Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Anglican Studies (full-time) 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

EM8825: Anglican Studies in an Irish context:

Tuesdays: 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., The Hartin Room.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013, 3 p.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, 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).

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).

Next Tuesday, 12 March 2013:

8.1: The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral and 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.

Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. These three profiles were prepared as introductory notes for a seminar in the MTh course on Tuesday 5 March 2013.

Anglican Studies (full-time) 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

EM8825: Anglican Studies in an Irish context:

Tuesdays: 2 p.m. to 4.30 p.m., The Hartin Room.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013, 2 p.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’ 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 former Synod Hall, linked to Christ Church Cathedral, was the venue for the General Synod for decades (Photograph: Donaldytong)

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 Romanesque doorway in Kilmore Cathedral … the later Bedell Memorial Church was one of the new cathedrals completed after Disestablishment (Photograph © Kieran Campbell, licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence)

Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral Cork ... one of the new cathedrals completed after Disestablishment (Photograph: Charlie Cravero)

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 Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast … a post-disestablishment cathedral (Photograph © Brian Shaw)

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 to date, more than 20 years later, no woman has yet been elected a bishop in the Church of Ireland.

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 the first woman bishop?
● 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).

Next Tuesday, 12 March:

8.1: The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral and 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.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, 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 Tuesday 5 March 2013.

Bearing fruit in the vineyard

Fig trees in a Mediterranean vineyard

Patrick Comerford

Luke 13: 1-9:


1 Παρῆσαν δέ τινες ἐν αὐτῷ τῷ καιρῷ ἀπαγγέλλοντες αὐτῷ περὶ τῶν Γαλιλαίωνὧν τὸ αἷμα Πιλᾶτος ἔμιξεν μετὰ τῶν θυσιῶν αὐτῶν. 2 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς,Δοκεῖτε ὅτι οἱ Γαλιλαῖοι οὗτοι ἁμαρτωλοὶ παρὰ πάντας τοὺς Γαλιλαίους ἐγένοντο,ὅτι ταῦτα πεπόνθασιν; 3 οὐχί, λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀλλ' ἐὰν μὴ μετανοῆτε πάντες ὁμοίωςἀπολεῖσθε. 4 ἢ ἐκεῖνοι οἱ δεκαοκτὼ ἐφ' οὓς ἔπεσεν ὁ πύργος ἐν τῷ Σιλωὰμ καὶἀπέκτεινεν αὐτούς, δοκεῖτε ὅτι αὐτοὶ ὀφειλέται ἐγένοντο παρὰ πάντας τοὺςἀνθρώπους τοὺς κατοικοῦντας Ἰερουσαλήμ; 5 οὐχί, λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀλλ' ἐὰν μὴμετανοῆτε πάντες ὡσαύτως ἀπολεῖσθε.

6 Ἔλεγεν δὲ ταύτην τὴν παραβολήν:Συκῆν εἶχέν τις πεφυτευμένην ἐν τῷ ἀμπελῶνι αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἦλθεν ζητῶν καρπὸν ἐναὐτῇ καὶ οὐχ εὗρεν. 7 εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τὸν ἀμπελουργόν, Ἰδοὺ τρία ἔτη ἀφ' οὗ ἔρχομαιζητῶν καρπὸν ἐν τῇ συκῇ ταύτῃ καὶ οὐχ εὑρίσκω. ἔκκοψον [οὖν] αὐτήν: ἱνατί καὶτὴν γῆν καταργεῖ; 8 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς λέγει αὐτῷ, Κύριε, ἄφες αὐτὴν καὶ τοῦτο τὸἔτος, ἕως ὅτου σκάψω περὶ αὐτὴν καὶ βάλω κόπρια: 9 κἂν μὲν ποιήσῃ καρπὸν εἰς τὸμέλλον εἰ δὲ μή γε, ἐκκόψεις αὐτήν.

1 At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 He asked them, ‘Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 4 Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them – do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.’

6 Then he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7 So he said to the gardener, “See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?” 8 He replied, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig round it and put manure on it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down”.’

I have chosen Sunday’s Gospel reading for our reflection this morning.

