Thursday, 5 March 2015

Anglican Studies (2014-2015)
7.2: theologies of reconciliation

“When you are offering your gift at the altar ... first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” The Cross of Nails on the altar in the ruins at Coventry symbolises the Ministry of Reconciliation at Coventry Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Church of Ireland Theological Institute

MTh Year II

TH 8825: Anglican Studies in an Irish context:

Thursdays: 9.30 a.m. to 12 noon, The Hartin Room.

Thursday, 5 March 2015, 11 a.m.:

Anglican Studies (7.2):

An introduction to three theologians and reconciliation: Miroslav Volf, Robert Schreiter and John de Gruchy


1, Miroslav Volf: Exclusion and Embrace

Professor Miroslav Volf … making connections between Forgiveness, Reconciliation and Justice

Professor Miroslav Volf, who now lives in Guilford, Connecticut, is the Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale University Divinity School, Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, which focuses on work-place spirituality, and a former professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, in Pasadena, California.

Dr Miroslav Volf has been a member in both the Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Evangelical Church in Croatia. He is widely known for his works on systematic theology, ethics, conflict resolution and peace-making. Recently he contributed the essay, “Forgiveness, Reconciliation and Justice,” to a new text on the atonement, Stricken by God? Nonviolent Identification and the Victory of Christ.

Miroslav Volf was born in Zagreb in Croatia in 1956, and studied at Evangelical-Theological Faculty, Zagreb (BA), Fuller Theological Seminary (MA), and the University of Tubingen (Dr Theol, Dr Theol habil), where he studied under Jürgen Moltmann.

His book Exclusion and Embrace (1996) was selected as one the 100 “Books of the [20th] Century” by Christianity Today.

In Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace (2005) – which was nominated as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book in 2006 – Miroslav Volf explores how we can be transformed by the God who gives abundantly and who forgives unconditionally.

We are at our human best when we give and forgive, he says. But we live in a world in which it makes little sense to do either one.

In our increasingly graceless culture, he asks, where can we find the motivation to give? And how do we learn to forgive when forgiving seems counter-intuitive or even futile?

Free of Charge explores these questions – and the further questions to which they give rise – in the light of God’s generosity and Christ’s sacrifice for us.

Miroslav Volf draws from popular culture as well as from a wealth of literary and theological sources, weaving his rich reflections around the sturdy frame of Saint Paul’s vision of God’s grace and Luther’s interpretation of that vision. Blending the best of theology and spirituality, he encourages us to echo in our own lives God’s generous giving and forgiving.

A fresh examination of two practices at the heart of the Christian faith – giving and forgiving – this book is at the same time an introduction to Christianity. Even more, it is a compelling invitation to Christian faith as a way of life.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has said of him: “Miroslav Volf, one of the most celebrated theologians of our day, offers us a unique interweaving of intense reflection, vivid and painfully personal stories and sheer celebration of the giving God ... I cannot remember having read a better account of what it means to say that Jesus suffered for us in our place.”

Two quotes from Miroslav Volf:

“Because the Christian God is not a lonely God, but rather a communion of three persons, faith leads human beings into the divine communio. One cannot, however, have a self-enclosed communion with the Triune God – a ‘foursome,’ as it were – for the Christian God is not a private deity. Communion with this God is at once also communion with those others who have entrusted themselves in faith to the same God. Hence one and the same act of faith places a person into a new relationship both with God and with all others who stand in communion with God.” (After our Likeness – the Church as the Image of the Trinity)

“Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans and myself from the community of sinners.”

Some books by Miroslav Volf:

The Sun Is Not Afraid of the Darkness (Theological Meditations on the Poetry of Aleksa Santic) (1986).
Work in the Spirit. Toward a Theology of Work (1991).
The Future of Theology. Essays in Honour of Jürgen Moltmann (ed. with T. Kucharz and C. Krieg) (1996)
Exclusion and Embrace. A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (1996).
A Spacious Heart. Essays on Identity and Belonging (with Judith M. Gundry-Volf) (1997).
A Passion for God’s Reign. Theology, Christian Learning, and the Christian Self (ed.) (1998).
After Our Likeness: The Church As The Image Of The Trinity (1998).
Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace (2005) – the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book 2006.
The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World (2006).
Against the Tide: Love in a Time of Petty Dreams and Persisting Enmities (2009).
Captive to the Word of God: Engaging the Scriptures for Contemporary Theological Reflection (2010).
Allah: A Christian Response (2011).
A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good (2011).

