31 January 2016

‘For those who walk in darkness
and in the shadow of death’

Walking on the beach in Loughshinny this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

We celebrated Candlemas or the Feast of the Presentation a little early this evening with the Candlemas Procession in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.

Earlier in the day, I had presided at the Cathedral Eucharist, and at the Candlemas Procession this evening I led the intercessions:

In peace let us pray to the Lord.

By the mystery of the Word made flesh
Good Lord, deliver us.

By the birth in time of the timeless Son of God
Good Lord, deliver us.

By the baptism of the Son of God in the river Jordan
Good Lord, deliver us.

For the kingdoms of this world,
that they may become the Kingdom of our Lord and Christ
We pray to you, O Lord.

For your holy, catholic and apostolic Church,
that it may be one
We pray to you, O Lord.

For the witness of your faithful people,
that they may be lights in the world
We pray to you, O Lord.

For the poor, the persecuted, the sick and all who suffer;
that they may be relieved and protected
We pray to you, O Lord.

For the aged, for refugees and all in danger,
that they may be strengthened and defended
We pray to you, O Lord.

For those who walk in darkness and in the shadow of death,
that they may come to your eternal light
We pray to you, O Lord.

Father, source of light and life,
Grant the prayers of your faithful people,
and fill the world with your glory, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Between these two celebrations, two of us went for a short walk on the beach in Skerries and for lunch in the Olive, accompanied by the best double espressos served in Fingal.

Later in the afternoon, we went for a walk on the tiny, secluded horseshoe-shaped beach in Loughshinny, halfway between Skerries and Rush.

Watching the tide flow into the bay at Loughshinny in the dimming lights of the evening, and as I prayed this evening “for refugees and all in danger” and “those who walk in darkness and in the shadow of death,” it was impossible not to think about and pray for those who are caught in the waters of the Aegean Sea between the coast of Turkey and islands of Greece, or the refugees from Syria who became the victims of racism and Islamophobia when they reach other countries in northern Europe.

Good Lord, deliver us …

We pray to you, O Lord …

‘Let us pray that we may know
and share the light of Christ’

The Presentation depicted in a stained glass window in the north ambulatory in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

This is the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, and I am presiding at the Sung Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral later this morning [31 January 2016] at 11 a.m.

This morning’s preacher is the Rector of Rathfarnham, Canon Adrienne Galligan, and the setting is Missa Brevis S. Johannis de Deo by Franz Josef Haydn (1732–1809), sung by the Cathedral Choir.

The readings are: Jeremiah 1: 4-10; Psalm 48; 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13; and Luke 4: 21-30. The New Testament reading is familiar to many because part of it so popular as a reading at weddings:

1 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.

Our hymns this morning are: Processional Hymn: ‘Of the Father’s heart begotten,’ by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (ca 348-413) and translated by RF Davis (1866-1937); Offertory Hymn: ‘Sing how the age-long promise of a Saviour,’ by the editors of the New English Hymnal and based on a ninth century Latin text; Communion Hymn: ‘Faithful vigil ended,’ by Timothy Dudley–Smith; and Post-Communion Hymn: ‘Christ, whose glory fills the skies,’ Charles Wesley (1707-1788).

The Motet is by William Byrd (1539/40-1623), and is his ‘Magnificat Antiphon’ in his ‘Presentation Vespers’:

Hodie beata Virgo Maria puerum Jesum praesentavit in templo,
On this day, the Blessed Virgin Mary took the child Jesus when she went to the temple,
Et Simeon, repletus Spiritu Sancto, accepit eum in ulnas suas,
And Simeon, being filled with the Holy Spirit, receiv’d him in his arms,
Et benedixit Deum in aeternum.
And blessed God in eternity.

These hymns and the motet anticipate the Feast of the Candlemas, which falls on Tuesday [2 February] but, because of the Diocesan Clergy Conference in Kilkenny later this week, is being marked in the cathedral this evening at 5 p.m. with the Candlemas Procession sung by the Cathedral Choir.

