September Communication from the Commission for Christian Unity and Dialogue
Christian Unity Committee
Added on 27/09/2013
At a recent meeting of the Commission, the Rt Revd John McDowell, Bishop of Clogher (pictured) was elected Chairman of the Commission. He succeeds the Most Revd Richard Clarke, Archbishop of Armagh who was thanked for his work as Chairman over a number of years.
The following elections have been made by the Commission:
Hon Secretary: Dr Kenneth Milne
Hon Records Secretary: Revd Niall Sloane
Annual Church Conferences
The Revd Ása Björk Ólafsdóttir and Mr Trevor Morrow attended the Annual Methodist Conference in Carrickfergus on behalf of the Church of Ireland.
The Methodist Conference took place in Carrickfergus, Co Antrim on June 12th – 16th 2013. The leading title of it was: A People invited to Follow. I was a Church of Ireland Observer along with Mr Trevor Morrow. What struck me right from the start of the Conference, was the lightness and joy in everyone. Praying was at the heart of every session and it was wonderful to let go and let God at the start of each session. The Holy Spirit was invited to guide us through our tasks. As President Dr Heather M E Morris said: Thank you to you for being a part of Conference; for taking the risk of entering wholeheartedly into a new way of doing things.
The sessions tackled matters such as: Mission in Ireland and in the wider World, Methodist Heritage, Listening to God through one another, Social Responsibility, Sharing God’s gifts and Dealing with obstacles. Elections took place and all business was taken in one bloc. Then there were sessions with the same leaders that would lead the Worship after the evening meal, such as Philip R Meadows and Pete Grieg. Joy through singing, praying and being a part of this dynamic group of people is what stays with me as many young people were also invited to the Conference and the band was never far away.
I was told the conference was very different from the ones before. Though there was structure, it was much lighter and the feeling of togetherness was enhanced during frequent coffee and meal breaks as they are a wonderful opportunity to meet up with new people and hear their stories.
Expressing our faith through different mediums, such as in writing, poetry and art was most unusual, but people were happy to and I found myself up in the Art room kneeling on the floor drawing and writing a few words. Experience is possibly what best describes the atmosphere of the days I spent at the Methodist Conference in Carrickfergus.
Ása Björk Ólafsdóttir
The Revd Canon David Crooks and the Revd Daniel Nuzum attended the Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends in Cork on behalf of the Church of Ireland.
The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends in Ireland was held at St. John’s College, Cork, from Wednesday 24th to Sunday 28th July 2013. This was the first time that the Quakers held their annual conference in Cork. The overall theme was Living in the Spirit.
Wednesday 24th July, Sessions 1 and 2
Following arrival, registration and tea/coffee, the first session began the Yearly Meeting with Thought for the Day and Welcome. The Summary of Epistles was a series of reports from local meetings (congregations) about their various activities.
The evening Session was on the subject of Ethical Investment, introduced by Tony Weekes, Nigel Bell and Peter MacAllister. This dealt with ethical issues in finance and investment policies, matters dear to the heart of Quakers. The evening ended with an Epilogue and worship by candlelight.
Thursday 25th July, Sessions 3 and 4
The day began at 9.00am with a choice of Bible Study or Worship Sharing led by Susan Pim from Waterford Meeting and Bronwen Haire from South Belfast Meeting. Session 3 consisted of Thought for the Day, Peace Committee and Statistics. The latter considered the numbers in the Society of Friends and future outlook.
Session 4 was the Office and Yearly Meeting and Finance report, and the Treasurer’s Report. Their finances were in a healthy state, though like all churches, there are problems in the current economic climate with remaining in financial good health. Compared to the finances of the mainstream churches, the Friends’ finances are minute – sums in the region of €30,000, as opposed to millions! This was followed by a reading before lunch.
The afternoon was devoted to Special Interest Groups. Here, delegates could choose one of three meetings to attend. The first was entitled, Quakers keep good records – do we?, and was about the maintenance of records of their past and present. The second was, Sharing Experience: Living lightly in our Meeting Houses. This was a consideration of how the use of ecologically responsible architecture and materials can help enhance Meeting Houses as spiritual places, drawing on the experience of a range of recently built or renovated Meeting Houses around Ireland. The third was on Ministry at Meeting for Worship.