2, Archbishop Desmond Tutu: apartheid and reconciliation

Archbishop Desmond Tutu with the Discovery Gospel Choir in Saint George’s and Saint Thomas’s Church during a visit to Dublin in 2005

Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu, Nobel peace laureate, former Archbishop of Cape Town and leading campaigner against South Africa’s apartheid regime, is probably the best-known face of Anglicanism globally.

Desmond Tutu, who was born in 1931, rose to fame worldwide during the 1980s as an opponent of apartheid. He was the first black Archbishop of Cape Town and bishop of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa, now the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA).

Since the end of apartheid he used his high international profile to defend human rights and to campaign for the oppressed, getting involved in campaigns on issues such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, poverty, racism, sexism and homophobia. His international awards include the Nobel Peace Prize (1984), and he is the author of several books.

He was born in Klerksdorp, Transvaal, but grew up in Johannesburg, where he came under the influence of Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, who was then a parish priest in Sophiatown. At first he trained as teacher, and was ordained priest in 1960. For a time he was a curate in Saint Alban’s, Golders Green, and then at Saint Mary’s, Bletchingley. In 1975, he succeeded Gonville ffrench-Beytagh as Dean of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Johannesburg, and that year he moved to Soweto.

He was Bishop of Lesotho from 1976 until 1978, then Secretary-General of the South African Council of Churches. While he consistently advocated reconciliation between all parties in South Africa, his opposition to apartheid was vigorous and unequivocal. He often compared apartheid to Nazism, his passport was revoked twice, and he was jailed briefly in 1980. But it is thought his international reputation and his adherence to nonviolence protected him from harsher actions.

After the fall of apartheid, he headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. When he retired as Archbishop of Cape Town in 1996, Nelson Mandela said praised him for his “immeasurable contribution to our nation.” He is widely regarded as “South Africa’s moral conscience” and the “voice of the voiceless.”

Since his retirement, he has worked as a global activist on issues such as to democracy, freedom, human rights, child trafficking and peace in the Middle East.

In 2007, with Nelson Mandela and Graça Machel, he convened The Elders, a group of world leaders to contribute their wisdom, kindness, leadership and integrity to tackle some of the world’s toughest problems. Until 2013, he has served as Chair of The Elders, who have included Mary Robinson, Martti Ahtisaari, Jimmy Carter and Aung San Suu Kyi.

He has often criticised Robert Mugabe and once described him as “a cartoon figure of an archetypical African dictator.” Mugabe, on the other hand, has called Tutu an “angry, evil and embittered little bishop.”

In 2002, he called for a reform of the Anglican Communion in way the Archbishop of Canterbury is chosen. He said that the process will be properly democratic and representative only when the link between church and state is broken.

He has opposed traditional disapproval of homosexuality, and has said it is sad the Church is spending time disagreeing on sexual orientation “when we face so many devastating problems – poverty, HIV/AIDS, war and conflict.” He has equated homophobia with racism, calling it a “crime against humanity” and “every bit as unjust” as apartheid. In an interview with BBC Radio 4 (2007), he accused the Church of being obsessed with homosexuality.

He is also an honorary patron of the University Philosophical Society, Trinity College Dublin, and an Honorary Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, and holds an honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity from the University of Cambridge. He is one of the patrons of The Forgiveness Project, a British-based charity that uses real stories of victims and perpetrators of crime to facilitate conflict resolution, break the cycle of vengeance and encourage behavioural change.

Speaking at Saint John’s Smith Square in London on the topic “Is violence ever justified?” he talked about the process of truth and reconciliation, the transformative nature of forgiveness and the uniquely African concept of Ubuntu – “I am me, because you are you” – saying that when wars come to an end, only forgiveness enables people to fully move away from conflict.

Archbishop Tutu’s many published works include:

Crying in the Wilderness (Eerdmans, 1982).
Hope and Suffering: Sermons and Speeches (Skotaville, 1983).
The Words of Desmond Tutu (Newmarket, 1989).
The Rainbow People of God: The Making of a Peaceful Revolution (Doubleday, 1994).
No Future without Forgiveness (Doubleday, 1999).
God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time (Doubleday, 2004).

He has also co-authored or contributed to:

Christianity (ed Patsy McGarry, Dublin: Veritas, 2001), with Patrick Comerford, Mary Robinson, Hans Kung, I>et al.
Bounty in Bondage: Anglican Church in Southern Africa – Essays in Honour of Edward King, Dean of Cape Town (1989).
The Rainbow People of God (1994).
Freedom from Fear: And Other Writings (1995).
Reconciliation: The Ubuntu Theology of Desmond Tutu (1997).
Exploring Forgiveness (1998).
Love in Chaos: Spiritual Growth and the Search for Peace in Northern Ireland, with Mary McAleese (1999).
God Is Not A Christian: And Other Provocations (2011).
The Book of Forgiving (2014) with Rev Mpho Tutu (his daughter).