The service sheet for this evening introduces the Candlemas Procession in these words:

Candlemas is the climax of the Christmas and Epiphany season. It is a feast rich in meaning, with several related themes running through it – presentation, purification, meeting, and light for the world. The various names by which it has been known in Christian history illustrate just how much it has to teach and to celebrate. But the true meaning of Candlemas is found in its ‘bitter-sweet’ nature. It is a feast day, and the revelation of the child Jesus in the Temple, greeted by Simeon and Anna, calls for rejoicing. Nevertheless, the prophetic words of Simeon, which speak of the falling and rising of many and the sword that will pierce Mary’s heart, lead on to the passion and to Easter. Coming at the very end of the Christmas celebration, with Lent nearly always nearby, Candlemas is a real pivot in the Christian year.

The Bidding Prayer says:

Dear friends, forty days have passed since we celebrated the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now we recall the day on which he was presented in the Temple, when he was offered to the Father and shown to his people. His mother was purified according to the custom of the time, and we now come to him for cleansing. In their old age Simeon and Anna recognised him as their Lord, as we today sing of his glory. We celebrate both the joy of his coming and his searching judgement, looking back to the day of his birth and forward to the coming days of his passion. So let us pray that we may know and share the light of Christ.

30 January 2016

A mediaeval churchyard and
the grave of a murdered viceroy

Lord Mayo’s grave and the old churchyard in Johnstown, Co Kildare (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

In recent months, I have been working on two chapters to a book on death in Ireland. The book is being edited by my friend and colleague, Professor Salvador Ryan of Maynooth, and I am writing about stories of death in the Irish way associated with the hymn writer Henry Francis Lyte and with the 6th Earl of Mayo.

This afternoon, two of us went to the village of Johnstown, north of Naas, Co Kildare, to photograph Lord Mayo’s grave and the old churchyard where he is buried.

Johnstown is just 2 km north of Naas, off the N7 at junction 8, and about 25 km from Dublin City Centre. It is close to racecourses like Naas, Punchestown and the Curragh ad so the surrounding countryside is the heart of the bloodstock industry, with many well-known Kildare stud farms.

The Main Street was once part of the main road between Dublin and Cork and Limerick. The main road eventually by-passed Johnstown in 1964 When the Naas Dual Carriageway was finished in 1964, Johnstown was bypassed, and Johnstown became a sleepy village.

But in recent decades Johnstown has been encircled by housing estates, so that it has become a commuter town too.

There is evidence of human activity in the area from early times, and the “holed” stone in a field at the southern end of the village is said to be astronomically aligned to the mid-summer solstice.

But this afternoon I was in search of the ruins of the mediaeval church. From the Middle Ages, this was a priory of the Knights Hospitaller of Saint John of Jerusalem, or the Knights of Rhodes, who give their name to the village, which was known in Irish as Fraoch Oileán.

The knights’ regional headquarters or commandery was at nearby Kilteel, and they also had an abbey in Naas.

Nearby Palmerstown takes its name from pilgrims who visited the Holy Land and brought sprigs of palm as a token of their pilgrimage or, perhaps, after a family named Palmer.

Palmerstown was one of the properties held by the Knights Hospitallers in Ireland and confirmed by Pope Innocent III in 1212.

Thomas Hibernicus of Palmerstown was living in the Monastery of Aquila in Italy in 1270. His major work was a collection of flores or “flowers) of wisdom” from nearly all the then European Doctors of Philosophy or Theology. His book became a reference work and was reprinted many times in the following centuries.

The octagonal base of a mediaeval baptismal font within the walls of the ruined church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

The Flatsbury or de Flatebry family owned Palmerstown as early as 1286, although the knights held on to the church at Johnstown. The old church has a number of mediaeval fragments, including a ruined piscina, the octagonal base of a mediaeval baptismal font, and a flat stone slab with carved with coats of arms representing the Wogan and Flatsbury families. This has been taken to be the grave slab of James Flatsbury who married Eleanor Wogan in 1436.

The grave slab of James Flatsbury and Eleanor Wogan, who were married in 1436 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

In 1503, Philip Flatsbury, a scholar and scribe, compiled The Red Book of Kildare for Garret ‘Og’ Fitzgerald, 9th Earl of Kildare. This book, which lists documents relating to the Fitzgerald estates, went missing after the Rebellion of ‘Silken Thomas,’ 10th Earl of Kildare, but is now in Trinity College Dublin.