This was followed by a lecture given by Rex Ambler, a Quaker author, entitled Living in the Light, in which the relationship between the modern Quakers and their founders was explored, in an endeavour to bring the Quakers into closer contact with their roots. The evening activities included the Healing Group, and the singing of hymns in English and Irish, led by members of the Limerick, Cork, Rathfarnham and Portadown Meetings. The day ended with Epilogue and worship by candlelight.
Friday 26th July, Session 5
The day began with Bible study and worship sharing. Session 6 in the morning was on Irish Quaker Faith in Action. This was followed by afternoon visits to various places of local interest such as Blarney Castle, Historic Cobh and Cork City, Kinsale and Fota House and Gardens.
In the evening, there was a public lecture on the UCC campus entitled, Reclaiming the Christian Message given by Julia Ryberg of the Sweden Yearly Meeting. The day ended with epilogue and worship by candlelight in Cork Meeting House.
Saturday 27th July, Sessions 6, 7 and 8
The day began with a choice between Bible Study and worship sharing. Session 6 was Thought for the Day, and reports from Meeting of External Reps, and a talk on Concern for Commemoration.
Session 7 was devoted to Youth work, under the guidance of the Youth–co–ordinator and the Youth Committee, and there was a report of Young Friends activities. This was a dynamic presentation displaying much life and interest from the younger members and their activities around Ireland. Of particular note was the interest being taken on youth mental health and preparations are in place to publish a resource in this area.
After lunch, the interest groups gathered again, as on the previous day. This time, the subjects were, An Experiment with Light, Meet the Public Lecturer, where Julia Ryberg led discussion of her lecture, The Economic Crisis: A threat to peace or an opportunity? What are we called to do?, and Electronic Resources Workshop – Quakers on the Internet.
Session 8 explored the issue of how Quakers communicate with the world within the context of the Quaker Council for European Affairs. The evening was given over to “Do it yourself entertainment”.
Sunday 28th July
Appointment of Clerks and Closing Minute, followed by worship in Cork Meeting House.The Sunday Meeting was enriched and enlarged by the presence of so many members. It was a joy to share in worship and to be refreshed by the distinctive spirituality that infuses all Quaker life. That concluded the Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.
Who are the Quakers?
The Religious Society of Friends was founded in 1650 by George Fox. Fox had become disillusioned with the Church of England which at that time was experiencing the upheavals of the Cromwellian Commonwealth. His movement set out to seek God through contemplation, waiting upon the Spirit, rather than in formal liturgical worship. Later in the 17th century, William Penn established the movement in America, in the State which bears his name, Pennsylvania. The term Quaker referred to the apparent trembling of worshippers, and was used derogatorily at first. However, it is now acceptable to the Friends. They gather in Meeting Houses in many parts of Ireland, and number some 1,500 people. Famous Quakers have been Kelloggs, the Cornflakes people, and Cadburys, the chocolate makers.
Their Yearly Meeting bears little or no resemblance to the General Synod of the Church of Ireland with its Presidential Address, reports, bills and motions etc. It is structured as loosely as possible, and is presided over by a Clerk, though his/her duties in no way resemble those of our Primate. Rather, the whole Meeting is structured around talks by various individuals, and workshops. However, the Financial report was detailed and comprehensive. On the whole, the Yearly Meeting is a very relaxed and somewhat informal affair – it was amusing to see two old ladies doing their knitting during one session! One other difference – the numbers in attendance were about 100 – much smaller, though far higher in proportion to the membership of the Church of Ireland.
The Bishop of Derry and Mr Sam Harper attend the Annual Presbyterian General Assembly in Londonderry on behalf of the Church of Ireland.
At 7.00pm on Monday, 3 June, the Assembly was duly constituted at a Service of Worship in the Millennium Forum, Londonderry – with two sermons, the first by the outgoing Moderator, Rev Dr Roy Patton, and the second by the in–coming Moderator, Rev Dr Rob Craig, from Kilfennan Presbyterian Church in Derry.
In the solemn opening ceremony, more than 20 former (male) Moderators sat prominently on the stage, robed in black gowns. During business the next day, a female delegate drew attention (gently and respectfully) to the fact that visitors and guests might draw their own conclusions about the vigour and variety of the Presbyterian church when its shop–front portrayed such a uniformly male, elderly and dark–clad image! [One wonders to what extent a dash of purple and a few somewhat younger faces at the front of our General Synod lessens the chance of similar conclusions about the C of I being drawn by a visitor!]
