Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Approaches to Faith: Islam

The Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland and the mosque in Clonskeagh, Dublin

Patrick Comerford

Rahfarnham Parish, Dublin 14

Lenten Study Programme 2013:

8.15 p.m., Tuesday 19 March 2013:


Introductory music:

Mevlana/Mevlevi: Sufi Music from Turkey

The context

An understanding of the beliefs, traditions and culture of people of other faiths is important in Ireland today and can deepen and enrich our own faith and spirituality too. But, if we are going to understand people of other faiths and beliefs, we must try to understand them on their own terms, and allow them to define themselves, and to be honest and open about our own beliefs too, so that we meet them as they truly are and they meet us as we truly are.

One of the noticeable changes in the Irish population in recent decades is the sizeable presence of Muslims. There are, perhaps, up to 40,000 Muslims in Ireland today. In this changing Ireland, Muslims are increasingly visible and playing a role, and a changing world which, since 9/11, needs to know how to deal with our fears about terrorism, our vulnerability, our prejudices (in the sense of pre-judging) about Muslims and Islam, and a legacy that has left many unresolved questions.

Muslim children are now attending our Church of Ireland schools. In the coming decades, the possibility of intermarriage is going to increase. There are many dilemmas too surrounding interfaith public occasions.

Can we can learn from others, including Muslims, in ways that will deepen our own faith and our practice of it?

Challenging some presumptions

There is an amusing scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, where some of the characters ask each other: “What have the Romans ever done for us?”

Some people in Ireland may well ask: “What have the Arabs ever done for us?” or “What have Muslims ever done for us?”

There has always been a creative and profitable contact between the Arab world and what we now see as European civilisation. Remember that the Apostle Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, and later retreated into the Arabian peninsula to consider his future.

Four of the five ancient patriarchates of the Church are now in Muslim lands: Alexandria, Jerusalem, Antioch and Constantinople.

While Europe was in the Dark Ages, Muslims and Arabs preserved the great works and insights of the classical world, including Euclidean mathematics, Hippocratic medicine, and Aristotelian philosophy. They taught, or even retaught us to build the dome, the importance of gardens, and gave us the word for algebra.

Without their work in Aristotelian philosophy, would Thomas Aquinas ever have written his Summa … would the Reformation have taken the same course?

Without their introduction of the decimal point and the numeral zero, how could we do simple math?

XV
+III
= ???
÷ X = ???

If you are opposed to Turkey eventually becoming a member of the European Union, ask what are these fears founded on and remember that Spain was a Muslim-ruled society for longer than it has been a Christian society, while what we now call Turkey was Christian for far longer than any most other European societies today.

Muslims in Ireland today

Despite popular perceptions, the majority of Muslims in Ireland probably are not foreigners. Consider the number of Irish women who have become Muslims through marriage, and the number of Muslim children born in Ireland.

Historically, the first Irish contacts with the Islamic world predate the Anglo-Norman invasion, and the first regular contacts are found from the 17th century on. In the mid-17th century, baptisms in Roman Catholic parish records in Waterford City point to a Muslim presence there at that time. In the 18th and 19th centuries, baptisms in Church of Ireland parish records in Diocese of Raphoe and Roman Catholic parish records in Diocese of Ferns point to a Muslim presence from Co Donegal to Co Wexford in that time.

Indeed, in the late 18th century, one Muslim was an active member of the Volunteers – giving an added dimension to ideal of uniting an Ireland of Protestants, Catholics and Dissenters.

In the 19th century, there was still an air of exotic excitement surrounding Muslims in Ireland. But their presence has grown here especially since the mid-1950s, with the arrival of a new wave of Muslims as medical students.

The history of the arrival and the make-up of Muslims in every European country is different: in France, Muslims are mainly of North African descent; in Germany, they are mainly Turkish in origin, while in Britain, their origins, by-and-large, are in the Indian subcontinent.

But these images hinder our acceptance of Muslims as being truly European. There are many Muslims who are truly European in every sense, including the Muslims of Bosnia, Kosovo and Albania. We forget often that Spain was a Muslim-ruled country for longer than it has been a Christian-ruled country, while Istanbul or Constantinople was seen as the greatest city in Christendom for much longer than it has been seen as a Muslim city.

In Ireland, Muslims come from a very mixed and diverse background. A large number are Irish-born, and they see themselves as Irish.

Patrick Comerford (right) with Dr Ali Selim (left) and the former Archbishop John Neill of Dublin during a visit to the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland

So let me ask some questions:

How many of you know a Muslim?

How many of you have visited a Muslim country?

How many of you have visited a mosque?

Yet, how many of us encounter fear and suspicion in our parishes and in our neighbourhoods, in our schools and at work?

Some of this fear and suspicion in founded in reality. Yes, there is a threat from al-Qaida. But it is a greater threat to security in the Muslim world, as has been shown by recent violence, killings and bombings in Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan or Turkey.

Statistically more Muslims are killed by Muslims in Iraq and Pakistan each week than Christians are killed by Muslims in Britain or the US, or Jews killed in France each week – horrific and condemnable as those killings are too. There was a major sectarian bombing in Iraq today but it was almost unnoticed in news bulletins that devoted more space to the inaugural mass of Pope Francis I and the financial crisis in Cyprus.

Muslims can often fear each other more than we fear them. Many mainstream Muslims fear the rigorous approach to Islam among the Wahhabis, who are supported and nurtured in Saudi Arabia, and Sunni and Shia Muslims fear each other in Iraq and Pakistan.

The continuing crises in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the ‘Arab Spring’ throughout North Africa and the Middle East, as well as recent attacks in London, Madrid, Turkish holiday resorts – all of these have left people realising not only how vulnerable we are today as the people of New York and Washington almost 12 years ago on 11 September 2001, but also aware that are lives are intertwined with the lives of the Islamic world, and we cannot escape that.

Americans fear backlashes because of the US military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq. Muslims fear they are singled out because of their religion in queues at airports and borders.

Yet much of the fear – as with all fear – is irrational, and is not based on knowledge, experience or reality.

Today, 1-in-5 people in the world is a Muslim. The majority of Muslims are not Arabs, and only 20 per cent of Muslims live in Arab countries. There are large communities of Muslims in the Balkans and Russia. The world’s largest Muslim country is Indonesia, and there are more Muslims in India than there are in Pakistan. The countries with the largest Muslim populations are Indonesia, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, with more than 100 million Muslims each. There are 20 million Muslims in China.

The two Middle East countries with the largest Muslim populations are two non-Arab countries, Turkey and Iran. On the other hand, a large minority of Arabs are Christians, and there are even Arab Jews.

Yet, much of the fear of Muslims in the world today is based not on their religious beliefs, but finds expressions that are similar to racism. We objectify them, make them “others” who are not part of “us,” and outsiders who bring nothing as gifts to us, but instead bring threats.

We need to see other-ness as a gift rather than a threat. And criticism and reaction, when we offer it, need not always be negative, but certainly need to be based on knowledge and experience.

What is Islam?

Islam (Arabic: الإسلام; al-'islām) is a monotheistic Abrahamic religion originating with the teachings of Muhammad (ca 570-632), a 7th century Arab religious and political leader. The word Islam means “submission” or the total surrender of oneself to God (Arabic: الله, Allāh). And so an adherent of Islam is a Muslim, or “one who submits (to God).” With 1.1 billion to 1.8 billion Muslims in the world, Islam is the second-largest religion in the world, after Christianity.

Muslims believe that God revealed the Qur'an to Muhammad. They see him as God’s final prophet, and the regard the Qur'an and the Sunnah (words and deeds of Muhammad) as the fundamental sources of Islam. They do not regard Muhammad as the founder of a new religion, but believe he restored the original monotheistic faith of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets.

Muslims are generally expected to observe the Five Pillars of Islam or the five duties that unite Muslims. In addition, Islamic law (sharia) has developed a tradition of rulings that relate to virtually all aspects of life and society, from dietary laws and banking to warfare.

The word Islam means acceptance of and submission or surrender to God. Muslims demonstrate this submission by worshipping God, following his commands, and avoiding polytheism. Islam is often described as an action of returning to God – more than just a verbal affirmation of faith.

The minaret of a mosque in a small Turkish village (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

What do Muslims believe?

According to the Qur'an all Muslims must believe in God, his revelations, his angels, his messengers, and in the Day of Judgment. There are other beliefs that are particular to different schools of Islam. For example, the Sunni concept of predestination is called divine decree, while the Shi'a version is called divine justice. Shi'a Muslims hold a unique understanding of Imamah or the political and spiritual leadership of the Imams.

Muslims believe that God revealed his final message to humanity through the angel Gabriel to Muhammad over a period of two decades or more in the years 610 to 632. The Qur'an mentions numerous figures considered as prophets in Islam, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. The Qur'an names Jews and Christians as “People of the Book” (ahl al-kitāb), and distinguishes them from polytheists, although Muslims believe that parts of the previously revealed scriptures, the Tawrat (Torah) and the Injil (Gospels), had become distorted – either in misinterpretation of the text, or in altering text, or both.

The fundamental theological concept of Islam is tawhīd – the belief that there is only one God. The Arabic term for God is Allāh; most scholars believe it was derived from a contraction of the words al- (the) and 'ilāh (deity, masculine form), meaning “the God” (al-ilāh), but others trace its origin to the Aramaic Alāhā. Tawhīd, the first of the Five Pillars of Islam, is expressed in the shahadah (testifying), which in which every believing Muslim declares that there is no god but God, and that Muhammad is God’s messenger or prophet.

For Muslims, God is beyond all comprehension. They are not expected to visualise God, but to worship and adore him as the protector. Muslims will say that God is as close to us, to you, as the vein in your neck.