3, John de Gruchy: Transforming Traditions

Professor John de Gruchy … what does it mean to be a believer, to practice Christian faith, now?

Professor John de Gruchy is Emeritus Robert Selby Taylor Professor of Christian Studies at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and heads the Research Institute on Christianity in South Africa.

For many years, he has been at the forefront as a religious leader and theologian in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. He is also an ordained minister of the United Congregational Church of South Africa, and the author of numerous books, including: Reconciliation: Restoring Justice; Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Witness to Jesus Christ and his most recent book, Confessions of a Christian Humanist.

John de Gruchy has also been the co-founder of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Cape Town, the founding editor of the Journal of Theology for Southern Africa, and he is an internationally respected Bonhoeffer scholar.

He is currently leading a research project, “Transforming Traditions,” which situates moments in the history of Christianity within the debates on social transformation in South Africa.

As a young student, he was influenced by the biography of Albert Luthuli, Let my people go, the work of Dr Beyers Naudé of the Christian Institute, and the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Tradition, John de Gruchy says, is both outside us and given to us. Tradition shapes our Christian identity. But tradition is also dynamic and is constantly rediscovering itself. The new always grows out of the old. Tradition constantly seeks after new wineskins. This is an outworking of the Johannine idea that the Spirit is the guide into truth.

Tradition – and traditions – grow organically in continuity with the past. But they are also contested in the present, and especially contested within the Church. Traditions as “continuities of conflict,” and Christians are participants in historic debates.

But, he says, we also negotiate the boundaries of tradition by engaging with those outside the broad Christian tradition as conversation partners. These might include academic critics of Christianity, but theology is not simply a dialogue within the academy, nor is it a conversation about written texts alone. The locus for theological reflection and Christian conversation is the contemporary world.

For John de Gruchy, theology is faith in action. South African theology has a catholic, or universal scope, but also speaks from a particular context. So it attends to the word, “today.”

What does it mean to be a believer, to practice Christian faith, now?

The two major theological statements produced by South African theologians during the anti-apartheid struggle were the Belhar Confession and the Kairos Document.

The Kairos Document led in 1989 to The Road to Damascus, a call for repentance from theologians in the global South to Christians in the wealthy North.

These documents signalled a contextual theology that reflected on Christian faith by social location (black, feminist, African) as well as by received tradition (Catholic, Reformed, Pentecostal). South African feminist, black and African theologies are now part of the great stream of Christian tradition.

They are now also part of the contestation of tradition, and are subject to the dangers of conservatism. So the theological task is to discern what de Gruchy calls their “transforming trajectories” for the present situation.

When Christians think of change, we usually understand it as metanoia, of becoming something other, but also becoming closer to God. But change itself is not, of itself, good. Change can be both good and bad.

As Bonhoeffer wrote from prison to his friend, Eberhard Bethge, metanoia means “sharing God’s sufferings in the world. Thus one becomes a human being, a Christian.”

John de Gruchy lists six affirmations towards a new, Christian humanism:

1, Christian humanism is inclusive. “Being human” names our primary identity.
2, Christian humanism affirms dignity and responsibility.
3, Christian humanism is open to insights into our common human condition wherever it is to be found.
4, Christian humanism claims that the love of God is inseparable from the love of others.
5, Christian humanism heralds a justice that transcends material and sectional well-being.
6, Christian humanism insists that goodness, truth and beauty are inseparable.

John de Gruchy’s books include:

The Church struggle in South Africa (1979/1986).
Apartheid is a Heresy (ed, with Charles Villa-Vicencio) (1983).
Bonhoeffer and South African Theology in Dialogue (1984).
Cry Justice (1985).
Theology and Ministry in Context and Crisis: a South African Perspective (1987)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Witness to Jesus Christ (1987/1988)
Liberating Reformed Theology (1991)
Christianity, Art and Transformation
Christianity and Democracy: Theology for a Just World Order (1995).
Reconciliation: Restoring Justice (2002).
Confessions of a Christian Humanist (2006).
On Being Human (Fortress, 2007).
Christianity and the Modernisation of South Africa (2009).

4, Robert Schreiter: beginning with the questions people ask

Professor Robert Schreiter … reminds us that we are “always born in some cultural context”

Professor Robert Schreiter is Professor of Theology at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. For 12 years he served as theological consultant to Caritas Internationalis, the umbrella organisation for 162 relief and development agencies in the Roman Catholic Church, for its programmes in reconciliation and peace-building. He has worked with groups in many countries on these topics.