The church has been in ruins since the 16th century, but continued to be a burial place for the Bourke family, Earls of Mayo. There are Bourke graves throughout the churchyard but it is best-known for the grave of the 6th Earl of Mayo, the viceroy who was killed in India in 1872.

In the 1641 Rebellion, James Flatesbury took the side of the Confederates, and his estates including Johnstown and Palmerstown, were confiscated. They were later granted to Theobald Bourke, third son of John Bourke, a Captain of Horse under the Duke of Ormond in the Confederate Wars. He had settled in Kill but moved to Palmerstown around 1688. He was the Sovereign (Mayor) of Naas in 1700, 1711 and 1724.

His nephew, John Bourke, acquired the titles of Lord Naas (1776), Viscount Mayo (1781) and Earl of Mayo (June 1785). Joseph Bourke, Archbishop of Tuam, succeeded as the third Earl of Mayo before he died in 1807.

The estate cottages in Johnstown built in the ‘Gothic Revival’ style in the 19th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

The charm of the village is enhanced by the estate cottages built in the ‘Gothic Revival’ style in the 19th century, and they are mentioned by William Makepeace Thackeray in his Irish Sketchbook in 1842.

The most famous member of the family was Richard Southwell Bourke (1822-1872), 6th Earl of Mayo. He was born in Dublin on 21 February 1822 and was known in earlier life as Lord Naas, and was the Chief Secretary of Ireland on three occasions between 1852 and 1866.

In 1868, the Disraeli government appointed him Governor-General and Viceroy of India, but he was assassinated there in February 1872. Before leaving for India he had chosen a place for his grave in Johnstown, and he is buried within the walls of the ruined church, under a Celtic cross.

The Celtic Cross and grave of Lord Mayo within the ruined mediaeval church in Johnstown (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

After his death, the government decided that a new Palmerstown House should be erected at public expense in his honour. The next owner of Palmerstown was Dermot Robert Wyndham Bourke, who was 21 when his father was assassinated and who succeeded him as 7th Earl of Mayo. In 1891, he was instrumental in convening a meeting in Palmerstown that led to setting up the Kildare Archaeological Society.

The seventh Earl of Mayo was appointed to the new Senate by the first Irish Free State Government in 1922. His house was burned down during the Civil War in January 1923. Lord Mayo received compensation and the house was re-built, and he lived in one of the gate lodges on the estate until the house was rebuilt. He moved to England soon after and died in a nursing home in London in December 1927.

Palmerstown House and stud were sold to WJ Kelly, a gentleman’s outfitter in Clanbrassil Street, Dublin, who was known to his friends as ‘Trousers’ Kelly. He established Palmerstown as one of the leading studs in Ireland.

Opposite the old churchyard, the Johnstown Inn was once a busy coaching stop. The first inn was built on this site in the 1640s, during the Confederate wars. It became known as the Mayo Arms and the Cork mail coach was stopped there and burned at the start of the 1798 Rising. In the 19th century, it was the meeting place of the Kildare Hunt. More recently, it was known as the Osta John Devoy.

From Johnstiown, we drove out into the countryside, through the stud farms and the open fields, past the racecourses at Punchestown and Naas, before eventually arriving in Newbridge, where we stopped for double espressos in the café at Newbridge Silverware.

Bourke family graves in the churchyard in Johnstown (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

An old photograph shows Comerford links
with FDR, the Kennedys and a Pope

In Hyde Park, New York, before meeting President Roosevelt in 1936 (left to right): Count Enrico Galeazzi, Joseph P Kennedy, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli (later Pope Pius XII), Bishop Stephen Donahue, Marvin H. McIntyre, and Frank Comerford Walker

Patrick Comerford

In recent days I came across a photograph taken 80 years ago during Cardinal Pacelli’s amazing flying visit to the US in 1936 to meet President Roosevelt. Pacelli later became Pope Pius XII, and although he was not yet Pope he became the first Pope to have ever visited the US at any time in his life.