Muslims consider the Qur'an to be the literal word of God. The Qur'an is divided into 114 suras, or chapters. The chronologically earlier suras, dating to Mecca, are primarily concerned with ethical and spiritual topics. The later suras from Medina are concerned mostly with social and moral issues in the Muslim community. The Qur'an is more concerned with moral guidance than legal instruction, and is considered the “sourcebook of Islamic principles and values.”

In Islam, the “normative” example of Muhammad’s life is called the Sunnah (“trodden path”). This example is preserved in traditions known as hadith (“reports”), which recount his words, his actions, and his personal characteristics. The Sunnah is seen as crucial to guiding interpretation of the Qur'an and Muslim jurists see the hadith, or the written record of Muhammad’s life, as supplementing the Qur'an and assisting in its interpretation. Muslims are encouraged to emulate Muhammad’s actions in their daily lives.

Muslims regard their belief in angels as crucial to their faith. Their duties include communicating revelations from God, glorifying God, recording every person’s actions, and taking a person’s soul at the time of death.

Muslims believe in the “Day of Resurrection,” yawm al-Qiyāmah (also known as yawm ad-dīn, “Day of Judgment” and as-sā`a, “the Last Hour”) that its time is preordained by God although unknown to humanity. The Qur'an emphasises bodily resurrection, and says the resurrection of dead will be followed by the gathering of humanity, culminating in judgment by God.

The Qur'an lists several sins that can condemn a person to hell, including disbelief, usury and dishonesty. Paradise (jannah) is seen as a place of joy and bliss, with mystical traditions in Islam placing the heavenly delights in the context of an ecstatic awareness of God.

Muslims believe in predestination, or divine preordaining (al-qadā wa'l-qadar), so that God has full knowledge and control over all that happens. For Muslims, everything in the world that happens, good or evil, has been preordained and nothing can happen unless permitted by God. However, while events are pre-ordained, we have freewill in that we have the faculty to choose between right and wrong, and so are responsible for our actions.

The Five Pillars of Islam

The richly decorated interior of a mosque in Turkey (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Five Pillars of Islam (Arabic: اركان الدين) are five practices essential to Sunni Islam. Shi'a Muslims talk about eight ritual practices which substantially overlap with the Five Pillars. These are:

1, The shahadah, which is the basic creed or tenet of Islam: 'ašhadu 'al-lā ilāha illā-llāhu wa 'ašhadu 'anna Muħammadan rasūlu-llāh, or “I testify that there is none worthy of worship except God and I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of God.” This declaration of faith is the foundation for all other beliefs and practices in Islam. (Shi'a Muslims consider the shahadah to be belief and do not regard it as a separate pillar, just a belief.) Muslims repeat the shahadah in prayer, and non-Muslims wishing to convert to Islam are required to recite this creed.

2, Salah, or ritual prayer, must be performed five times a day. However, Shi'a Muslims often run together the noon prayers with the afternoon prayers, and the evening prayers with the night prayers. Each salah is done facing towards Mecca. Salah is intended to focus the mind on God, and is seen as a personal communication with him that expresses gratitude and worship. In many Muslim countries, reminders called adhan (call to prayer) are broadcast publicly from local mosques at the appropriate times. The prayers are recited in Arabic, and consist of verses from the Qur'an.

3, Zakat, or almsgiving, is based on accumulated wealth, and is obligatory for all Muslims who can afford it. A fixed portion is spent to help the poor or needy, and also to assist the spread of Islam. The zakat is considered a religious obligation (as opposed to voluntary charity) that the well-off owe to the needy because their wealth is seen as a “trust from God’s bounty.” The Qur'an and the hadith also suggest a Muslim give even more as an act of voluntary almsgiving (sadaqah). Many Shi'a Muslims are expected to pay an additional amount in the form of a khums tax, which they regard as a separate ritual practice.

4, Sawm, or fasting during the month of Ramadan, requires Muslims not to eat or drink from dawn to dusk during Ramadan, when they should contemplate their sins. The fast is to encourage a feeling of nearness to God. During Ramadan, Muslims should express their gratitude to God and their dependence on him, atone for their past sins, and think of the needy.

5, The Hajj is the pilgrimage during the month of Dhu al-Hijjah to Mecca. All able-bodied Muslim who can afford it must undertake the hajj at least once in their lifetime. Islamic teachers say that the hajj should be an expression of devotion to God instead of a means to gain social standing, although the pilgrim or hajji is honoured in his or her community on returning home.

In addition to the khums tax, Shi'a Muslims consider three additional practices essential to the religion of Islam. These are:

1, Jihad, which Sunni Muslims do not consider a pillar of Islam.

2, Amr-Bil-Ma'rūf, the “enjoining to do good,” which calls on every Muslim to live a virtuous life and to encourage others to do the same.

3, Nahi-Anil-Munkar, the “exhortation to desist from evil,” enjoins Muslims to refrain from vice and from evil actions and to encourage others to do the same.

Some questions

The concise expressions of faith in these five pillars offer an interesting challenge to Christians.

1, Can we express our faith in coherent yet concise phrases? Are we confident about making public declarations of faith?

2, Is our daily routine punctuated by rhythm of prayer? Are we embarrassed by postures of prayer that express public submission to God?

3, As a Church and as Christians, is our giving to charity, mission, or development work limited to mere duty, or do we go beyond that? Is it an essential part of Christian life and discipleship?

4, Have we lost the spiritual values of fasting and preparation associated with Lent and Advent?

5, Do we see our lives as pilgrimages, that “this land is not my home, I am only travelling through?” How do you respond to ideas such as pilgrimage and retreat?

Islamic Law or Sharia

The minarets of al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Islamic law covers all aspects of life, from matters of state, like governance and foreign relations, to issues of daily living. There are the punishments for five specific crimes: unlawful intercourse, false accusation of unlawful intercourse, consumption of alcohol, theft, and highway robbery. There are laws of inheritance, marriage, and restitution for injuries and murder, and rules for fasting, charity, and prayer.

Islamic law has four fundamental roots, which are given precedence in this order: the Qur'an, the Sunnah (actions and sayings of Muhammad), the consensus of the Muslim jurists (ijma), and analogical reasoning (qiyas).

Islamic law does not distinguish between matters of “church” and “state.” The ulema function as both jurists and theologians. But as the Muslim world came into contact with Western secular ideals, Muslim societies responded in different ways. Turkey has been a secular state since the reforms of Atatürk, while the Iranian Revolution in 1979 replaced a mainly secular regime with an Islamic state under Ayatollah Khomeini.

Many practices fall into the category of adab or Islamic etiquette, including greeting each other with as-salamu `alaykum (“peace be unto you”), saying bismillah (“in the name of God”) before meals, and using only the right hand for eating and drinking. Islamic hygienic practices mainly fall into the category of personal cleanliness and health, such as the circumcision of male offspring.

Muslims, like Jews, are restricted in their diet, and prohibited foods include pig products, blood, carrion, and alcohol. All meat must come from herbivorous animals slaughtered in the name of God by a Muslim, Jew, or Christian. Muslims may also eat game they have hunted or fished for themselves. Food that Muslims may eat is known as halal food.

Islamic scholars disagree whether the texts justify traditional Islamic practices such as veiling and seclusion (purdah).

What is Jihad?

Jihad means “to strive or struggle” in the way of God and a small number of Muslim scholars regard it as the “sixth pillar of Islam.” Jihad, in its broadest sense, is “exerting one’s utmost power, efforts, endeavours, or ability in contending with an object of disapprobation.” This may be a visible enemy, the devil, or some aspects of one’s own self. But jihad also describes striving to attain religious and moral perfection.

Jihad usually means military exertion against non-Muslim combatants in the defence or expansion of the Islamic state, the ultimate purpose of which is to universalise Islam. Jihad, the only form of warfare permissible in Islamic law, may be declared against apostates, rebels, highway robbers, violent groups, non-Islamic leaders or states that refuse to submit to the authority of Islam. Most Muslims understand jihad as only a defensive form of warfare.

For most Muslims, jihad is a collective duty: its performance by some individuals exempts the others. For most Shia Muslims, offensive jihad can only be declared by a divinely appointed leader of the Islamic community.

One of the leaders of “neo-Sufism” in modern Turkey, Said Nursi, argued that “the time of the ‘jihad of the sword’” is over, and that now is the era of the “jihad of the word,” meaning a reasoned attempt to propose Islam as a basis for a reconciliation of science and modern institutions with religious faith and morality. As early as 1911, Nursi argued that Muslims and “pious Christians” should make common cause in defending a moral and spiritual vision of human life against the momentary illusions of consumer culture.

The divisions of Islam

Islam consists of a number of religious denominations that are essentially similar in belief but with significant theological and legal differences. The primary division is between the Sunni and the Shi'a, with Sufism generally considered a mystical inflection of Islam rather than a distinct school. About 85 per cent of Muslims are Sunni and about 15 per cent are Shi'a.

Sunnis recognise four major legal traditions, or madhhabs: Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i and Hanbali. All four accept the validity of the others and a Muslim might choose any one that he/she finds agreeable. There are also several orthodox theological or philosophical traditions within Sunnism. For example, the Salafi movement sees itself as restorationist and claims to derive its teachings from the original sources of Islam.

Within 18th century Sunni Islam, the Wahhabi movement took hold in what is now Saudi Arabia today. Wahhabism was founded by Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, and is a fundamentalist ideology that condemns practices like Sufism and the veneration of saints as un-Islamic.

The 20th century saw the formation of many new Islamic “revivalist” movements, including the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan. They see Western cultural values as a threat to Islam, and promote Islam as a comprehensive solution to every public and private question of importance. They inspired later movements such as the Taliban in Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida.

Shi'a Muslims believe in the political and religious leadership of infallible Imams from the descendants of Ali ibn Abi Talib. They say that Ali, as the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, was his rightful successor. The Shi'a follow a legal tradition called Ja'fari jurisprudence.