In Robert Schreiter’s view, contemporary pluralism presents a “multiplicity of new pastoral and theological problems unprecedented in Christian history.” In Constructing Local Theologies, he discusses some of the unique challenges that arise in a variety of forms, such as asking new questions in differing cultural contexts, questions that have an impact on even the most routine issues of church life that we often taken for granted in the West:

“Indeed, so many new questions were emerging that the credibility of existing forms of theology was weakened. For example, questions about the eucharistic elements: How was one to celebrate the Eucharist in countries that were Muslim theocracies and forbade the production of importation of fermented beverages? What was one to do in those cultures where bread products such as bread were not known, in which the unconsecrated bread itself became a magical object because of its foreignness? Or how was one to celebrate baptism among the Masai in East Africa, where to pour water on the head of a woman was to curse her with infertility? How was one to understand Vatican Council II's opening to non-Christian religions in countries in southern Asia where Christianity seemed destined to remain a minority religion?”

In order to address these questions in ways that are theologically and culturally responsible, Dr Schreiter suggests that we need to develop local theologies. He defines this as a form of theology that “begins with the needs of a people in a concrete place, and from there moves to the traditions of faith,” and that involves a “dynamic interaction among Gospel, Church, and culture.”

Dr Schreiter sees this starting place with culture as a strength, as it begins “with the questions that the people themselves have” rather than the concerns of the church that often result in a theology and ecclesiology disconnected from local cultures.

As Dr Schreiter develops his thesis he not only defines local theology, but also includes a discussion of mapping local theologies, the need to understand local cultures (where he includes an emphasis on listening), as well as a consideration of the context of theology as church tradition interacts with local theological perspectives.

In discussing this last topic, he includes a helpful reminder that our perspectives for understanding are strongly influenced by culture, including church tradition in its forms and formulations. He reminds us that in spite of our assumptions they are not supra-cultural and are “always born in some cultural context.”

With this insight we are reminded that “the great theologies of East and West have drawn upon philosophical systems elaborated in their respective cultures to frame their questions and their answers.”

Robert Schreiter’s books include:

Constructing Local Theologies (1985).
Reconciliation: Mission and Ministry in a Changing Social Order (1992).
The Ministry of Reconciliation: Spirituality and Strategies (1998).

Next:

Thursday 12 March 2015:

8.1, From the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral to the emergence of an Anglican Covenant;

8.2, Anglican responses to the Missio Dei: Scripture, Worship and Communion as defining themes in contemporary Anglican self-understanding.

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Dublin (TCD). This essay is based on notes prepared for a lecture on the MTh course on 5 March 2015.

Anglican Studies (2014-2015) 7.1: Partition, conflict and peace:
the Church of Ireland in the 20th and 21st centuries

“I can never forget the summer night just after the decision when I reeled out into the cool air almost hearing the crash of a great building” ... a cartoon image of Archbishop William Alexander (1824-1911) in Vanity Fair, 1891

Patrick Comerford

Church of Ireland Theological Institute

MTh Year II

TH 8825: Anglican Studies in an Irish context:

Thursdays: 9.30 a.m. to 12 noon, The Hartin Room.

Thursday, 5 March 2015, 9. 30 a.m.:

Anglican Studies (7.1):

Partition, conflict and peace: the Church of Ireland in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Introduction:


The pressures for further reforms of the Church of Ireland continued. Eventually, in 1869, Gladstone introduced the legislation that brought about the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland in 1871.

Archbishop William Alexander – then Bishop of Derry and the last Church of Ireland bishop to sit in the House of Lords – later recalled leaving the House of Lords after the late night vote that passed the second stage of the legislation enacting disestablishment: “I can never forget the summer night just after the decision when I reeled out into the cool air almost hearing the crash of a great building.”

The Church of Ireland would no longer be a state church, bishops would no longer sit in the House of Lords, and the Church of Ireland, once again, was separated from the Church of England.

But the church moved hastily to reorganise itself. The archbishops called provincial synods, each of which agreed to meet with the other “in a general synod or council,” which agreed that “the synod is now not called upon to originate a constitution for a new communion but to repair a sudden breach in one of the most ancient churches in Christendom.”

The general convention met in 1870, approved a new constitution, set up a system of ecclesiastical courts, and arranged for the formation of a representative body, the Representative Church Body (RCB) to hold and manage the Church’s property.

The constitution established government at every level of the church, from select vestries at parochial level, to diocesan synods, to general synod.

By 1880, £5.5 million of funds from the Church of Ireland had been redistributed for educational purposes, including endowments to Maynooth and to the Presbyterians for training in ministry.

