13 May 2008

Pensions aren’t just for the old and boring

The lobby outside the General Synod in Galway today

Patrick Comerford

Tuesday afternoon of the General Synod was taken up with a lengthy discussion of a new bill to amend Chapter VI and Chapter XIV of the Constitution of the Church of Ireland.

This bill concerns clergy pensions, and involved detailed and difficult work on the part of Lady Sheil and many others. Normally scheduling debates of this sort after lunch leads to yawns and to much dozing.

I wonder whether it was an effort to stir us out of our dozy indifference when once again the Archdeacon of Down tried to block the bill getting even a polite first reading.

Clergy pensions are hardly the main concern and worry of the hundreds of people who have travelled to Galway for the General Synod. But Philip Patterson wanted them to throw out this bill before it even got an airing.

And he used his procedural opportunity to take the bill apart in detail … something that might have been reserved for the later stages in the debate.

The bill did get to be debated by the General Synod, and there were more analytical approaches to the detail later on, including those by the Dean of Cork, the Very Rev Nigel Dunne, who conceded the need for reform, but could still express his worries and concerns.

Archdeacon Patterson was supported by Canon Brian Courtney of Enniskillen Cathedral Parish (Diocese of Clogher) and Canon Roderic West (Dromore), who accepted that something had to be done, but didn’t tell us what.

The fact that lay members of the synod could be interested in this debate was demonstrated by Mr Niall Stratford (Rathfarnham, Dublin), who pointed out how good the provisions in the bill are.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological College. He is a representative of the Diocese of Dublin at the General Synod

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