Shi'a Islam has several branches, the largest of which is the Twelvers (itnā'ašariyya), while the others are the Ismaili, the Seveners, and the Zaidiyyah.

Muslim mystics and Sufism

Many Westerners have been introduced to Islamic spirituality through contact with or reading about Sufism. Sufism has been described as “the pursuit of spiritual experience by bodily discipline and mystical intuition” (HAR Gibb). Professor Victor Danner, in The Islamic Tradition (1988), says: “Sufism has influenced the spiritual life of the [Islamic] religion to an extraordinary degree; there is no important domain in the civilisation of Islam that has remained unaffected by it.”

While the Muslim-Arab elite engaged in conquest, some devout Muslims began to question the piety of indulgence in a worldly life, emphasising rather poverty, humility and avoidance of sin based on renunciation of bodily desires. Devout Muslim ascetic exemplars such as Hasan al-Basri inspired a movement that evolved into Sufism.

Both Sufism and Shi'ism underwent major changes in the 9th century, so that Sufism became a full-fledged movement that had moved towards mysticism and away from its ascetic roots, while Shi'ism splintered into different groups, due to disagreements over the succession of Imams, many of them developing their own emphasis on mysticism.

Beginning in the 13th century, Sufism underwent a transformation, largely due to the efforts of al-Ghazzali to legitimise and reorganise Sufism. He developed the model of the Sufi order – a community of spiritual teachers and students.

Another important development for Sufism was the editing of the Masnavi, a collection of mystical poetry by the 13th century Persian poet Rumi. The Masnavi had a profound influence on the development of Sufi religious thought, and for many Sufis it is second in importance only to the Qur'an.

Sufism (Arabic: تصوف‎ - taṣawwuf, Turkish: tasavvuf, Persian: صوفیگری, sufigari) is not a denomination within Islam. Instead, it is understood as the mystical-ascetic dimension of Islam. By focusing on the more spiritual aspects of religion, Sufis strive to obtain direct experience of God by making use of “intuitive and emotional faculties” that one must be trained to use. Most Sufi orders or brotherhoods are known as tariqas. They may be associated with Sunni Islam or Shia Islam, although the major ones, such as the Qadiri and Naqshbandi orders, are associated with traditional Sunni Islam.

The word Sufi is said to originate from the Arabic صوف‎ (sūf), the Arabic word for wool, referring to the simple cloaks the early Muslim ascetics wore. Others say the root word of Sufi is the Arabic صفا (safā), meaning purity, referring to the Sufi emphasis on purity of heart and soul.

Others suggest the origin is from Ašhab as-Sufā (“Companions of the Porch”) or Ahl as-Sufā (“People of the Porch”) – a group of devout Muslims who spent much of their time on the veranda of Mohammad’s mosque, devoted to prayer. However, the 10th century Persian historian Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī linked the word sūfīya with the Greek word Sophia (wisdom, especially divine wisdom).

A practitioner of Sufism is generally known as a Sufi (Arabic: صُوفِيّ‎), although some senior members of the tradition reserve this term for those who have attained the goals of the Sufi tradition. Another common name is the word Dervish (derived from Persian: درویش , darwīš).

Sufis believe that it is possible to become close to God and to experience this closeness while one is alive. The chief aim of all Sufis is to let go of all notions of duality, including any concept of an individual self, and to realise the Divine unity.

Sufis teachers make extensive use of parable, allegory, and metaphor, and it is held by Sufis that meaning can only be reached through a process of seeking the truth, and knowledge of oneself. Sufism as a whole is primarily concerned with direct personal experience.

Junayd al-Baghdadi was among the first theorists of Sufism. He concerned himself with fanā and baqā, the state of annihilating the self in the presence of the divine, accompanied by clarity concerning worldly phenomena derived from the altitude of that perspective.

A significant part of oriental literature comes from the Sufis, who created books of poetry containing the teachings of the Sufis. Some of the more notable examples of this poetry are Attar’s Conference of the Birds and Rumi’s Mathnawi. Rumi, or Mevlana Celaleddin-i-Rumi (Jalal-e-Din Rūmī, 1207-1273) was a universal mystic and a devout Muslim. His way of Sufism teaches unlimited tolerance, positive reasoning, goodness, charity and awareness through love.

Sufi mystical poetry

Rumi, a universal mystic and a devout Muslim ... his way of Sufism teaches unlimited tolerance, positive reasoning, goodness, charity and awareness through love

Rumi (1207-1273) was a Sufi mystic who founded the Mevlevi order, known as the Whirling Dervishes. His masterpiece, the six-volume Mathnawi, dates from 1248 on, and was first written in Persian, and includes parables, ecstatic love odes, jokes and practical advice on meditation. In recent years, he has received new popularity in the west.

One of his poems that I love best is “The Mouse and the Frog,” from which I quote:

A mouse and a frog met every morning
on the riverbank.
They sit in a nook of the ground and talk.
Each morning, the second they see each other,
they open easily, telling stories and dreams and secrets,
empty of any fear or suspicious holding-back.
To watch and listen to those two
is to understand how, as it’s written,
sometimes when two beings come together,
Christ becomes visible.


Or another poem from Rumi:

A soul not clothed with Love
brings shame on its existence.
Be drunk on Love,
for Love is all that exists.
They ask, ‘What is Love?’
Say, ‘Renouncing your will.’
He who has not renounced will
has no will at all.
The lover is a mighty king,
standing above the two worlds.
A king does not look
at what is beneath him.
Only Love and lovers
have eternal life.
Set your hearts on this alone;
the rest is merely borrowed.


(Divani-I Shamsi-I Tabrizi 455: A1:54, translation John Daldock).

Sufi whirling or spinning, a twirling meditation that originated among the Turkish Sufis, it is still practiced by the Dervishes of the Mevlevi order

Two other examples are provided by Rabi’ah al-’Adawiyyah (ca 717-801), one of the best-known saints in Islam and is a prominent figure in Sufi mysticism. Her poetry and writings have been compared with those of the later great Spanish mystics, including Theresa of Avila and John of the Cross.

“Love of God hath so absorbed me that neither love nor hate nor any other thing remains in my heart.”

A lifelong celibate, her devotion and love for God was so great that she is credited with being one of the first great Sufis to give ecstatic voice to the theme of Divine Love. Her poems about the love of God are among the first love poems in Sufi literature.

I love thee with two loves, love of my happiness,
And perfect love, to love thee as is my due.
My selfish love is that I do naught
But think on thee, excluding all beside;
But that purest love, which is thy due,
Is that the veils which hide thee fall, and I gaze on thee,
No praise to me in either this or that,
Nay, thine the praise for both that love and this.


The 99 names of God

The Sufi practice of meditating on the 99 names of God found in the Quran has become popular throughout the Islamic world. These 99 names, which do not include the name Allah, are usually listed as:

1, Ar-Rahman, the All-Compassionate
2, Ar-Rahim, the All-Merciful
3, Al-Malik, the Absolute Ruler
4, Al-Quddus, the Pure One
5, As-Salam, the Source of Peace
6, Al-Mu'min, the Inspirer of Faith
7, Al-Muhaymin, the Guardian
8, Al-'Aziz, the Victorious
9, Al-Jabbar, the Compeller
10, Al-Mutakabbir, the Greatest
11, Al-Khaliq, the Creator
12, Al-Bari', the Maker of Order
13, Al-Musawwir, the Shaper of Beauty
14, Al-Ghaffar, the Forgiving
15, Al-Qahhar, the Subduer
16, Al-Wahhab, the Giver of All
17, Ar-Razzaq, the Sustainer
18, Al-Fattah, the Opener
19, Al-'Alim, the Knower of All
20, Al-Qabid, the Constrictor
21, Al-Basit, the Reliever
22, Al-Khafid, the Abaser
23, Ar-Rafi', the Exalter
24, Al-Mu'izz, the Bestower of Honours
25, Al-Mudhill, the Humiliator
26, As-Sami, the Hearer of All
27, Al-Basir, the Seer of All
28, Al-Hakam, the Judge
29, Al-'Adl, the Just
30, Al-Latif, the Subtle One
31, Al-Khabir, the All-Aware
32, Al-Halim, the Forebearing
33, Al-'Azim, the Magnificent
34, Al-Ghafur, the Forgiver and Hider of Faults
35, Ash-Shakur, the Rewarder of Thankfulness
36, Al-'Ali, the Highest
37, Al-Kabir, the Greatest
38, Al-Hafiz, the Preserver
39, Al-Muqit, the Nourisher
40, Al-Hasib, the Accounter
41, Al-Jalil, the Mighty
42, Al-Karim, the Generous
43, Ar-Raqib, the Watchful One
44, Al-Mujib, the Responder to Prayer
45, Al-Wasi', the All-Comprehending
46, Al-Hakim, the Perfectly Wise
47, Al-Wadud, the Loving One
48, Al-Majíd, the Majestic One
49, Al-Ba'ith, the Resurrector
50, Ash-Shahid, the Witness
51, Al-Haqq, the Truth
52, Al-Wakil, the Trustee
53, Al-Qawi, the Possessor of All Strength
54, Al-Matin, the Forceful One
55, Al-Wáli, the Governor
56, Al-Hamid, the Praised One
57, Al-Muhsi, the Appraiser
58, Al-Mubdi, the Originator
59, Al-Mu'id, the Restorer
60, Al-Muhyi, the Giver of Life
61, Al-Mumit, the Taker of Life
62, Al-Hayy, the Ever-Living One
63, Al-Qayyum, the Self-Existing One
64, Al-Wajid, the Finder
65, Al-Májid, the Glorious
66, Al-Wahid, the Only One
67, Al-Ahad, the One
68, As-Samad, the Satisfier of All Needs
69, Al-Qadir, the All-Powerful
70, Al-Muqtadir, the Creator of All Power
71, Al-Muqaddim, the Expediter
72, Al-Mu'akhkhir, the Delayer
73, Al-Awwal, the First
74, Al-Akhir, the Last
75, Az-Zahir, the Manifest One
76, Al-Batin, the Hidden One
77, Al-Walí, the Protecting Friend
78, Al-Muta'ali, the Supreme One
79, Al-Barr, the Doer of Good
80, At-Tawwib, the Guide to Repentance
81, Al-Muntaqim, the Avenger
82, Al-Afu, the Forgiver
83, Ar-Ra'uf, the Clement
84, Malik al-Mulk, the Owner of All
85, Dhul-Jalali Wal-Ikram, the Lord of Majesty and Bounty
86, Al-Muqsit, the Equitable One
87, Al-Jami, the Gatherer
88, Al-Ghani, the Rich One
89, Al-Mughni, the Enricher
90, Al-Mani', the Preventer of Harm
91, Ad-Darr, the Creator of the Harmful
92, An-Nafi, the Creator of Good
93, An-Nur, the Light
94, Al-Hadi, the Guide
95, Al-Badi, the Originator
96, Al-Baqi, the Everlasting One
97, Al-Warith, the Inheritor of All
98, Ar-Rashid, the Righteous Teacher
99, As-Sabur, the Patient One

The word Allah simply means the God.

