Wednesday 14 May 2008

What Ireland Thinks

The Archbishop of Dublin, John Neill, in the Church of Ireland, tells us in his sermon at the General Synod’s annual service (at Collegiate Church of St.Nicholas in Galway) on 13 May that the Anglican Church in Ireland has had to be diverse in straddling the border between Eire and Northern Ireland, and change is in every description of the island, and that the Anglican Communion cannot have unity without diversity nor diversity without unity. Division should not be allowed to be developed: not between prayer within and action in the secular world, nor between different theologies and different ethical emphases.

Two key passages are these:

In the Church of Ireland, we have set a great store by the fact that we have been able to remain one in times of deep political division, and in spite of the fact that our ministry, North and South, is in a very different context. This is something that must not be taken for granted. We must ensure that differing theological emphases and differing ethical judgements are not allowed to become matters for division.

The communion of Churches to which we belong – the Anglican Communion – has been going through a very difficult few years, during which divisive things have been done by those on all sides. It is easy to blame our lack of very formal structures to deal with a time of crisis – but this is of course part of what it is to belong to a communion of autonomous churches. Nevertheless we are working on an Anglican Covenant which will spell out something of the implications of being both autonomous as churches, and being in communion with each other.

This is a world of difference from the demands made by the likes of GAFCON, which simply do not accept the level of diversity that exists and cultural sensitivity needed.

Meanwhile the Archbishop of Armagh, Alan Harper, opening the General Synod, thinks that the differences of ethical positions around the Communion can be managed.

His position is what Fulcrum would now call "pluralist", just by taking these points (from more) that he highlights about the task of the Church:

  • Rejoice that through it [worship] countless individuals form one body in Christ...
  • Strive to live in unity and peace among ourselves and with the whole family of God
  • Model respectful relations with humanity and the whole created order
  • Develop common life and action with other Christian traditions
  • Work for greater mutual understanding with those of other faiths and of none

He makes the point that whilst the Lambeth Conference can make decisions, none of the 38 provinces has to abide by them. He said:

If there is a particular direction that is to be embraced by the whole Communion, it isn't the Lambeth Conference that makes that decision.

He even said that "one size does not fit all" when it comes to the Church of Ireland itself, with its aims of growth, unity and service. Each diocese has to do its own interpreting and acting on the overall aims.

Which is the point: Anglican Churches are often diverse within, so they are hardly going to recommend, or, more importantly, accept, constraints to necessary diversity by which a forced rather than organic unity can be achieved.

If the Covenant restricts such diversity, it will not be accepted. If it accepts diversity, it won't do the task of those New Puritans and others that are threatening schism over their one ethical and theological interpretation.


Anonymous said...

It is good to see that the Church of Ireland has eminently capable men at the helm, viz the Archbishops of Dublin and Armagh .

May they, and other like-minded bishops of our dear Communion, be able to do and say at Lambeth what is needed and in a suitable fashion.

Doorman-Priest said...

I very much like the sound of these guys.