked the members of the Abortion Working Group for their work.
In its submission the Working Group articulated that the Church of Ireland emphasises the right to life and that this includes the right of the unborn, and that the Church of Ireland opposes abortion in principle but acknowledges that there are exceptional cases of ‘strict and undeniable medical necessity’ where it is and should be an option. There is a variety of opinion within the Church of Ireland on what constitutes ‘exceptional cases’ but agreement that it includes circumstances where the continuation of the pregnancy poses a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother. This submission is available for all to consult at: http://ireland.anglican.org/information/17
Association of Church of Ireland Press Ltd
The Standing Committee appointed Mr Scott Hayes as a member of the Association of Church of Ireland Press Limited. Thanks were expressed to the Revd Gillian Wharton, who has retired from membership of the Association, for her contribution to it.
Meeting with Irish Government Representatives
As has been reported previously in the Gazette (3 May 2013), a delegation comprising the Archbishop of Dublin, the Bishop of Clogher, Mr Samuel Harper, Mrs Ethne Harkness, the Venerable Robin Bantry White, the Very Revd Kenneth Hall, the Revd Canon Eithne Lynch and Dr Ken Fennelly met Irish Government representatives including Minister Quinn and Minister Fitzgerald, on Friday 19 April 2013 in Government Buildings. This was a wide–ranging meeting and considered to be a valuable and serious engagement with the Church, allowing an opportunity for structured dialogue which should be further built upon. One element of discussion concerned the flags protests in Northern Ireland earlier this year. The Honorary Secretaries agreed that a working group should now examine the recently published ‘Together: Building a United Community’ document produced by the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister and consider responding to it.
Disability Working Group
The Standing Committee expressed its gratitude to the Revd Canon William Murphy for his work as Chairman of the Disability Working Group. Following his retirement from full–time ministry, Canon Murphy has now resigned from the committee and his chairmanship and it was agreed that the Revd Jennifer McWhirter be elected to the Working Group in his place.
Battle of the Somme Commemoration
Standing Committee affirmed the intention of the Revd Canon Ian Poulton to lay a wreath at the Commemoration of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 2013 at the Ulster Tower at Thiepval.
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