Do you think any of the 99 Names would be out of place in a Christian litany?

Which names do you think have Biblical resonances?

Compare 73 and 74, the First and the Last, with the Alpha and the Omega.

How about the way, the truth and the light?

How adequate are our resources for naming and calling on God?

How limited are those resources?

Do you find the forms of addressing God in the collects in The Book of Common Prayer limiting?

The Christian composer John Tavener was commissioned by Prince Charles to write The Beautiful Names, a musical setting for the 99 Names of God drawn from the Qur’an and performed in Westminster Abbey. This eclectic work draws inspiration from several religions other than Islam and Christianity, but has provoked unease among Christians who regard it as inappropriate for performance in a Christian church.

Christopher Howse, a Roman Catholic columnist with the Daily Telegraph, wrote some years ago: “The word Allah refers to the same God that Jews and Christians worship. There is no doubt of that. He is the God of Abraham and Isaac; the one living God. He is the God that Jesus worshipped and whom he invoked, in Aramaic, as he died on the cross, calling on him by the name Eloi.” However, these views also drew a storm of protest.

Difficulties and opportunities:

Church and Mosque side-by-side in an urban setting in Egypt (Photograph, Patrick Comerford)

Even if we solved all our problems, we would have to ask whether we can pray together?

This is of a different nature than the question: Can Jews and Christians pray together? Of course they can: Christ and the Apostolic community worshipped in the Temple and in synagogues. And while Jews generally have no problem about us praying with them, they can have reservations (some) about coming to pray with us, unless there are prior assurances.

However, shared prayer with Muslims is of a different nature. What do Muslims understand we are doing should we join them in prayer, when this is regarded as submission to Islam?

If we invite Muslims to pray in our churches, may they be quietly offended, for despite what the Quran says about us being “people of the book,” there are Muslims who think we are not monotheists, but tritheists, and that our Trinity is God, Jesus and Mary.

Can we pray the words of the Fathiah?

In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
Praise belongs to God, the Lord of all Being,
The All-merciful, the All-compassionate,
Master of the Day of Judgment,
Thee only we serve; to thee we pray for succour.
Guide us in the straight path,
The path of those whom Thou hast blessed,
Not of those against whom Thou art wrathful,
Nor of those who are astray.

Quran 1: 1-7

What does a Muslim mean by those who deserve God’s anger or who have gone astray?

Finding opportunities:

There are, however, opportunities.

There are people who often think of the Islamic world as barbarous, where criminals have their hands chopped off hands, women are forced to wear the chador, and condemned women are stoned to death.

But I would not like Christianity to be judged by the use of the electric chair in some states in the US, or by the behaviour of the Crusaders, or even by the behaviour of some of our politicians and bankers today.

Muslims often think of the West as decadent, which is why many Muslims are happier with their girls going to convent schools.

There are areas of ethical and public behaviour that offer opportunities for mutual co-operation and room for exploration. These areas include: the exploitation of the poor; global banking ethics; equality; family values, &c.

Finding those opportunities:

A mosque on the Greek island of Rhodes (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

1, Look for prayerful opportunities, even if prayer together is not always possible. For example invite your Muslim neighbours and friends to church events, keep them informed of church activities within the community. It can be hurtful not to count them in, for example, when we pray after major national or international disasters.

2, Do not wait for invitations. Instead, initiate visits. Go to a mosque and a restaurant. I experienced a wonderful example of how fieldwork can enrich dialogue when I took a group of academics by to Rhodes, where we visited Crusader sites, mosques, and met local Greek Muslims who were of Turkish ethnic ancestry,

3, Seek to educate others in sensitivity (e.g. headscarves, places to pray and not to pray, the needs of children fasting during Ramadan). At a negative level, this counter-balances tendencies that could develop into racism or xenophobia. But at a positive level these become opportunities for dialogue and exchange.

4, Find opportunities to meet and eat together. As a family, we shop in the mosque in Clonskeagh and on the South Circular Road for Greek food, garlic peppers, falafels, feta cheese. But you can also go to Id celebrations when you are invited, and can ask Muslims about their food customs…

5, Do not wait for disasters to occur. Consult those who are aware of the issues that may arise. Know who they are in advance. Get to know friendly, local Muslims too.

Some reading

Coleman Barks has three volumes of translation of Rumi’s poetry:
Like This,
Open Secret and
We are three.

John Baldock, The Essence of Rumi (London: Arcturus, 2006).
John Baldock, The Essence of Sufism (Royston: Eagle/Arcturus, 2004).
John Bowker, Voices of Islam (Oxford: One World, 1995).
Colin Chapman, Cross & Crescent: responding to the challenge of Islam (Leicester: IVP, 1995).
Patrick Comerford Embracing Difference: The Church of Ireland in a Plural Society (Dublin: Church of Ireland Publishing, 2007).
Patrick Comerford, Reflections of the Bible in the Qur’an (Dublin: The National Bible Society of Ireland, 2008, The Bedell Boyle Lecture 2006).
JS Cutsinger, Paths to the Heart: Sufism and the Christian East (Bloomington IN: World Wisdom, 2002).
William Dalrymple, From the Holy Mountain: a journey in the shadow of Byzantium (London: Flamingo/Harper Collins, 1998).
Hugh Goddard, Christians & Muslims: From double standards to mutual understanding (Richmond: Curzon Press, 1995).
Guidelines for Interfaith Events & Dialogue, Prepared by the Committee for Christian Unity and the Bishops of the Church of Ireland (Dublin: Church of Ireland Publishing, 2007).
BE Hinze and IA Omar (eds), Heirs of Abraham: the future of Muslim, Jewish and Christian Relations (Maryknoll NY: Orbis, 2005).
Michael Ipgrave (ed), The Road Ahead: a Christian-Muslim Dialogue (London: Church House Publishing, 2002).
Michael Ipgrave (ed), Scriptures in Dialogue: Christians and Muslims studying the Bible and the Qur’an together (London: Church House Publishing, 2004).
Tarif Khalidi, The Muslim Jesus: Sayings and Stories in Islamic Literature (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2001).
Michael Nazir-Ali, Islam: A Christian Perspective (Exeter: Paternoster Press, 1983).
Michael Nazir-Ali, Mission and Dialogue (London: SPCK, 1995).
Leslie Newbigin, Lamin Sanneh and Jenny Taylor, Faith and Power: Christianity and Islam in ‘Secular’ Britain (London: SPCK, 1998).
Malise Ruthven, Islam in the West (London: Penguin, 2000).

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, an Adjunct Assistant Professor, Trinity College Dublin, a canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, and a former secretary of the Inter-Faith Working Group of the Church of Ireland. This essay is based on notes prepared for a Lenten talk in Rathfarnmham Parish, Dublin, on 19 March 2013.

Anglican Studies (9.2): Post-colonial Biblical exegesis and liberation theology in contemporary global Anglicanism

Archbishop Desmond Tutu visiting Trinity College Dublin in 2009

Patrick Comerford

MTh Year II

EM8825:
Anglican Studies in an Irish context:

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

Tuesday, 19 March 2013, 3.15 p.m.:

9.2: Post-colonial Biblical exegesis and liberation theology in contemporary global Anglicanism.

Readings for this seminar included:

1, Bruce Kaye, An Introduction to World Anglicanism (Cambridge: CUP, 2008):

Chapter 6: ‘Patterns of Engagement – political’ (pp 86-102), and Chapter 14, ‘Other themes in the contemporary agenda’ (pp 232-253).

The Revd Dr Bruce Kaye is a former General Secretary of the Anglican Church of Australia (1994-2004), and has taught theology at the University of Durham and the University of New South Wales. He is the foundation editor of the Journal of Anglican Studies.

In this book, Bruce Kaye looks at the nature of world Anglicanism in a postcolonial, global age. With constant talk of fragmentation, he asks what it means to be Anglican.

This book presents Anglicanism as a conversation over time within a community of people held together by sets of practices and beliefs.

The first part describes the emergence of Anglicanism and its foundations in older Christian traditions.

The second part looks at Anglican practices within the framework of changing understandings of mission, and focuses on liturgy, patterns of engagement with others, organisation and power in the Church, and ministerial offices.

There are two separate chapters on the ordination of women and homosexuality in the public life of the church.

The third part, on beliefs, addresses the central question of knowledge and authority in Anglicanism, as well as ecclesiology, the nature of the Church itself. A final chapter looks to the future.

2, Titus Presler, The Horizons of Mission (Cambridge MA: Cowley, 2001):

Chapter 6, ‘Mission in Many Cultures’ (pp 133-153).