Disestablishment created a number of crises for the newly independent and self-governing Church of Ireland. There was a loss of income, there was a loss of some buildings, and the Church needed to find its own system of appointing bishops and of church government. Many of the leading evangelicals of the day wanted a complete overhaul that would have provided a Presbyterian-style of government for the Church of Ireland.

All Saints’ Church, Grangegorman … an important centre for the High Church tradition in Dublin at the time of disestablishment (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

These controversies did not mean the Church was completely dominated by evangelicals. In Dublin, for example, new churches in the High Church tradition had been built in Ballsbridge and Sandymount, enhancing a tradition that had already found expression at All Saints’ Church in Grangegorman.

The Church also debated whether it needed to revise The Book of Common Prayer. The debates on liturgical reform also included the form of absolution used in visiting the sick, and there were other rows about the use of the Athanasian Creed.

The debate on the form of absolution to be used in the visitation of the sick focused on words that seemed to suggest that that the priest by virtue of his priestly authority had the power to forgive sins. Eventually, a compromise was reached by substituting the form of absolution already used at the Holy Communion.

When it came to the Athanasian Creed, Trench opposed any efforts to rephrase or edit the damnatory clauses, declaring “the creed, lopped at the beginning, lopped at the end, lopped at the middle,” reminded him of “unhappy victims of oriental cruelty.”

The differences over the Athanasian Creed were resolved by omitting the rubric regarding its use.

There were debates too about the Baptismal service, and the ordination service, although major alterations were rejected.

Two new services were also added: one of the consecration of a church, the other an order for Harvest Thanksgiving.

The West Door of Saint John’s Church, Sandymount … one of the churches that was the focus of liturgical controversies (Photographs, Patrick Comerford)

The debates also resulted in new canons, including Canon 36 prohibiting placing a cross on the altar – a moved directed pointedly against three Tractarian churches in Dublin: Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Ballsbridge; Saint John’s Church, Sandymount; and All Saints’ Church, Grangegorman.

The compromises that were accepted are summarised in that beautiful statement that concludes the 1878 preface to the revised Book of Common Prayer:

“And now, if some shall complain that these changes are not enough, and that we should have taken this opportunity of making this Book as perfect in all respects as they think it might be made, of if others shall say that these changes have been unnecessary or excessive, and that what was already excellent has been impaired by doing that which, in their opinion, night well have been left undone, let them, on the one side and the other, consider that men’s judgements of perfection are very various, and that what is imperfect, with peace, is often better than what is otherwise more excellent, without it.”

Eventually, the changes guaranteed the survival of the Church of Ireland in the form we find it today, and the Church of Ireland soon entered on a long period of internal peace and institutional stability.

The post-disestablishment Church

The bridge linking Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, and the former Synod Hall, which was the venue for the General Synod for decades (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

So, was disestablishment a good or bad thing for the Church of Ireland?

Most of us would agree today that disestablishment was, by-and-large, good for the Church of Ireland.

Disestablishment

● set the Church of Ireland on a sound, independent financial footing;
● resulted in the reform of the liturgy;
● saw an overhaul of church structures with the introduction of synods at national (General Synod) and local (diocesan synod) level;
● was followed by an upsurge of lay initiative and of giving;
● freed the church of time-serving, careerists from England.

The mediaeval Romanesque doorway in the north wall of Saint Fethlimidh’s Cathedral, Kilmore, Co Cavan … the later Bedell Memorial Church was one of the new cathedrals completed after Disestablishment (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Cork … a triumph by William Burges, one of the greatest of the Victorian architects (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Disestablishment also led to new buildings, including:

● Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Cork
● Kilmore Cathedral, Co Cavan
● the rebuilding of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin
● the rebuilding of Saint Brigid’s Cathedral, Kildare
● Saint Luke’s Church, Cork (1873)
● Bangor Abbey, Co Down (1880)
● Saint Kevin’s Church, Dublin (1888);
● Saint Saviour’s Church, Arklow (1899).
● Saint Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast (foundation stone, 1899, consecrated 1904).
● Saint Mary’s Church, Crumlin, Dublin (1942).

Saint Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast … a post-disestablishment cathedral for one city and two dioceses (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In addition, in the immediate aftermath of Disestablishment:

● A new teacher training college was established in Kildare Place in 1884 (now the Church of Ireland College of Education, Rathmines).
● Two new vibrant mission agencies were founded in Trinity College Dublin in the 1880s and 1890s – the Dublin University Far Eastern Mission and the Dublin University Mission to Chota Nagpur.
● New mission links were established with emerging churches in Spain and Portugal.
● The Church of Ireland made immeasurable contributions to the growth of Anglicanism, particularly in Canada, Australia, Kenya, Uganda and Southern Africa.