Before the cardinal met Roosevelt in Hyde Park, he was photographed with a number of key figures involved in the visit, including Joseph P Kennedy, father of the Kennedy brothers, the amazing Count Enrico Galeazzi, and Frank Comerford Walker, the grandson of John Comerford, a Kilkenny-born emigrant whose descendants gave the Comerford family name to a large cinema chain in Pennsylvania.

Cardinal Pacelli visited the US for two weeks in October-November 1936 as the Vatican Secretary of State, and at the time he was the highest-ranking Catholic Church official ever to visit the US. During his visit, Pacelli met President Franklin D Roosevelt, investigated Roosevelt’s radio critic, Father Charles Coughlin, and visited New York City, Washington DC, Boston, Saint Paul, Minnesota, and Chicago.

The media nicknamed him “the Flying Cardinal” due to his five-day coast-to-coast air tour. Pacelli planned to silence Coughlin for Roosevelt in exchange for his support against Communism and in return for diplomatic recognition of the sovereignty of Vatican City.

The visit was so important to the Vatican that during Pacelli's absence from Rome Pope Pius XI cut short his holiday in the Castel Gandolfo and returned to the Vatican.

Pacelli finally met with Roosevelt at the president’s home in Hyde Park, New York, for two hours over lunch on 5 November, the day this photograph was taken. Pacelli congratulated Roosevelt on his election victory the previous day. At a press conference, Cardinal Spellman told the press corps that they were banned from asking any questions about Father Coughlin, and warned them Cardinal Pacelli would not answer such questions.

Frank Comerford Walker (1886-1959), who is seen in this photograph on the margins of this meeting between Rossevelt and the future Pope, was an American lawyer and politician. He later became the 51st US Postmaster General (1940-1945), and also served as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee (1943-1944).

He was born on 30 May 1886 in Plymouth, Pennsylvania. His father was David Walker (1848-1902), who was born in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, in October 1848 and who died on 7 May 1902 in Butte Silver Bow County, Montana. He was involved with mining interests in Butte until he died in 1902. His mother was Ellen Comerford Walker (1851-1916).

Ellen ‘Ella’ Comerford Walker was the eldest of ten children of John Comerford (ca 1820/1827-1880), who was born in Co Kilkenny. He was an anthracite coal miner who emigrated to the US, probably in the late 1840s. He married Catherine Devey, also from Co Kilkenny, in Saint Kieran’s Church, Heckscherville, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, in 1850. John died in 1880 and is buried in Saint Vincent de Paul Cemetery in Pennsylvania.

John and Catherine Comerford had ten children, five daughters and five sons. Their sons included Father Thomas J Comerford (1855-1924), who was a close friend of and baptised John Mitchell (1870-1919), President of the United Mine Workers’ Union, and Michael E Comerford (1865-1939), founder of the Comerford cinema chain.

Ella was the eldest daughter in this Comerford family, and was born in June 1851 in Heckscherville, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. She married David Walker (1848-1902) in Plymouth, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. They moved to Butte County, Montana, where they raised their six children:

● 1a, Katherine (1875-1950), who married John W Cotter (1861-1903), of Boston, Massacussetts.
● 2a, (Judge) Thomas Joseph Walker (1878-1945). Born 25 March 1878. Educated All Hallows’ College, Salt Lake City, Georgetown University (classical studies), and he University of Virginia (LL.B, 1902). In September 1940, he was appointed a judge of the US customs court in New York. He married on 7 June 1905 Maud Galen, daughter of Hugh and Matilda Galen of Helena. They had no children.
● 3a, Mary (Mollie) (1885-1945), married in 1934 Clyde Graves of Spokane.
● 4a, Frank Comerford Walker (1886-1959), US Postmaster General (1940-1945) and chairman of the Democratic National Committee (1943-1944).
● 5a, Nellie (1891-1940), of Butte, Montana, married John C Gaul (1886-1950), and had a daughter and a son: Ellen M Gaul (1915-1997), who married firstly, James Walter Smart (died 1951), and secondly Everett Earl Crawford (1909-1980); and James Walker Gaul (1922-2010).
● 6a, Margaret Petronella (Pet) (1893-1963); educated Saint Patrick’s School, Butte, Montana, and Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart, Purchase, New York; she married John J McCarthy of Boston and Greenwich, Connecticut.