The Revd Dr Titus Presler is the Principal of Edwardes College in Peshawar, Pakistan. He has mission experience in Zimbabwe, India and the US, including inner-city Cambridge, Massachusetts. He has taught mission studies at the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas, where he was president, General Theological Seminary in New York, where he was academic dean, Episcopal Divinity School, and Gaul Theological College in Harare. As a theologian, he specialises in mission theology and the interaction of gospel and culture, the latter with special reference to Africa.

In The Horizons of Mission, published as part of this volume of ‘The New Church’s Teaching Series,’ Titus Presler offers a fresh vision of mission in the multicultural environment of a global community.

Presler argues that Christian mission expresses God’s longing to embrace humanity in love, and explores how gospel understandings are being reshaped by Christians in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, Christianity’s new centres of gravity. He explores the scriptural basis of mission, historical and contemporary Anglican approaches to mission, the encounter with other religions, and the interaction of the gospel and culture.

He sets out 10 principles for mission in the 21st century in order that parishes and dioceses can engage in world mission as companions in mutuality.

3, Selected readings from the writings of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu with the Discovery Gospel Choir in Dublin

Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu (born 1931) became the first black Archbishop of Cape Town (1986-1996). Previously he had been Bishop of Johannesburg (1985-1986), secretary general of the South African Council of Churches (1978-1985), Bishop of Lesotho (1976-1978) and Dean of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Johannesburg (1975-1976).

He is best-known as an activist in the struggle against apartheid, his defence of human rights and his support for campaigns for the oppressed. He has campaigned to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, poverty, racism, sexism and homophobia and on climate change.

He received the Novel Peace Prize in 1984, and has received many awards and prizes since. He is the author of several books and there are many collections of his speeches and sayings.

His books 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).
Worshipping Church in Africa (Durham NC: Duke University Press, 1995).
The Essential Desmond Tutu (David Phillips, 1997).
No Future without Forgiveness (Doubleday, 1999).
An African Prayerbook (Doubleday, 2000).
God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time (Doubleday, 2004).

Biographies:

Patrick Comerford, Desmond Tutu: Black Africa’s Man of Destiny (Dublin: Veritas, 1987, 1989).
Shirley du Boulay, Tutu: Voice of the Voiceles (Eerdmans, 1988).
Michael J. Battle, Reconciliation: The Ubuntu Theology of Desmond Tutu (Pilgrim Press, 1997).
Steven D. Gish, Desmond Tutu: A Biography (Greenwood, 2004).
John Allen, Rabble-Rouser for Peace: The Authorised Biography of Desmond Tutu (Rider Books, 2007).

Next week [26 March]:

10:
The Anglican Covenant: does it have a future?

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor, Trinity College Dublin. These notes were prepared for a seminar on the MTh Year II course, EM8825: Anglican Studies in an Irish context, on Tuesday 19 March 2013.

Anglican Studies (9.1): Anglicanism, ecumenical engagement and inter-religious dialogue


Patrick Comerford

MTh Year II

EM8825: Anglican Studies in an Irish context:

Anglicanism, ecumenical engagement and inter-religious dialogue

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

Tuesday, 19 March 2013, 2 p.m.:

9.1:
Anglicanism, ecumenical engagement and inter-religious dialogue;

9.2: Post-colonial Biblical exegesis and liberation theology in contemporary global Anglicanism.

9.1: Anglicanism, ecumenical engagement and inter-religious dialogue

Introduction:

Opening discussion: experiences of ecumenism and inter-church dialogue:

Ecumenical dialogue: origins

Father Paul Wattson … while he was an Anglican priest he first proposed the Octave of Christian Unity

Last week [12 March 2013], we saw how the search of Christian Unity was one of the priorities on the agendas of Lambeth Conferences from the very beginning. William Reed Huntington was the original thinker behind the Chicago Lambeth Quadrilateral, which became the touchstone for future Anglican endeavours to promote Christian unity.

After the Church Idea, Huntington published two further books – The Peace of the Church (1891) and A National Church (1898) – in which he commented on and developed his quadrilateral. In this last book, he proposed church unity on national but non-denominational lines, involving an organic union of American churches on the basis of territorial units by state and county. He believed this could be accomplished on the basis of his Quadrilateral rather than the 39 Articles and The Book of Common Prayer, and he wrote that the articles ought “not continue to be considered … one of the essentials of the Anglican position.”

He was the inspiration and principal author of the 1892 revision of Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer. He pursued this revision because he was convinced it would aid the cause of church unity, not only by attention to the patristic sources, but also by the principles of flexibility, adaptability and revisability.

His progressive ideas on the role of women in the Church were far ahead of their time, and it was he who established the order of deaconesses in the Episcopal Church. He also helped found the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City, contributing its iconographic plans and serving as a trustee for 22 years.

At the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 1907, Huntington’s final agenda was revealed in his two-fold proposal to add the Quadrilateral by way of a preamble to the Constitution of the Episcopal Church but also to remove the 39 Articles from their place in The Book of Common Prayer. In the end, both proposals were defeated, and Huntington died within two years at the age of 71, in 1909.

Despite Huntington’s feelings of failure, the ecumenical movement as we know it, and real Anglican engagement with it, begins in that first decade of the 20th century.

For example, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began as the Octave of Christian Unity over 100 years ago, in 1908 and focused on prayer for church unity. That week owes its origins to one of the earliest and one of the lasting Anglican efforts to promote Christian unity. The concept was first put forward by an Anglican friar, Father Paul Wattson, co-founder of the Graymoor Franciscan Friars.

The Society of the Atonement, also known as the Friars and Sisters of the Atonement or Graymoor Friars and Sisters were founded in the US in 1898 as a Anglican religious community by Lurana (Mother Lurana) White and the Revd Lewis (Father Paul) Wattson, with the aim of re-establishing Franciscan life in the Anglican Communion and working for a corporate reunion between Anglicans and Rome.

A major part of this effort was the Octave of Christian Unity, and although the Graymoor Friars and Sisters were later received as a body into the Roman Catholic Church, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity remains part of the legacy of Anglican ecumenical endeavours.

Irish Methodist missionaries commemorated in a window in a Methodist church in Orlando, Florida (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Dialogue with Irish Churches

The beginnings of the modern ecumenical movement are normally traced to the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh in 1910. But even before Edinburgh 1910, the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches in Ireland had a joint committee for united efforts from 1904.

In 1910, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church invited other evangelical Churches in Ireland to set up similar joint committees with it. This was difficult for the Presbyterian Church – which still referred to the Church of Ireland as “the Protestant Episcopal Church,” “the former Established Church,” or the “Anglican Church.”

The Church of Ireland accepted and by 1911 the first meeting of representatives of both the general Synod and the general Assembly was held in Dublin and the joint committee of the two Churches began to think about how to co-operate in philanthropic and religious work.

The issues addressed by the joint committee included temperance, national insurance, industrial schools and the Ne Temere decree of 1908.

In 1919, the Bishop of Down, Dromore and Connor, Dr Charles Fredrick D’Arcy (1859-1938), became the first Church of Ireland bishop to attend the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church.

‘Appeal to all Christian people’

A mission conference drawing together representatives of the Church Mission Society and other evangelical, non-Anglican mission agencies working in Kenya, including Presbyterians, concluded with a joint Communion service in Kikuyu in 1913. It may be difficult to imagine now, but that service stirred controversy, and was condemned, for example, by Bishop Frank Weston (1871-1924) of Zanzibar, who dismissed it as a “Pan-Protestant” communion.

For Anglicans, the Appeal to All Christian People issued by the 1920 Lambeth Conference was a seminal step forward towards Christian unity. Interestingly, Bishop Frank Weston was one of the key bishops involved in drafting this appeal, drafters of This appeal was addressed to all those throughout the world who had received Christian baptism, and it invited the Churches to seek unity together.

The Appeal is significant because it described all those who had undergone Trinitarian baptism as members of the Christian Church. In this statement, we can see Anglicans holding that the unity of the Church is grounded in the one baptism.

Anglicans have been the first to perceive the ecumenical significance of the mutual recognition by the Churches of common baptism.

The Appeal also recognised the authorisation of the Holy Spirit in the ministries of the non-episcopal churches. But it argued that the episcopate is a God-given instrument of unity and continuity that will enable God’s people to meet in the security of one Eucharist.

The 1920 Lambeth Conference also agreed that while maintaining the Book of Common Prayer as the Anglican standard of doctrine and practice, liturgical uniformity should not be required as a necessity throughout the Anglican Communion.

Continuing dialogue in Ireland:

In response to the 1920 Lambeth Conference appeal, the joint committees formed by the Irish Churches developed in 1923 into the United Council of Christian Churches and Religious Communions in Ireland, which later became the Irish Council of Churches (1966).

Throughout the 20th century, the Church of Ireland was a party to a number of bilateral discussions. However, dialogue between the Church of Ireland and the Presbyterian Church become informal in 1923 and eventually petered out due to a number of factors, including the unstable political climate in Ireland and internal debates among Presbyterians about the meaning of subscription to the Westminster Confession of Faith.

In 1931, the General Synod once again approached Presbyterians about a “scheme of union or … co-operation.” The ensuing discussions focussed on intercommunion, communicant membership, baptism, and the shared used of church buildings, but made little progress.

The talks eventually came to an end in 1935, and did not resume officially until 1964. Tripartite discussions began in 1968 between the Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Church and the Church of Ireland. In 1973 a plan for unity, ‘Towards a United Church,’ was produced but was not received with much enthusiasm.

Discussions continued and material for confirmation classes and a Communion Service for use on inter-Church occasions were produced.

In 1988, a new Joint Theological Working Party was proposed to replace the Tripartite Consultation. This was accepted by the Methodist Church and Church of Ireland but was rejected by the Presbyterian Church.