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Shanghai, where three Irish missionaries were bishops … the Dublin University Far Eastern Mission was a sign of the vibrant new missionary life of a disestablished church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Church of Ireland in the 20th century

Saint Kevin’s Church, built in 1888 on the site of the former Royal Portobello Gardens, closed after less than a century in 1983 ... what caused a decline in membership of the Church of Ireland over the space of a century? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

If the Church of Ireland could bounce back like that at the end of the 19th century, what happened that caused a decline in numbers at the beginning of the 20th century?

Some of the factors were political. For example, after the initial phases of the Industrial Revolution, which saw imported labour, many of the skilled labourers were replaced by Irish-born Roman Catholics when they acquired those skills from the mid-19th century on. Then the Wyndham Act and the expropriation of landlords led to the decline of many of the big estates. The effects of the land acts on church finances was, in part, mitigated by the launching of the Auxiliary Fund in 1909, which raised about £250,000 for clergy stipends.

The Ne Temere decree of 1908 also took its toll on the renewal of the membership of Church of Ireland through marriage and birth, as we have already seen in previous weeks.

World War I saw not only large number of men enlist, but many of them who survived stayed away. With a declining population, there was a pressing need to reduce the number of rural incumbencies, but this was coupled with the Minimum Stipend Act (1920), which fixed stipends at £400 for an incumbent and £200 for a curate.

The War of Independence saw the move of many Protestant civil servants from the state.

The bishops of the Church of Ireland were not above politics, so that in 1912 every single one of northern bishops subscribed to the Ulster Covenant, the Solemn League and Covenant, opposing Home Rule.

And yes, we have to say that there was some “ethnic cleansing” in some areas too. The Bishop of Killaloe reported this at the time of the War of Independence and the Civil War in North Co Tipperary, the Sunday Independent journalist, Eoghan Harris, has written about this in Co Cork, and recently memories have been evoked of the horrific attack on an orphanage in Galway.

But, members of the Church of Ireland were also involved in the political and cultural expressions of the movement for independence.

● Maud Gonne and Constance Gore-Booth (Countess Markievicz) were born members of the Church of Ireland.
● Douglas Hyde, founder of the Gaelic League and the first President of Ireland, was a rector’s son.
● So too were the poet WB Yeats and the playwright Sean O’Casey.
● The Irish Citizens’ Army is said to have agreed on its name at a meeting in the rooms of the Revd RM Gwynn in Trinity College Dublin – he was a regular communicant in Saint Bartholomew’s, Church, Ballsbridge, intensely involved in the Irish Labour Movement, and for many years he chaired the Dublin University Far Eastern Mission (DUFEM).

Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Ballsbridge … the Revd RM Gwynn of the Irish Labour Movement and the Dublin University Far Eastern Mission was a regular communicant (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

It is often forgotten in GAA circles that members of the Church of Ireland continue to be honoured in the names of the Semple Stadium and the Sam Maguire Cup.

Primate and President … Archbishop John Gregg and Eamon de Valera

In 1920, the Church of Ireland agreed to allow women to be members of select vestries. Archbishop Gregg supported this initiative, although his successor, Archbishop Bernard, was opposed. Bernard was content to see the “great lady of the parish” on the select vestry … but not “the gardener’s wife.” He said: “Parochial squabbles would be trebled if they admitted women.”

In 1932, while the Roman Catholic population was celebrating the Eucharistic Congress, the Church of Ireland was vigorously celebrating what was proclaimed to be the 1,500th anniversary of Saint Patrick’s arrival in Ireland.

By and large, things were settling down, and Archbishop Gregg, who was assured by the new government of the place of Protestants in a new state, advised Eamon de Valera on the wording of the 1937 Constitution regarding Church of Ireland. Curiously, though, the Church in this jurisdiction retained the king’s name in the liturgy until the final declaration of a republic in 1949.

Continuing reforms

The Church of Ireland continued to reform itself, despite initial reluctance to concede structural reform.

Changes were made in the ways bishops were elected, in 1939 and again in 1945.

There were changes in mapping diocesan organisation along the way too:

● The Diocese of Clogher, which was united to Armagh from 1850, became a separate diocese once again in 1886.
● The Dioceses of Down, Connor and Dromore, which had been united since 1842, were separated into the Diocese of Connor and the Diocese of Down and Dromore in 1945.

Eventually, a new way of electing bishops through electoral colleges was adopted in 1959, replacing the previous system by election by diocesan synods.

However, in 1967 proposals for further reforms were rejected. These included:

● reducing the size of general synod from 648 members to 501
● the creation of a new diocese centred on Belfast
● leaving each diocese with just one cathedral and one chapter
● amalgamating diocesan synods, councils and offices
and – perhaps most significantly –
● providing for team ministries and a greater potential for mobility among the clergy.