Not to go over what we all may have heard or preached on Sunday, but to take a second look at part of it that may be disturbing on first hearing.

When I was preaching on Sunday [3 March 2013, the Third Sunday in Lent], I gave most my attention to the first part of this reading (verses 1-5). We all know that people often ask why God allows bad things to happen to good people.

In this reading there are two examples. In the first case, it was Galileans at prayer in the Temple who were slaughtered in their innocence, and who ten, sacrilegiously, had their blood mixed with the Temple sacrifices.

In the second case, innocent building workers, working on the Tower of Siloam near the Temple, died when the work collapsed on top of them.

At the time, it was a common belief that people’s illnesses, disabilities or early death came as visible reparation for their earlier sins … or perhaps even the sins of their parents or their ancestors.

It was a common belief that allowed an easy way of avoiding the question: why does God allows bad things to happen to seemingly innocent people.

But we do the same today, in many societies. How many people truly believe the poor are poor because they fail to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, or they fail, in the words of one former cabinet minister, to get up on their bikes, or they are lazy? And often when we hear about generations of inner-city poverty, we find an easy “opt-out” by thinking of generations of indolence.

The truth is that many are poor, because of Government policies or lack of policies on spending, social intervention and urban renewal.

And when those who are impoverished die younger or die quicker from infections and diseases, cancers and disabilities, it is not because they are poor, but because our societies decide politically and socially that it is better to spend money on wars and weapons or on giving tax breaks to the rich, rather than tackling poverty and the health problems poverty creates or intensifies.

But Christ also uses another scene at Siloam to challenge these prejudices when he heals the man blind from birth (John 9: 1-38) – why even the man’s parents were embarrassed by his blindness, thinking it cast them in a bad light.

But in concentrating on this story, I spent little time looking at the story of the poor fig tree, which is unique to Saint Luke’s Gospel.

There is a complete contrast between the owner of the field and the gardener.

The owner, who wants a return for his investment, is impatient. After three years, the fig tree has produced no fruit.

The gardener, on the other hand, has no share in the profits. He is going to be paid for his labour, whether that is chopping down the fig tree or tending it until it produces fruit.

The fig tree had more potential than just the figs and fruit it produced. Fig trees are planted in vineyards to shelter the weaker vines. An old and elegant fig tree is a common site in many Mediterranean vineyards and has its own intrinsic value. It may even have vines wrapped around, bearing their own fruit.

It takes much tender care and many years – at least three years – for a fig tree to bear fruit. And even then, in a vineyard, the figs, are not a profit – they are a bonus.

And anyway, even if a tree bears fruit, the Mosaic Law said it could not be harvested for three years, and the fruit gathered in the fourth year was going to offered as the first fruits. Only in the fifth year, then, could the fruit be eaten.

So, if this tree was chopped down, and another put its place, it would take longer still to get fruit that could be eaten or sold. In his quest for the quick buck, the owner of the vineyard shows little knowledge about the reality of economics.

The gardener, who has nothing at stake, turns out to be the one not only has compassion, but has deep-seated wisdom too.

Three years, and three more years, and then the fruit.

It just struck me as I pondered this parable that the fruit is only going to be profitable in its seventh year.

And in many ways that is what it is like with our students here. Three years studying, three years as curates – it is only from the seventh year on that the Church, which has invested in their training, their growth, their nurturing, will actually see the returns on its investment in them, will see them bearing fruit in the Lord’s vineyard.

And we are the gardeners, called to see their potential, to nurture them, to feed them, to see that they grow in good soil, and to encourage them to blossom, with tender patience and loving kindness.

Let us pray:

Merciful Lord,
Grant your people grace to withstand the temptations
of the world, the flesh and the devil
and with pure hearts and minds to follow you, the only God;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Collect, Lent 3)

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This reflection was prepared for a faculty meeting on 5 March 2013.