Ella (Comerford) and David Walker are buried in Saint Patrick’s Cemetery, Butte, Silver Bow County, Montana.

Their second son, Frank Comerford Walker, entered Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, in 1906, and earned a law degree from Notre Dame Law School in 1909. He then joined his older brother Thomas in a law practice in Butte, Montana. In 1913, he was elected to a term as a Montana state representative.

During World War I, Walker volunteered for the US Army. He became a first lieutenant and saw action on the Western Front. After the war, he returned to his law practice in Montana.

The two Walker brothers had an impressive list of clients from the railroad and mining industries. Frank developed his political skill and genius in the period known as the “Copper Wars,” when capital and labour battled openly in the mining industry. He developed an astute political mind through experience with political figures like the great Senator from Montana, Thomas ‘Tea Pot Dome’ Walsh, who was his mentor and friend for over 30 years.

Michael E Comerford (1865-1939) ... cinema chain proprietor and uncle of Frank Comerford Walker

In 1925, Frank moved to New York City, where he become manager and general counsel of Comerford Theaters, a chain of cinemas owned by his uncle Michael E Comerford (1865-1939).

In New York, he expanded his political activities, and he supported Franklin D Roosevelt’s campaigns for governor in 1928. In 1931, he co-founded the Roosevelt for President Society. In 1932, he became Treasurer of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), and until Roosevelt’s death, he was one of his closest advisers.

When Roosevelt became President in 1933, he appointed Walker executive secretary of the National Emergency Council, a New Deal agency related to the NRA.

He was responsible for drafting the 1934 Housing Bill which had an impact on the depressed construction industry, creating the Federal Housing Authority, benefiting the dispossessed and homeless, bailing out farmers, enabling the mortgage industry to recover, and creating jobs for the unemployed.

He was appointed Postmaster General on 10 September 1940, succeeding James Farley, who had also chaired the DNC and was Roosevelt’s campaign manager.

As Postmaster General, he established the V-mail system to reduce the weight and bulk of mail to US troops abroad and expanded the delivery of mail to rural areas throughout the US. While he was Postmaster General, he continued his role as political adviser, often taking part in matters far removed from the Post Office. For instance, during the negotiations before the attack on Pearl Harbor December 1941, he was in regular contact with the Japanese Ambassador, Admiral Kichisaburō Nomura.

During World War II, Walker helped FDR educate an isolationist population in the US about the world, Lend Lease, Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo. With the erosion of human rights and “human dignity held hostage” in Europe and Asia, Walker stepped to the fore. His speeches were broadcast nationally.

Roosevelt and Walker fought hard against the Republican Party’s platform of isolation. Their warnings of German aggression and stories of the Holocaust were limited by partisan Republican politics.

In 1943, Walker also became chairman of the DNC, serving until 1944. In 1944, he stepped down from the DNC, and was succeeded by Robert Hannegan.

In May 1945, Walker announced his retirement as Postmaster General, to allow President Harry Truman to appoint his own candidate to the office. Truman selected Hannegan to succeed Walker and later in 1945, he appointed Walker a member of the US delegation to the United Nations General Assembly at its first session in London.

Later he returned to his business interests in New York as director of WR Grace & Co and the Grace National Bank of New York. Frank Comerford Walker also served on the Board of Lay Trustees of Notre Dame University, worked for the Notre Dame Foundation, and was a member of the Notre Dame Club of New York. He was given an honorary degree in 1934 and the University’s Laetare Medal in 1948.

He died in New York City on September 13, 1959, at the age of 73.

He married Hallie V Boucher (1892-1969), daughter of Frank Boucher and Laura (Adams) of Butte, Montana. She was born on 28 August 1892 in Butte, Montana, and died on 9 December 1969 in Greenwich, Connecticut. They are both buried in Saint Patrick’s Cemetery, Butte, Montana.

Frank Comerford Walker donated his papers to the Archives of the University of Notre Dame in 1948, although the entire collection was not transferred until after his death.