The Dioceses of the Church of Ireland today

The only reform accepted was a reduction in the number of dioceses from 14 to 12. As a consequence:

● The Diocese of Kildare was separated from Dublin and Glendalough in 1976, and united to Meath.
● The Dioceses of Killaloe, Kilfenora, Clonfert and Kilmacduagh were united to Limerick, Ardfert and Aghadoe in 1976.
● The Diocese of Emly, united to Cashel since 1569, was transferred to Limerick in 1976.
● The Diocese of Ossory, Ferns and Leighlin were united to Cashel, Waterford and Lismore in 1977.

However, legislation at this time to unite Tuam and Kilmore was rescinded – and we have been reminded of the consequences of this over the past year. In more recent years too, proposals to reform the numbers, structures and method of working of general synod have continued to meet strong resistance.

The continuing failure to face the need for reform also turned to heartbreak when it came to closing many rural churches in the second half of the 20th century, because closure was often seen as cost-saving rather than part of a process of reform and change.

On the other hand, an openness to the insights of the liturgical movement in the 1930s and 1940s, and especially in the 1950s and 1960s, led to new baptismal and Eucharistic rites, and eventually to a modern-language Alternative Prayer Book in 1984, supplemented by the Alternative Occasional Services in 1993.

By the 1990s, The Irish Times had ceased to be seen as the voice of the Church of Ireland population (Photograph: Jan Butter/ACO)

By then, The Irish Times had ceased to be seen as the voice of the Church of Ireland population.

Meanwhile, in 1978-1980, the long, formal links with TCD were broken, the Faculty of Theology became non-denominational, three divinity chairs fell vacant, the old course of training for clergy was abolished, and the Divinity Hostel was eventually transformed into the Church of Ireland Theological College – now the Church of Ireland Theological Institute.

Changes in patterns of ministry were introduced with the introduction of Non-Stipendiary Ministers (NSMs) or auxiliary ministers – the first NSM in Dublin was the Revd Michael Heaney, who was ordained deacon in 1976 and priest in 1977 – and the ordination of women was approved in 1990.

The legislation in 1990 provided for the ordination of women as priests and bishops, but it was not until 2013, more than 20 years later, that a woman was consecrated as a bishop in the Church of Ireland, when the Most Revd Pat Storey became Bishop of Meath and Kildare.

A new Church Hymnal was published in 2000, and the new Book of Common Prayer was published in 2004.

Ecumenical encounters

Where was the Church of Ireland ecumenically as we moved through the 20th century?

Talks with the Presbyterian Church were initiated in 1931. They agreed to recognise each other’s ordinations and sacraments as a way to move towards unity. But these proposals were rejected by the House of Bishops, and the talks have never progressed.

Indeed, Archbishop Gregg openly referred to non-episcopal churches as “the deprived children of Christendom,” and he boasted that he had never appeared on a public platform with what he called a “non-conformist” minister.

The formation of the Church of South India in 1948 caused some curious and interesting problems. Indeed, an Irish Presbyterian, Donald Kennedy, and an Irish Anglican, Anthony Hanson, were among the new bishops of the new Church, and an Irish Methodist minister, Ernest Gallagher, was ordained in that church too, so that, technically, his orders were valid in the Church of Ireland when he returned to Ireland, although he returned to work in the Methodist Church.

Relations with the Methodists flowered in a more favourable climate, and we now have a covenant that pledges the Church of Ireland and the Methodist Church in Ireland to work together and to seek unity.

Archbishop Michael Ramsey meets Pope Paul VI

When it comes to Roman Catholics, the climate changed with visits to the Vatican by two Archbishops of Canterbury, Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher to Pope John XXIII (1960), the first meeting between an Archbishop of Canterbury and a Pope since the Anglican Reformation, and Archbishop Michael Ramsey to Pope Paul VI, at the time of the reforms introduced by Vatican II.

The new opportunities that this created were ably seized by the late George Simms, successively Archbishop of Dublin and Archbishop of Armagh. He is credited with creating the climate that emerged in the late 1960s and 1970s, so that today it is accepted in many communities that no happening actually happens unless the rector has also been invited.

During his visit to Ireland in 1979, Pope John Paul II also met the bishops of the Church of Ireland.

Archbishop Henry McAdoo … co-chaired the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) (Photograph of portrait in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, Patrick Comerford)

The late Archbishop Henry McAdoo, first as Bishop of Ossory and then as Archbishop of Dublin, co-chaired the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), and his expertise on and love for the insights of Jeremy Taylor and the Caroline Divines and their sacramental theology helped to bring about agreed statements on the Eucharist.