With the Saints in Lent (21), Saint Kieran of Seirkeiran, 5 March

Saint Kieran’s throne in Saint Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Patrick Comerford

Saint Kieran, who is said to have been an early pre-Patrician saint, is commemorated today [5 March] in the Calendar of the Church of Ireland in the Book of Common Prayer (see p. 22). He is one of the earliest of the Irish saints, and is sometimes called Saint Ciarán the Elder to distinguish him from Saint Ciarán of Clonmacnoise.

Saint Kiwran or Ciarán of Saigir or Seir Kieran is known as one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland and is considered the first saint to have been born in Ireland. Like Saint Ailbe of Emly, Saint Declan of Ardmore and Saint Abbán, Saint Kieran is said to have been a pre-Patrician saint. However, his biography is full of obscurities and ambiguities.

Although legend says he preceded Saint Patrick, this is questionable. Some legends say he was born on Cape Clear Island, off the coast of Cork, ca 375, other accounts say he was born ca 501 to ca 530.

The martyrologies, including the Félire Óengusso and medieval Irish genealogies identify Kieran’s father as Lugna or Laighne, a nobleman of the Osraige or Ossory, and his mother as Liadán, of the Corcu Loígde in Co Cork He is said to have been born on Cape Clear Island off the south-west coast of Co Cork and it is said that he later built a church on the island.

Various mediaeval traditions about the saint are recorded in hagiographic works: two Lives in Latin, both of uncertain date, and two Lives in Irish. The shortest Latin Life is preserved in the Codex Salmanticensis; the longer one is found in the Codex Kilkenniensis.

It is often said he left Ireland when he was 30, before the arrival of Saint Patrick. He was educated in Tours and Rome. Some legends say that he became a bishop in Rome, others that met Saint Patrick there and pledged him his allegiance.

On his return to Ireland, Saint Kieran met Saint Patrick once again and became an assistant to him. Other accounts say he was one of the twelve men that Saint Patrick consecrated as his helpers.

Saint Patrick gave him a bell and told Bishop Kieran to build a monastery wherever the bell rang. He went on to say that the bell would ring near a river or stream in the middle of the island. When the bell rang, he stopped and built a little cell in the woods of Upper Ossory and settled as a hermit at Seirkieran near the Slieve Bloom Mountains.

A tradition in all four Lives describes Saint Kieran as a wild man wearing skins, whose first pupils were the animals in the forest. But he soon attracted disciples and a large monastery grew up round his cell. The saint’s mother, Liadain, is said to have gone with a group of women to Seirkieran, where they devoted their lives to the service of God.

Seirkieran became a centre for preaching and he became the Bishop of Ossory. Popular legends attribute remarkable miracles to Saint Kieran, many of them associated with battles. Other legends are charming tales of his influence on wild animals, such as a fox, a badger and a wolf who worked with Saint Kieran and his monks to cut wood and build huts.

Saint Kieran is said to have died from natural causes at the age of 90. But the date of his death is uncertain, and is put variously as early as 465 and as late as ca 530, and his feast day is celebrated on 5 March. Saint Kieran’s monastery became the burial place of the Kings of Ossory.

Saint Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny, at night ... Kilkenny has been the centre of the Diocese of Ossory since the end of the 12th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

The boundaries of the Diocese of Ossory were fixed at the Synod of Rathbreasail in 1111, and the seat of the diocese was transferred from Seir-Kieran to Aghaboe.

At the end of the 12th century, the seat of the diocese was moved again, this time to Kilkenny, where Saint Canice had founded an earlier monastery. Saint Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny, which was built at the beginning of the 13th century, remains in the diocesan cathedral of Ossory.

The Bishops of Ossory are traditionally enthroned separately in both the cathedral throne and Saint Kieran’s Throne.

Saint Kieran’s Day is celebrated each year on 5 March in Seirkieran, which is now part of Clonenagh Union of Parishes (Mountrath), where Canon Ian Poulton is rector. Saint Kieran is the patron saint of the Diocese of Ossory, and is also identified with Saint Piran who is venerated in Cornwall, Wales, and Brittany.

Saint Kieran’s College, Kilkenny, is also named after the founder of the Diocese of Ossory.

Saint Kieran’s College, Kilkenny (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Tomorrow (6 March): Baldred of Scotland, Bishop of Glasgow.

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