Business commenced at 9.30am each of the three days. In fact, on the first day there was a 9.00am session entitled, ‘Introduction to Assembly Business.’ An impressively early start, but quite a number of people did seem to drift in late.
There is no escaping the fact that the General Assembly is a spiritual event with a prayerful heart. Worship is woven seamlessly into the fabric of the whole event. On Tuesday business stopped so that the entire membership of the Assembly could walk along the city walls – in bright and very warm sunshine – from the Millennium Forum to First Derry Presbyterian Church, for a midday Communion Service. This ‘walk–of–witness’ was certainly a colourful, gender–balanced, visual image for the city’s passers–by to observe. On Wednesday and Thursday business stopped at midday for a service of worship, which included a sermon preached by one the Moderator’s chaplains.
One of the more energised debates concerned the recent decision by the Church of Scotland to permit ministers in same–sex relationships to continue to serve, while at the same time endorsing the Church’s traditional understanding of marriage. The Principal Clerk of the Church of Scotland, Rev John Chalmers sought to explain his Church’s decision (in the temporary absence of the Moderator, The Right Rev Dr Lorna Hood, who had flown to London for the day to a service marking the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee). A few different motions and amendments were put to this General Assembly in an attempt to express adequately its mood and response. The eventually agreed motion included the words ‘…[we] affirm our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Church of Scotland and give thanks that they have publicly confirmed their commitment to the biblical understanding of human sexuality, yet note with concern the deliverance approved by the recent General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.’ The motion concluded by recording ‘…[our] commitment to pray for the Church of Scotland.’
The following points of note emerged from the business:
• A concerned debate about statutory residential care for the elderly.
• The rate of assessment for the PCI Pension Fund for 2013 be 27.5% of stipend.
• A recommendation of the Diocese of Liverpool’s “Giving in Grace” programme as a comprehensive resource and a request to congregations to consider making use of it or some similar programme.
• The Revd Trevor Gribben was elected Clerk Designate of the General Assembly, and will succeed Rev Donald Watts in due course.
• The Very Revd Dr Stafford Carson was elected Principal of Union Theological College.
• The 40th anniversary of the ordination of women in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland was acknowledged.
Young people, as members of SPUD, a Youth Assembly for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland which ‘aims to connect 15–25 year olds with the real decision–making of the church, encouraging participation at both a denominational and local level’ featured prominently in several debates and their contribution was very well received.
On the Magee Campus (a former Presbyterian College in the city) seminars on the history of the Presbyterianism were offered on Tuesday evening.
On Wednesday evening, an Evening Celebration, led by Rev Steve Stockman, provided a creative, multi–media exploration of the relationship between culture and faith, and highlighted the Church’s role as ‘A place of Transformation.’
Visitors from other churches were warmly welcomed, were offered excellent hospitality and were made to feel part of the Assembly. On the first day, the Bishop of Derry was invited to speak on behalf of the visitors and on the final day, as Chairman of the TRC, was also asked to contribute to the debate on education.
The unanimous verdict of delegates was that the General Assembly’s visit to Derry was a great success. The bright sunshine and the vibrant atmosphere in the City of Culture, combined with the fact that the local man, Rev Rob Craig, as the new Moderator, chaired the business with warmth and good humour, combined to create a real feel–good factor and an upbeat sense of blessing about it all.
We were glad to have been asked by the Standing Committee to be there on behalf of the Church of Ireland.
A Consultation on the Diaconate was held in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, Dublin in April. A report of the conference will be available later in the year.
The next meeting of the contact group will take place in Iceland. Revd Canon Helene Steed will attend.
Society of St Willibrord
The Bishop of Cashel has been appointed Chairman of the Society. He will co–Chair his first meeting later in the year.
The Twenty Third Meeting of the Meissen Commission under the Meissen Agreement took place in Bradford, England from September 12th–15th 2013. The Revd James Harris from the Church in Wales attended (representing the Church in Wales, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Church of Ireland) and sent the following report.
Theme: How do we live the Gospel in a Christian Minority Context?
The Diocese of Bradford was host to the 2013 Meissen Commission meeting. In welcoming commission members, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, the Bishop of Bradford and Commission Co–Chair, spoke about his diocese’s willingness grasp the nettle of change as it looked towards a merger with the two neighbouring dioceses of Wakefield and Ripon and Leeds at Easter 2014.