In 1989, a joint Methodist/Church of Ireland Theological Working Party was set up. A Covenant was agreed between the two churches in June 2002 and the joint Theological Working Party was replaced by a Covenant Council in 2003.

National and international ecumenical bodies:

Of course, the Anglican Communion is not the only communion or grouping of churches of which the Church of Ireland and other Anglican Churches are now a part. In terms of looser alliances and federations, the Church of Ireland is an active member of the Irish Council of Churches (ICC, 1922), Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI, 1942 as BCC, and 1990), the Conference of European Churches (CEC, 1957), and the World Council of Churches (WCC, 1948).

The Irish Council of Churches:

The Irish Council of Churches began as the United Council of Christian Churches and Religious Communities in Ireland in 1922.

There were seven founding member churches at the council’s first meeting in January 1923: the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church, the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Church, the Moravian Church, the Congregational Union, and the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

Today, there are 14 member churches, and until last year the president was Bishop Dr Richard Clarke, the Bishop of Meath and Kildare. He has since become the Archbishop of Armagh and the President of the ICC is Father Godfrey O’Donnell of the Romanian Orthodox Church.

The Council of Churches in Britain and Ireland (CTBI):

The British Council of Churches was founded in 1942 and the Church of Ireland, the Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church were foundation members.

In August 1990, the British Council of Churches was replaced by the Council of Churches for Britain and Ireland (now Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, CTBI) with the full participation of the Roman Catholic Episcopal Conference in England and Wales, and Scotland. The Church of Ireland and the Methodist Church in Ireland are full members of CTBI, but the Presbyterian Church in Ireland declined to join when it was being set up.

The Conference of European Churches (CEC):

The Conference of European Churches (CEC) was founded in 1959. The Church of Ireland, the Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church are full members.

The World Council of Churches (WCC):

The modern ecumenical movement traces its origins to the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh in 1910

The World Council of Churches (WCC) was founded in Amsterdam 1948 but has a pre-history dating back to the Edinburgh Missionary Conference of 1910.

Throughout the 20th century, Anglicans played a prominent role in trying to establish these international ecumenical bodies.

Bishop George Bell … a key figure in the formation of the World Council of Church in 1948

The WCC brought together the work of two international inter-chruch working groups, ‘Life and Work’ and ‘Faith and Order.’ One of the leading figures in these movements was Bishop George Bell (1881-1958), as Dean of Canterbury (1924-1929) and then as Bishop of Chichester (1929-1958). His international contacts, and his continuing dialogue with Dietrich Bonhoeffer and other Germans Lutherans in the Confessing Church, and with Swedish Lutherans, were a contributing factor towards the setting up of the WCC after World War II.

The Church of Ireland and the Methodist Church are members of the WCC. The Presbyterian Church had been a member, but withdrew in 1980.

Dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church:

Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury in conversation last year

During our Liturgy module, we saw that in the aftermath of Vatican II Pope Paul VI invited a number of outside theologians to meetings of the Commission for the Implementation of the Liturgy Constitution (now the Congregation for Divine Worship), including two influential Anglicans, Ronald Jasper of the Church of England’s Liturgical Commission, and Massey Shepherd, a major architect of the revised American Prayer Book.

Saint Peter’s, Rome ... since the 1970s, ecumenical dialogue for Anglicans has often been dominated by the work of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commissions (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

It is not surprising, then, that throughout the 1970s and the early 1980s, ecumenical dialogue for Anglicans was dominated by the work of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commissions (ARCIC 1 and 2), especially their discussions on Eucharistic doctrine.

Archbishop Henry McAdoo, Anglican co-chair of ARCIC ... detail from his portrait in the Chapter House of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Eucharist was the first topic discussed by ARCIC, which was co-chaired by Bishop Henry McAdoo of Ossory, later Archbishop of Dublin. In 1971, ARCIC-1 published its first report, the Agreed Statement, or the Windsor Report on Eucharistic Doctrine. The commission said it had reached substantial agreement as to the nature of Eucharistic belief in the two Communions.

The second ARCIC statement on the priesthood was reached at Canterbury in 1973. ARCIC also produced a statement on Authority at Venice in 1976.

At Salisbury in 1979, ARCIC published elucidations of the first two Agreed Statements in the light of criticisms. An elucidation on the Venice report was published in 1981, and a second statement on Authority was produced at Windsor in 1981.

The level of convergence claimed for these agreements was much less than that alleged to have been achieved in the statements on the Eucharist and Ministry.

Venice ... one of the many venues for ARCIC (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

All the Agreed Statements, together with their Elucidations, were collected together in a Final Report in September 1981, and submitted for approval by the Vatican, Roman Catholic hierarchies and Anglican provinces throughout the world.

In the agreement, there is no categorical assertion that the Eucharist is a sacrifice, neither has this been excluded. In fact, the whole thrust of the reasoning here is that the Eucharist makes present the once-for-all Sacrifice of Christ here and now.

The Vatican’s official response to these ARCIC reports has been wanting in many respects. Nevertheless, there are four areas in which there are mutual influences and even convergences between Roman Catholic reforms and recent Anglican revisions:

● The Sunday Eucharistic lectionary;
● The Eucharistic prayers;
● The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults;
● Liturgical language.

The second phase of ARCIC dialogue was from 1983 to 2011. The topics covered included salvation, communion, teaching, and the place of Mary. In 2007 the commission issued Growing Together in Unity and Mission, which stated: “The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the ministry of the Bishop of Rome [the Pope] as universal primate is in accordance with Christ’s will for the Church and an essential element of maintaining it in unity and truth.” The document goes on to say: “We urge Anglicans and Roman Catholics to explore together how the ministry of the Bishop of Rome might be offered and received in order to assist our Communions to grow towards full, ecclesial communion.”

The meeting opening the third phase of Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue took place two years on 17-27 May 2011 at the ecumenical Monastery of Bose in northern Italy. This third phase of ARCIC is to consider fundamental questions regarding the ‘Church as Communion – Local and Universal,’ and ‘How in Communion the Local and Universal Church Comes to Discern Right Ethical Teaching.’

Anglican-Roman Catholic relations have had a shadow cast over them in recent years with the publication of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus and the formation of the Ordinariate for Anglican clergy who wish to enter communion with Rome while retaining many aspects of Anglican liturgy and tradition.

Nevertheless, there appears to have been a very warm and friendly atmosphere when Archbishop Rowan Williams and Pope Benedict XVI met in Rome last year, according to reports at the time in the Church Times (16 March 2012, pp 2-3) and the Church of Ireland Gazette (23 March 2012, pp 1, 2).

Liturgical dialogue

Meanwhile, the Societas Liturgica, founded in 1967 by Anglicans and Roman Catholics, has grown to become the international and ecumenical academy of liturgists, and has been an important forum for co-operation and agreement between Anglicans and Roman Catholics.

The initiative was taken by of Wiebe Vos, a pastor of the Dutch Reformed Church who had founded Studia Liturgica in 1962 as “an international ecumenical quarterly for liturgical research and renewal.”

In 1965, he invited 25 liturgists from Europe and North America to meet at the Swiss Protestant community of Grandchamp, in Neuchâtel. They formed Societas Liturgica “for the promotion of ecumenical dialogue on worship, based on solid research, with the perspective of renewal and unity.”

Lismore Cathedral, Co Waterford ... Dean Gilbert Mayes was the first secretary of Societas Liturgica (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

The first meeting of Societas Liturgica took place at Driebergen in the Netherlands in 1967. That meeting studied the Constitution on the Liturgy of Vatican II and recent work on worship by the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches. The Very Revd Gilbert Mayes, Dean of Lismore, was elected the first secretary.

The second congress was held in Glenstal Abbey, Co Limerick, in 1969, and since then Societas Liturgica has met at two year intervals, meeting in Dublin in 1995.

Most of the papers delivered at meetings of the Societas have been published in English in Studia Liturgica. There are now more than 400 members of Societas Litugica. The international and ecumenical character of the society is illustrated by the list of its successive presidents and council members, including many Anglican liturgists such as Gray, Jasper and Bradshaw.

The next Congress of Societas Liturgica is in Würzburg, Germany, on 5-10 August 2013.

The International Anglican Liturgical Consultation, which began in 1983, meets every two years at the same time as Societas Liturgica, with the active participation and engagement of ecumenical partners.

The WCC, Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (Lima) and Taizé:

The Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches published Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, the Lima Report, in 1982

The Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches has also encouraged ecumenical conversation and convergence on the liturgy with the publication of the document Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (Lima, 1982).

This liturgy was strongly influenced by the ecumenical community at Taizé, and particularly by the Sub-Prior of Taizé, Max Thurian, and his interest in a diverse range of liturgical traditions, from the French Reformed to the Eastern Orthodox.

It discusses the Eucharist under five headings:

1, The Eucharist as Thanksgiving to the Father;
2, The Eucharist as Anamnesis or Memorial of Christ;
3, The Eucharist as Invocation of the Spirit;
4, The Eucharist as Communion of the Faithful;
5, The Eucharist as Meal of the Kingdom.

Dialogue with the Lutheran churches

A map showing the churches participating in the Porvoo Communion

As I have said, from the very beginning, the Lambeth Conferences were concerned not only with the unity of the churches that now form the Anglican Communion, but were anxious to pursue unity with other Churches, including the Old Catholics and the Scandinavian Lutherans.

The Anglican Churches and the Old Catholics have been in communion since the Bonn Agreement (1931), recognising each other’s orders, episcopate, ministry, &c, so forming effectively an overlapping communion – at least on continental Europe.

But the Church of Ireland is also part of a closer communion of churches, which is emerging in Northern Europe and which is being referred to increasingly as the Porvoo Communion – a grouping of more than a dozen Anglican and Lutheran churches in these islands, Scandinavia and the Baltic states.