An oral history was conducted with his son and daughter, Thomas J Walker and Laura Walker Jenkins in 1990.

His grandson, TJ Walker, who lives in North Carolina, says that “in many ways [Frank Comerford Walker was] an initiator and overseer of the New Deal.” His story “may be of benefit to our challenged and hero-starved democracy. His example could help to foster another (21st century) course-correction through a greater and deeper awareness of the FDR legacy.”

A compelling part of the story is the personal friendship between FDR and FCW – a friendship that was uncharacteristic of Roosevelt’s relationship with most other colleagues. They shared similar political philosophies and party politics from the time they first met in Montana. They made speeches for each other, travelled the country together, and shared many friends.

His life, his deeds and his speeches depict many of the humanitarian concepts and ethics of the New Deal he helped to bring to fruition as aide to FDR. His great record of service and his special, if not secret, relationship with Roosevelt is, however, missing from the commonly known history of the FDR administration.

29 January 2016

A late lunch in a literary
café in a laneway in Bray

Caffé Letterario Gatta Nera is one of Bray’s charming, hidden treasures (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

Another wave of storms in the shape of Storm Gertrude is sweeping across these islands, and on a cold, wet and blustery afternoon, three of us went for a late lunch today in Caffé Letterario Gatta Nera in Bray.

This authentic Italian literary café is hidden away in Albert Walk, a laneway behind the railway line, just south of the Dart station. The walls are lined with books, many of them in Italian or art books, and with the sleeves of old LP records.

It is a small, cosy and welcoming place, and one of Bray’s charming, hidden treasures.

A wide range of Italian wines (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

They make their own soups and much of their own food according to Italian traditions. Caffé Letterario also sells a wide range of Italian wines and foods, including cheese, chocolate, coffees, pasta, biscuits, marmalade and honey made by Libera Terra, a powerful statement of Italian values that I came across in Sicily last summer:

Last summer, the owners organised a ‘Sicilian Week’ around their selection of Sicilian wine, including Nero D’Avola, Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Grillo, Cataratto/Chardonnay and Regaleali Bianco.

But this is not just a place to eat and drink. The café also organises evenings with live music, readings, and language exchanges to encourage Italian conversation.

Next Wednesday [3 February 2016] there is an Italian/English exchange evening, the perfect opportunity for people who want to test, practice or improve their Italian – and for people who simply likes the sound of Italian.

Wine by the glass (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Updated: 1 February 2016, correcting the name of Albert Walk

Andrei Rublev: the icon writer who
became a saint and theologian

Andrei Rublev’s icon of the Holy Trinity … he is commemorated on 29 January in Church Calendars

Patrick Comerford

One of the most-visited quiet corners of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, is the side chapel in the south-east corner where there is a large copy of Andrei Rublev’s icon of the Holy Trinity.

Andrei Rublev (Андре́й Рублёв), who is regarded as the greatest mediaeval Russian author of Orthodox icons and frescos, is commemorated today [29 January] in many Church calendars.

Tradition says Rublev was born in the 1360s, but we have little information about his life, and we do not know when or where he was born.

He probably lived in the Trinity Lavra of Saint Sergius near Moscow under Nikon of Radonezh, who became the hegumen or abbot after the death of Saint Sergius of Radonezh in 1392.

Rublev is first referred to in 1405 when he decorated icons and frescos for the Cathedral of the Annunciation in the Kremlin in Moscow, working alongside Theophanes the Greek and Prokhor of Gorodets.

Theophanes the Greek was an important Byzantine master who moved to Russia, and is considered to have trained Rublev. Rublev’s name is the last on the list of the masters because he was the junior among them, both by rank and by age.

Rublev and Daniil Cherni painted the Assumption Cathedral in Vladimir in 1408 as well as the Trinity Cathedral in the Trinity Lavra of Saint Sergius between 1425 and 1427.

After Daniil’s death, Rublev came to the Andronikov Monastery in Moscow where he painted his last work, the frescoes of the Saviour Cathedral. He is also believed to have painted at least one of the miniatures in the Khitrovo Gospels.