Commission members were introduced to the context of ministry in the city of Bradford by Bishop Nick and the new dean, the Very Revd Jerry Lepine. They learned about the dramatic economic and demographic change that the city had experienced in the past half century or so, and of how that impacted upon the ministry of inner urban churches where the challenge was to build and maintain common ground between some communities with distinct cultural identities and to resist the slide into segregation.
Bishop Tony Robinson, suffragan in the diocese of Wakefield, spoke to the Commission about the Church of England’s “Presence and Engagement” initiative. In some parishes relatively small congregations were finding ways of engaging with a wider community, where the majority were of other faiths (mostly Muslim). These parishes were doing inter–faith work that was built around neighbourliness and working for the common good. The nature of this work was brought out vividly by a local parish priest, Revd Alistair Helm, whose congregation, small and financially struggling but busy, provided a range of important facilities for a mostly Muslim community. Dr Philip Lewis, the bishop of Bradford’s inter–faith advisor, spoke about the particularities of the Bradford context. The Muslim community is predominantly one with strong with strong links to its traditional, rural sending community in Mirpur, Pakistan.
Commission members undertook valuable site visits to two Church of England educational institutions, Bradford Academy and St Stephen’s Primary School to meet staff, pupils and governors. The Commission was impressed by the amount of energy and creativity evident in both places. A meeting with local faith leaders including Vice President of the Bradford Council of Mosques, Zulfiqar Karim and Manoj Joshi, a local Hindu leader, enabled Commission members to learn in particular of Muslim support for a struggling local synagogue. Such stories helped the Commission in its reflections towards the end of the conference to see the importance of the ministry of presence and engagement.
In business sessions the Commission reflected on the 2013 Kirchentag in Hamburg, in which there had been much Commission participation. It also anticipated the 2014 Meissen theme (Reformation and Politics) with a presentation by Katrin Hatzinger, head of the EKD Brussels office. The Commission discussed the next Meissen theological conference and focussed on the Meissen schools initiative. They heard reports from member and observer churches and considered how best to observe the forthcoming series of centenaries associated with World War One. The Commission reflected on how to build on the large number of recent group visits from EKD churches to England.
Conference worship took place in the stillness of Bradford Cathedral and at the close of the Commission meeting Bishop Friedrich Weber, EKD co–chair, preached at the Sunday Cathedral Eucharist at which Bishop Nick Baines was the celebrant.
4 Nations Faith & Order Working Group
The Archbishop of Dublin and the Revd Niall Sloane will attend a meeting of the group in late October.
The 13th Assembly of CEC held in Budapest from 3rd to 8th July 2013: report from Dr Kenneth Milne (Church of Ireland representative).
‘and now what are you waiting for’
This quotation, the theme for July’s assembly of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) in Budapest, is not as unconventional as it might at first seem. It is from the Acts of the Apostles: a colloquial rendering of the message Ananias gave to Saul as his sight was restored and the newly commissioned apostle was sent on his way. The note of urgency is timely, given the challenges facing the Churches of Europe to–day. The Moderator of the Assembly was the Most Revd Michael Jackson, Archbishop of Dublin.
In many ways these Churches are more favourably situated in 2013 than was the case when the CEC came into being in the aftermath of World War I on a continent divided by the Iron Curtain and when Christians in central and eastern Europe facing fifty years of Soviet oppression. Yet, as a report issued at the end of this year’s Assembly put it:
‘The global financial crisis has severe effects on European states and societies. Particularly in Southern European countries and increasingly in Eastern and Central countries the crisis leaves thousands of persons in despair: people have lost jobs and houses, decreasing income and increasing prices have severe effects on the ways of life of many. Social systems are under strain, pensions and savings are no longer safe. The gaps between rich and poor are widening in the majority of European societies. Governments and political authorities have difficulties to agree on common solutions in Europe, responsibility is neither taken nor shared but shifted around. ….governments lose credibility…racism and friction are a consequence…open racism and violence are on the rise’.
Those of us attending from Ireland have every reason to recognise this picture as accurate, and against such a backdrop it would be easy to be cynical about the proceedings of an Assembly that devoted a great deal of its time to debating the niceties of a new constitution that would give CEC new structures. Yet structures matter, and if the long, tedious sessions devoted to devising a slimmed down and more flexible CEC bear fruit, it will not have been in vain.