The member churches of the Porvoo Communion that have ratified the Porvoo Statement are:

● The four Anglican or Episcopal Churches of England (1995), Ireland (1995), Scotland (1994) and Wales (1995);
● The two Anglican churches in the Iberian peninsula: the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church the Lusitanian Catholic Apostolic Evangelical Church (Portugal);
● The seven Lutheran or Evangelical-Lutheran Churches of Estonia (1994), Finland (1995), Iceland (1995), Lithuania (1994), Norway (1994), Sweden (1994) and Denmark (2010).
● In addition, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (1994), the Lutheran Church in Great Britain and Ireland (2010), and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad (2010) have observer status, and the Moravian Church appear to be applying for membership.

Bishop Michael Jackson at the signing of the Porvoo Agreement by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark in Copenhagen in October 2010.

Initially, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark declined to sign Porvoo in the wake of strong criticism from Danish theologians in 1996 about the place of women as priests and bishops in the Church of England. But the Church of Denmark agreed to join in 2009 and signed the Porvoo Agreement in Copenhagen Cathedral in October 2010.

If Greenland and the Faroe Islands, which have their own separate dioceses, become independent states, which is possible within the next decade, then the future of the Church of Greenland and the Church of the Faroe Islands, independent from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark, could be worth watching.

This new communion has the prospects of, at some stage, being more important to the Church of Ireland than membership of the Anglican Communion. It dates back beyond those early initiatives at the Lambeth Conference to embrace the Scandinavian Lutherans – particularly the Church of Sweden.

The Anglican interest in the (Episcopal) Church of Sweden can be traced back to the Oxford Movement in the 1830s and 1840s. Prior to the first Lambeth Conference of 1867, Charles Kingsley and others were urging the Archbishop of Canterbury to invite the bishops of Sweden to the conference. The Lambeth Conference of 1920, although it avoided the term “inter-communion,” agreed to a series of special relations with the Church of Sweden, including mutual participation in Episcopal consecrations.

And so when, for the first time, the Church of Sweden formally came into a closer relation with another church it was, strangely enough, not with another Lutheran Church, but with the Church of England. And, although there is now full communion between the Church of Sweden and the Church of Ireland and other Anglican churches, there are still tensions between the Church of Sweden and those Lutheran churches it sees as not having preserved the historic episcopate.

The ordination of women in Sweden threatened to rock this relationship in 1959 and 1960, but it was resumed in 1976, and it has been the bedrock on which the Porvoo Agreement is founded. New tensions arose three years ago with the election in May 2009 of Eva Brunne as Bishop of Stockholm, and her consecration in November that year. She lives in a registered partnership with another woman, and has a six-year-old son.

The consecration of Eva Brunne as Bishop of Stockholm in November 2009

The Porvoo and Meissen agreements are similar to the agreements reached between the Episcopal Church of the United States (TEC) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), the Waterloo Agreement between Canadian Anglicans and Lutherans, and similar agreements between Anglicans and Lutherans in other countries. Today, Anglican and Lutheran bishops share mutually in episcopal consecrations in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and many parts of the Americas.

Lutheran bishops from the member Churches of the Porvoo Churches have taken part in the most recent episcopal consecrations in Ireland: Trevor Williams of Limerick (2008, the Bishop of Iceland), Alan Abernathy of Connor (2007, Linkoping, Sweden), Michael Burrows of Cashel (2006, Lund, Sweden); Peter Barrett of Cashel (2003, Lund, Sweden, as well as Haarlem, the Old Catholic Church).

Next month [April 2013], the Church of Ireland Theological Institute is hosting a Porvoo Communion consultation on the diaconate and diaconal ministry.

The Porvoo Agreement may provide the basis for further developments in the Meissen Agreement between the Anglican churches in these islands and the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), which was signed in 1988.

The Meissen Agreement was signed only by the Church of England, but it may provide a basis for deepening the relations between the Anglican churches of these islands and the German Protestants, who are grouped in Lutheran, Reformed and United churches. It commits the churches to “share a common life and mission” and to “take all possible steps to closer fellowship in as many areas of Christian life and witness as possible,” by committing their churches to encourage partnerships and exchanges at all levels of church life, and on the part of theological colleges and specialist agencies.

Exchanges of ministers, church workers and students are also to be encouraged. It does not achieve full inter-changeability of ministers, but it does agree on mutual Eucharistic hospitality and encourages attendance at each other’s ordinations.

The Reuilly Agreement, signed in 1997 and approved by the General Synod of the Church of England in 1999 and the General Synod of the Church of Ireland in May 2000, links the four Anglican Churches on these islands and the French Lutheran and Reformed Churches, acknowledging one another’s churches and looks forward to a fuller visible unity.

The eight participating churches are four Anglican churches of these islands (England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales); and the four French churches of the Lutheran and Reformed traditions: the Church of the Augsburg Confession of Alsace and Lorraine, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of France, the Reformed Church of Alsace and Lorraine and the Reformed Church of France. It dates back to visit to Strasbourg in 1989 by Archbishop Robert Runcie of Canterbury, when the French Reformed and Lutheran Churches signalled their desire to enter into closer fellowship with Anglican churches on the model of the Meissen Agreement.

Welcoming this approach, the Anglican side felt a new relationship with the French churches ought to be built on long, historical links between the churches. Those links include the story of the arrival of the Huguenots in Ireland following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685.

The continuing theological and other work done by the Meissen Commission and the Porvoo churches offered a structure and resources for the Anglican/French conversations, which began formally in 1994, and were completed by 1997.

Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue:

The Anglican-Orthodox consultations at Christ Church Oxford in late 2010

In Dublin, a number of Orthodox parishes are using former Church of Ireland parish churches – including the Romanian Orthodox Church in the former Christ Church, Leeson Park, and the Russian Orthodox Church in Harold’s Cross. In the past, the Greek Orthodox Church has also received hospitality in the former Saint Mary’s in the city centre and a former church in Ranelagh that has since been demolished.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, there were a number of attempts to open dialogue between Anglicans and the Orthodox traditions, most notably the establishment of a Greek college in Oxford, and the attempts at dialogue between the Nonjurors and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

However, modern dialogue between the Anglican and Orthodox traditions begins in 1962. Following the talks that year between the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Michael Ramsey, and the Ecumenical Patriarch, Athenagoras I of Constantinople, the Primates of the Anglican Communion agreed unanimously to set up an Anglican Theological Commission to confer with theologians of the Orthodox Churches.

In 1964, the Third Pan-Orthodox Conference at Rhodes unanimously decided officially to resume dialogue with the Anglican Communion, and this was ratified by all the Orthodox Churches. After a preparatory phase (1966-1972) in which the Anglican and Orthodox Commissions met separately, the first series of joint conversations took place (1973-1976). In 1973, the Anglican-Orthodox Joint Doctrinal Discussions (A/OJDD) met for the first time in Oxford.

This first phase resulted in the Moscow Agreed Statement (1976) on the Knowledge of God, the Inspiration and Authority of Holy Scripture, Scripture and Tradition, the Authority of the Councils, the Filioque Clause, the Church as the Eucharistic Community, and the Invocation of the Holy Spirit in the Eucharist.

When the Anglican-Orthodox Joint Doctrinal Commission met in Cambridge in 1977 to study the subjects agreed at the conclusion of the Moscow Conference a “thunderstorm” broke out when the Orthodox members “realised with regret” that the ordination of women was “no longer simply a question for discussion but an actual event in the life of some of the Anglican churches,” and asked themselves “how it will be possible to continue the dialogue, and what meaning the dialogue will have in these circumstances.”

It was agreed that the 1978 meeting would take place “before the Lambeth Conference, in order, by expounding the Orthodox position, to enable their Anglican brethren to come to what, in their view, would be a proper appreciation of the matter. For the Orthodox the future of the Dialogue would depend on the resolutions of the Lambeth Conference.”

In February 1978, the then Bishop of St Albans, Robert Runcie told the General Synod of the Church of England that “the future as well as the character of these valuable doctrinal discussions now hangs in the balance.”

The main part of the 1978 conference at Moni Pendeli in Athens was devoted to setting out the Orthodox and Anglican positions on the Ordination of Women to the priesthood. In its report the Orthodox members said: “We see the ordination of women, not as part of the creative continuity of tradition, but as a violation of the apostolic faith and order of the Church … This will have a decisively negative effect on the issue of the recognition of Anglican orders ... By ordaining women Anglicans would sever themselves from continuity in apostolic faith and spiritual life.”

They added: “It is obvious that, if the dialogue continues, its character would be drastically changed.” The joint conclusions to the report stated: “We value our Dialogue together and we are encouraged that our Churches and their leaders, as well as the members of our Commission, hope that it may continue under conditions acceptable to both sides.”

Following the 1978 Lambeth Resolution 21 on the ordination of women, the Orthodox Co-Chairman of AOJDD, Archbishop Athenagoras, expressed his view that “the theological dialogue will continue, although now simply as an academic and informative exercise, and no longer as an ecclesial endeavour aiming at the union of the two churches”. He later recommended that Orthodox professors rather than bishops should take part in the dialogue as an indication of its changed status and purpose. Some Orthodox agreed with this. However, as the Bishop of St Albans discovered during his visits to the Orthodox Churches in the spring of 1979, other Orthodox felt there was no need to change the standing of the talks and wished the dialogue to be.

The steering committee of AOJDD met in July 1979 and agreed that the full commission should continue its work in July 1980. “The ultimate aim remains the unity of the Churches,” it affirmed.

Saint Michael’s College, Llandaff … venue for Anglican-Orthodox dialogue in 1980 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The commission resumed work at Saint Michael’s College, Llandaff, in July 1980, and approved a report on “The Communion of Saints and the Departed,” and continued the work on “The Church and the Churches” and on the Filioque clause in the Creed. This continued at meetings at the Orthodox Patriarchal Centre at Chambesy in Geneva 1981, and at Canterbury in 1982 where the sub-commissions focused on “The Mystery of the Church,” “Participation in the Grace of the Holy Trinity and Christian Holiness,” and “Tradition, Christian Worship, and the Maintenance of the Christian Faith.”