Rublev died at the Andronikov Monastery in Moscow on this day, 29 January, in 1427or 1430, although some sources give the date of his death as 17 October 1428.

A modern icon of Andrei Rublev

Rublev’s work has influenced many artists and theologians. However, the only work authenticated as entirely his is the icon of the Visitation of Abraham or the Old Testament Trinity. This dates from ca 1410, and is now in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

This icon is based on an earlier icon known as the “Hospitality of Abraham,” based on the story in Genesis 18. Rublev removed the figures of Abraham and Sarah from the scene, and through a subtle use of composition and symbolism changed the subject to focus on the Mystery of the Trinity.

Rublev combines two traditions in his work: the highest asceticism and the classic harmony of Byzantine mannerism. His paintings are always characterised by peacefulness and calm. His work is often regarded as the ideal of Eastern Church painting and of Orthodox iconography.

Andrei Tarkovsky’s film, Andrei Rublev, made 50 years ago in 1966, is loosely based on his life. This is probably the only film produced in the Soviet era to treat the artist as a major figure in Christian history and as an axiom of Russia’s historical identity.

The Russian Orthodox Church canonised Rublev as a saint in 1988, and celebrated his feast day on this day, 29 January. The liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (TEC) also commemorates Rublev today.

The copy of Andrei Rublev’s icon of the Holy Trinity in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

28 January 2016

Beginning to prepare reflections
in Lent with Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) ... a portrait by Joshua Reynolds

Patrick Comerford

At the celebration of the Eucharist last night [27 January 2016], I was conscious that the Christmas season is coming to an end. I am presiding at the Eucharist again on Sunday morning [31 January 2016] in Christ Church Cathedral, and the Christmas Season comes to an end on Tuesday with our celebrations of Candlemas or the Feast of the Presentation. Lent comes early this year, because of the early date for Easter, and I have started to prepare my daily meditations for the Season of Lent.

My reflections each morning last Advent and during Christmas were assisted by hymns, carols, songs and other compositions by the great English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), and our Gradual last night was ‘Rise and hear! The Lord is speaking’ by Canon Howard Gaunt (1902-1983), set to the tune ‘Sussex’ by Vaughan Williams, which is better known as the setting for ‘Father, hear the prayer we offer.’

In previous years, my Lenten reflections have journeyed with the saints (2013), looked at Lent in Art (2014), or reflected on the music of Vaughan Williams (2015).

This year, I am planning to take time each morning to reflect on words from Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the Lichfield lexicographer and writer who compiled the first authoritative English-language dictionary.

Perhaps I am sympathetic to Johnson because of his origins in Lichfield. Perhaps I am drawn to him because he recalled that when he lived in in London he went “every day to a coffee-house.” But he was also a pious Anglican, a regular communicant, and he writes regularly and carefully about his observance of Lent and Easter.

At early age, his mother encouraged him to learn the Book of Common Prayer by heart, including its many rich Lenten collects. The Book of Common Prayer invites us “to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and Repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word.”

Lent this year begins in less than a fortnight [10 February 2016], when I plan to begin these daily reflections. Samuel Johnson once declared, through his amanuensis James Boswell, that unless we set aside certain days for particular remembrances, we will probably fail to remember.

During Lent this year I have plans for a working visit to London and for a family return visit to Lichfield, so I hope my reflections and the accompanying photographs draw from those experiences too.

What shall I say? Perhaps it might be more appropriate to ask what Dr Johnson says. But I shall not keep you waiting too long, for Samuel Johnson once wrote on this day [28 January] in 1752 in The Rambler: “He that long delays a story, and suffers his auditor to torment himself with expectation, will seldom be able to recompense the uneasiness, or equal the hope which he suffers to be raised.”

Wait for a few days, but not for too long, and join me for the first of my Lenten reflections with Samuel Johnson on Ash Wednesday.

27 January 2016

Some tips for research and writing:
making it all ‘As Easy as Pie’

‘As Easy as Pie’ … set out our project like you would set out the ingredients and recipe for baking a cake

Patrick Comerford

1, Don’t panic:

Start in time and pace yourself. A good jockey in a race knows how many furlongs there are to the end, and how many fences are left to jump. You would not bake a cake without first setting out your ingredients, and setting out the baking instructions in the recipe.