Since the 12th CEC Assembly held in Lyon in 2009, when it became obvious that major surgery was called for, a ‘Renewal Working Group’ (RWG) was established, the Anglican member of which was Dr Charles Reed of the Church of England. The RWG addressed the problems facing the organisation, identifying areas that required radical change and seeking from members of CEC (including the Church of Ireland and the Irish Council of Churches) a response to suggested reforms. Responses having been studied the RWG circulated ‘The Uppsala Report which contained proposals for a new constitution for CEC, the focus for this, the 13th Assembly, in Budapest. Helpfully, ‘Churches Together in Britain and Ireland’ (CTBI), of which we are a member, convened two gatherings in London for a preliminary study of the Uppsala Report.
A contentious proposal for change involved a restriction of the membership of CEC to Churches, eliminating the eligibility for membership of, for instance, local councils of Churches and certain youth and women’s organisations. The Irish representation successfully urged the Assembly not to exclude local councils of Churches, since they provide access to the ecumenical movement for the many small Churches that would otherwise find it difficult to participate. Likewise (in company with the majority of those taking part) we voted to reduce the size of the Governing Body, which conducts CEC business between Assemblies, to twenty rather than the fifteen proposed by the RWG.
Another major consideration was the future (or non–future) of commissions that had worked under the aegis of CEC in the spheres of migrants and relations with the Council of Europe and the institutions of the European Union. The Church and Society Commission in Brussels (where it is proposed that CEC itself will soon be based )has proved of particular value to member Churches providing a vital point of contact whereby the concerns of the EU and of local Churches can be shared. Equally important is the important partnership that has developed between CEC and its Roman Catholic equivalent, the Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE). It is intended that the attention paid to such partnerships in the Policy reference Report that emerged from the Assembly should secured their inclusion in CEC’s future programme.
The greater part of the Assembly’s proceedings was given over to debating the constitutional proposals, a debate that was heated from time to time as those delegates and observers whose constituents faced exclusion made their case, and their sense of hurt came through. However the sensitivity shown them by the Moderator and his colleagues in the chair did much to ensure that a high degree of consensus was achieved. Nor would it be accurate to paint a picture of an event entirely given over to the minutiae of constitutional argument. There were thrice–daily acts of worship, the thirty–minute morning sessions, made up of bible studies and homilies, being representative in turn of the different religious traditions that comprised the Assembly. Worship was conducted in the three languages of the Assembly–English, French and German, though the changes agreed in Budapest was that in future Russian would be a fourth official language.
On Sunday 7th July were invited to join local congregations for worship, and I opted for the Serbian Orthodox Liturgy in St George’s church which serves the substantial Serbian population that has been in Budapest for many generations. A splendid al fresco lunch followed the liturgy and then some of us visited the chapel of the Oeumenical Patriarchate.
As is customary at such Assemblies, there was a conference dinner, in this instance particularly lavish and preceded by a reception hosted by the Hungarian government at which we were greeted by Prime Minister Orban. A welcome distraction from business was cruise in the cool of the evening on the Danube, regaled by a jazz session provided by the Hungarian Air force Band.
Most of the CEC Assembly documentation can be accessed via www.ceceurope.org
The Archbishop of Armagh recently attended a meeting in Serbia.
Anglican–Oriental Orthodox International Commission
The Archbishop of Dublin will attend a meeting of the Commission in the Autumn in Windsor.
Anglican Jewish Commission of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel
The Archbishop of Dublin recently visited Haifa to chair the Anglican Jewish Commission of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. The next meeting will be held in Dublin in 2014.
Decade of Commemorations
Under the auspices of the Church of Ireland, a conference on ‘The 1913 Lockout’ in will be held in Liberty Hall on November 16th.
Limerick will be the venue for a seminar on ‘Gender Justice’ to be held on 17th October. More details may be found at http://ireland.anglican.org/news/4706
World Council of Churches
The Bishop of Connor will represent the Church of Ireland at forthcoming meetings in Busan, South Korea.
The Hon Secretary of the Commission Dr Kenneth Milne reported that at the most recent meeting of the Irish Inter–Church Committee he had drawn attention to an article of the Lisbon Treaty which stipulated that ‘the institutions [of the European Union] shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations and civil society”. This included the Churches, and he was concerned that the Churches should seek to ensure that such procedures were put in place. He was also concerned that national Churches should be involved, and not simply ecumenical bodies
Revd Niall Sloane,
Honorary Records Secretary