During his visit to the Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrios I in 1982 Archbishop Robert Runcie of Canterbury referred to first series of Anglican-Orthodox conversations as a “spiritual summer” with the Moscow Agreed Statement as its “first-fruits,” but also spoke of a “wintry season” of difficulties experienced in Anglican-Orthodox relations. Archbishop Runcie, thanked the Patriarch for his encouragement to continue the dialogue which had led to a “second spring.”

In Odessa in 1983, the commission gave particular to Primacy (Seniority); Witness, Evangelism, and Service; and Prayer, Icons, and Family Devotion. The 1984 meeting at Bellinter, Co Meath, agreed on a report and statements on “The Mystery of the Church,” “Faith in the Trinity, Prayer and Holiness,” and “Worship and Tradition.” The publication after this meeting of the Dublin Agreed Statement (1984) concluded the second phase. Both statements recorded a measure of agreement on specific topics, while acknowledging continuing divergence on others.

The third phase of this dialogue began in 1989, when the commission was re-constituted as the International Commission for Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue (ICAOTD), chaired by Metropolitan John of Pergamon and Bishop Henry Hill (and later by Bishop Mark Dyer), drawing together senior clergy and theologians from the Orthodox Churches and the Anglican Communion. It has considered the doctrine of the Church in the light of the doctrine of the Trinity, and examined the doctrine of the ordained ministry of the Church. It has given particular attention to the question of who may be ordained to the presbyterate and the episcopate, to ecclesiological issues and to aspects of Trinitarian doctrine.

The publication of The Church of the Triune God: The Cyprus Agreed Statement (2005) concludes the third phase of the Anglican-Orthodox international theological dialogue. The statement sets out significant material on the life of the Church which is timely and pertinent to many of the current debates within Anglicanism. It was sent for consideration to the Lambeth Conference in 2008.

Christ Church hosted the International Commission for Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue, which met from 31 August to 6 September 2010 and explored aspects of Christian anthropology: “what is a human being?”; “the freedom and growth of the human being with particular reference to the understanding of image and likeness”; and “human responsibility for the creation; a critical overview of recent statements by our churches.”

Archbishop Richard Clarke is a member of the International Commission for Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue (ICAOTD) , which met most recently at the University of Chester on 3-10 September 2012, to continue the commission’s in-depth study of Christian anthropology, particularly in regard to what it means to be a human person created in the image and likeness of God. The Commission meets again in Novi Sad, Serbia, in September 2013.

Anglicans and inter-faith dialogue:

Archbishop Michael Jackson and Bishop Trevor Williams visiting a mosque in Leicester in March 2011 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

[Discussion: Experiences of inter-faith dialogue]

There is a difference not just in terms of expectations, but in understandings, between inter-church dialogue and inter-faith dialogue.

In the Church of Ireland, the Committee for Christian Unity (now the Commission for Christian Unity and Dialogue) of the General Synod and the House of Bishops published Guidelines for Interfaith Events and Dialogue in 2007:

Guidelines for Interfaith Events and Dialogue

The Guidelines were written for members of the Church of Ireland to equip them as members of a society experiencing accelerated diversity of faiths and cultures. These Guidelines build on the agreement reached at a Porvoo Consultation in Oslo in 2003.

The Network for Inter Faith Concerns (NIFCON) of the Anglican Communion seeks to encourage:

● Progress towards genuinely open and loving relationships between Christians and people of other faiths.
● Exchange of news, information, ideas and resources relating to inter faith concerns between provinces of the Anglican Communion.
● Local contextual and wider theological reflection.
● Witness and evangelism where appropriate.
● Prayerful and urgent action with all involved in tension and conflict.
● Support for people of faith, especially Christians, who live as religious minorities in situations of discrimination or danger.

NIFCON does this by:

● Networking and meeting;
● Communication using various media
● Gathering information through its international presidents, management group, correspondents, and contacts support groups.

NIFCON has also been charged by the Lambeth Conference to study and evaluate Muslim-Christian relations and to report regularly to the Anglican Consultative Council.

Some of the Anglican work and consultations on Inter-Faith relations include:

● The Agreement between the Chief Rabbis and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
● The al-Azhar agreement.
● The declarations at Alexandria, Bali, Cairo, Islamabad and Kaduna.

NIFCON has convened or taken part in a number of key consultations, including:

● Bangalore (India), 2003, a South Asian consultation on ‘mission and dialogue’ that stressed the importance of engaging in trustful and respectful inter-faith dialogue while vigorously advocating the cause of minorities suffering religious oppression.

● Oslo (Norway), 2003, when Anglicans and Lutherans from the Porvoo Communion highlighted the need to maintain the integrity of the church’s ministry while enabling the pastoral care of the other.

● Kaduna (Nigeria), 2007, a meeting in the Christian and Muslim setting of West Africa, a consultation on ‘faith and citizenship’ that pointed to the challenge of witnessing persuasively to the Gospel while welcoming fellow citizens of other faiths as co-workers for the common good.

● Lambeth Palace (December 2011), marking a century of Anglican interfaith engagement and celebrating the life and work of the late Bishop Kenneth Cragg, the Anglican pioneer in the field of dialogue with Islam.

From these experiences and gatherings, and from soundings across the Anglican Communion, it is evident that Anglican churches can be renewed in their life and mission when they commit themselves as part of their discipleship to presence among and engagement with other faith communities.

We can recognise the three following dynamic patterns in particular through which we are being led into this newness of life:

● First, in maintaining our presence among communities of other faiths, we are abiding as signs of the body of Christ in each place.
● Second, in engaging our energies with other groups for the transformation of society, we are being sent in the power of the Spirit into each situation.
● Third, in offering embassy and hospitality to our neighbours, we are both giving and receiving the blessing of God our Father.

Additional reading:

Ian Ellis, Vision and Reality: A Survey of 20th Century Inter-Church Relations (Belfast: Institute of Irish Studies, 1992).
Eric Gallagher and Stanley Worrall, Christians in Ulster: 1968-1980 (Oxford University Press, 1982).
Michael Hurley (ed), Irish Anglicanism 1869-1969 (Dublin: Allen Figgis, 1970).
Brendan Leahy, Inter-Church relations – a tribute to Bishop Anthony Farquhar (Dublin: Veritas 2008).
Alan Megahey, The Irish Protestant Churches in the Twentieth Century (Macmillan Press, 2000).
Norman W Taggart, Conflict, Controversy and Co-operation: The Irish Council of Churches and ‘The Troubles,’ 1968-1972 (Dublin: Columba, 2004).
Peter Thompson, Working out the covenant: the story so far (Dublin: Church of Ireland Publishing, 2007).

Resources:

The ARCIC Final Report

The WCC Report, Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, Faith and Order Paper No 111 (The Lima Report)

For a study guide to the Lima Report, see: BEM study guide

http://www.ireland.anglican.org/index.php?do=about&id=47/"> The Church of Ireland/Methodist Church in Ireland Covenant

Appendix: The Church of Ireland/Methodist Church in Ireland Covenant

COVENANT
between
The Methodist Church in Ireland
and
The Church of Ireland

We acknowledge one another’s churches as belonging to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ and as truly participating in the apostolic mission of the whole people of God.

We acknowledge that in each of our churches the Word of God is authentically preached and the sacraments of baptism and holy communion authentically administered according to the command of Christ.

We acknowledge that both our churches share in a common faith set forth in the scriptures and summarised in the historic creeds.

We acknowledge our common inheritance in traditions of spirituality and liturgy.

We rejoice in our diversity from which we may mutually benefit as we continue to develop varied forms of worship as appropriate to different situations.

We acknowledge each other’s ordained ministries as given by God and as instruments of his grace by which our churches are served and built up. As pilgrims together, we look forward to the time when our ministries can be fully interchangeable and our churches visibly united.

We acknowledge that personal, collegial and communal oversight is embodied and practised in both churches, as each seeks to express continuity of apostolic life, mission and ministry.

Therefore:

We believe that God is calling our two churches to a fuller relationship in which we commit ourselves
● to share a common life and mission;
● to grow together so that unity may be visibly realized.

As the next steps towards that goal, we agree:
● to pray for and with one another and to avail of every opportunity to worship together;
● to welcome one another’s members to receive Holy Communion and other ministries as appropriate;
● to share resources in order to strengthen the mission of the Church;
● to help our members to appreciate and draw out the gifts which each of our traditions has to offer the whole people of God;
● to encourage the invitation of authorised persons of each church to minister in the other church, as far as the current disciplines of both churches permit;
● to encourage united Methodist/Church of Ireland congregations
◦ where there are joint church schemes
◦ where new churches are to be planted
◦ where local congregations wish to move in this direction;
● to encourage united Methodist/Church of Ireland chaplaincy work;
● to enable a measure of joint training of candidates for ordained and lay ministries of our churches where possible and appropriate and to encourage mutual understanding at all levels in our churches;
● to establish appropriate forms of consultation on matters of faith and order, mission and service;
● to participate as observers by invitation in each other's forms of governance at every possible level;
● to learn more about the practice of oversight in each other’s churches in order to achieve a fuller sharing of ministries at a later stage of our relationship.

Signed:

Robert Armagh
Primate of All Ireland

W Winston Graham
President of the Methodist Church in Ireland

26 September, 2002
Chrome Hill,
Lambeg


Next:

9.2:
Postcolonial Biblical exegesis and liberation theology in contemporary global Anglicanism.

Next week [26 March]:

10:
The Anglican Covenant: does it have a future?

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor, Trinity College Dublin. This essay is an extended version of notes prepared for a lecture on the MTh Year II course, EM8825: Anglican Studies in an Irish context, on Tuesday 19 March 2013