It is often forgotten that those agreements were accepted by the Church of Ireland, but have remained in cold storage in the Vatican. Archbishop McAdoo’s vision of full and visible unity in 1970 was that it would happen by the end of the century: 30 years then appeared a long stretch, but full and visible church unity now seems further away than ever.

In 1996, the Porvoo Communion was formed, linking the four Anglican churches on these islands with the Episcopal Lutheran churches of Northern Europe and the Baltic countries.

In retrospect

At the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland loomed in 1868, Archbishop Trench expressed the fear that a disestablished Church would inevitably “cease to exist after a few years.” He said he preferred “instant death” at the hands of Gladstone to the “gradual starvation” by Disraeli.

George Salmon, Regius Professor in Trinity College Dublin, expressed the fear that the Church of Ireland might find itself reduced to “a local sect.”

Richard Travers Smith, one of the outspoken High Church figures of the day, expressed his fears that the Church of Ireland might become “a church of half assertions and diluted doctrines.”

But Trench’s fears of “instant death,” Salmon’s fears of becoming “a local sect,” Travers Smith’s fear of doctrinal dilution, and Alexander’s premonition of the crash of this great building were never realised. The Church of Ireland survived, and in the 140 years since disestablishment, the church has not broken intro schismatic factions, as many feared, nor have we broken communion with the Church of England or other parts of the Anglican Communion.

The future

● What does the future hold for the Church of Ireland?
● What do you think are the major issues facing the Church of Ireland in the future
● The election and consecration of more women bishops?
● The unity of the churches on these islands?
● The unity of the Anglican Communion?
● The debate within Anglicanism on sexuality?
● The integration of immigrants and their families?
● The future of the covenant with the Methodist Church
● Secularism?
● Economic and financial collapse?
● Emigration and immigration?
● The environment?

Next:

7.2: Theologies of reconciliation and the challenges of divided societies (M Volf, R Schreiter, J de Gruchy).

Thursday 12 March 2015:

8.1, From the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral to the emergence of an Anglican Covenant;

8.2, Anglican responses to the Missio Dei: Scripture, Worship and Communion as defining themes in contemporary Anglican self-understanding.

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Dublin (TCD). This essay is based on notes prepared for a lecture on the MTh course on 5 March 2015.

Through Lent with Vaughan Williams (16): On
Wenlock Edge, 4, ‘Oh, when I was in love with you’

The memorial plaque commemorating Ralph Vaughan Williams in the Ante-Chapel of Trinity College Cambridge … Vaughan Williams was an undergraduate here and AE Housman was a Fellow of Trinity College Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

For my reflections and devotions during Lent this year, each day I am reflecting on and invite you to listen to a piece of music or a hymn set to a tune by the great English composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958).

Throughout this week, I am listening to On Wenlock Edge, a setting by Vaughan Williams of six poems from AE Housman’s Shropshire Lad.

This morning [5 March 2015], I am listening to ‘Oh, when I was in love with you,’ the fourth of the six settings by Vaughan Williams of these poems by AE Housman (1859-1936), published in 1896.

In reacting to the Boer War, in which his brother Herbert was killed, Housman powerfully anticipated the horror and futility of World War I, and his poems would find fresh relevance of with the outbreak of World War I.

His landscape is a mythical, idealised Shropshire, similar to the Wessex of the novels of Thomas Hardy. His dominant themes are love, and a post-industrial pastoral nostalgia, infused with expressions of disillusionment at the sacrifice of the young soldiers going to war, never to return.

Vaughan Williams composed On Wenlock Edge – a cycle of six songs for tenor, piano and string quartet – in 1909, a year after he had spent three months in Paris studying under Maurice Ravel, a composer three years younger than him. The first performance took place in the Aeolian Hall, London, later that year.

In the 1920s, Vaughan Williams made an arrangement of On Wenlock Edge for full orchestra that was first performed on 24 January 1924 by John Booth, with the composer conducting. Vaughan Williams preferred this version to his original.

The fourth of these songs, ‘Oh, when I was in love with you,’ is lighter than the others in tone and is epigrammatic in its brevity.

This song acts as a much-needed respite between Songs 3 and 5, ‘Is my team ploughing,’ and ‘Bredon Hill.’ With its melodic lines and modal harmonies, the melody sounds like an authentic English folksong.



4, Oh, when I was in love with you

Oh, when I was in love with you,
Then I was clean and brave,
And miles around the wonder grew
How well I did behave.

And now the fancy passes by,
And nothing will remain,
And miles around they’ll say that I
Am quite myself again.

Tomorrow: 5, ‘Bredon Hill’