Work out how long you have to complete your task, and work out the stages you have to pass through by particular days or weeks. If you are still researching your topic with only a week or two to go for submitting your dissertation, or a day or two to go to submitting your essay, then you have not paced your research.

And if the deadline is looming, and you are behind in the race, you start to panic. When we are running and panicking we are most likely to trip and fall.

Preparing the ingredients, understanding the baking instructions, having a recipe in front of you means it all ought to be as “Easy as Pie”

2, Don’t put it off:

You can spend a lot of time, thinking about a topic, mulling it over, or even delaying your reading and writing because the task seems so daunting. Set aside time each day for reading and time each day for writing. They will accumulate over the days and weeks, and it also means your project will seep into the back of your mind, so you can live with it without panicking.

3, Don’t roll it all out:

It is very tempting to repeat everything you have read and learned about a research topic. But just because you have stumbled across it does not make it original, interesting or even exciting. Part of a researcher’s skill is sifting and showing discernment.

4, Don’t hide behind the thinking of others:

Too often it is easy to write an essay as a string of quotations and citations, and then think because they have been placed in a correct order you have made a cogent argument. Not so. I want to know what you think, I want to know whether you agree or not, and why. There is no point in saying something like: “Moltmann is correct when he says …” Tell me why you think he is correct to say so.

5, Don’t rush in:

Don’t set about writing a paper because you find the topic interesting. Read around it for a while before settling on your topic. This is particularly true for a dissertation topic. If you are going to eat, sleep, drink and walk with a topic for 9-12 months, make sure it is one you are happy to live with, not one you wish you could get a quick divorce from.

6, Don’t lose your focus:

Keep your eye on the research title. Too often we are inclined to see words in an essay title, for example, that appeal to us, and then use those words to hang everything we know on one issue on them. Research topics are not a washing line. Focus on the topic in hand, keep your eyes on it, and do not be distracted by extraneous topics.

7, Don’t get fixed on words and length:

‘Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width’ … never mind the quantity, pay attention to the quality of your research and its presentation

When it comes to essays, I have sometimes heard student say things like “I have only another 500/400/300/100 to write.” There was a 1960s television sitcom series about an Irish and a Jewish tailor, Never Mind the Quality, feel the Width. I can assure you will get more marks for quality in your essay or dissertation than for the quantity of words. Albert Einstein was able to express a major thought in a simple formula: E = mc2.

Albert Einstein put it simply and succinctly

8, Don’t restrict your reading:

If you do not read, you cannot allow other people’s ideas to reach out to you and inhabit your space. If you search only on the internet or on your Kindle for the books you already know fit your bill, you are not engaging in reading and research – you are engaging in proof texting. Don’t just browse the internet, browse the open shelves in the library, read beyond your comfort zone. Be challenged, be open to being challenged. Otherwise the Church will not be challenged by what you have to say. A limited bibliography is a sign of a closed mind.

9, Don’t repeat the lecture notes:

If you choose a topic that has been covered in your lectures, and you then reference and footnote the online lecture notes, I am going to say: “So what? I know this already. I told you so.”

10, Don’t generalise:

There is a song by Leonard Cohen, Everybody Knows. Don’t tell me “Everybody knows.” Well, if it is, why did you state it? “It is well known …, all Christians believe, … It is right and proper, … it is meek and right so to do …” Why? Give me reasons. Or was your research not completed?

11, Don’t co-opt your reader:

Generalisations can stoop to co-opting your reader. It is only one step to move from saying “Everyone knows” to saying “Every Christian believes.” Remember your essays and dissertations are being written first for the university, and secondly for the general public. If you say something like “Every Christian believes,” I may arch my back and say: “Oh no I don’t …” and quickly find places where I do not accept your other premises.

12, Don’t miss out on basic details:

Facts are not facts unless they are referenced. And references are fictional if they are not factual. If you are presenting statistical analysis, make sure your calculations add up, and are numbered properly. If you quote an author, get the author’s name right, and the title of the book, and the publisher’s name, and the place of publication, and the date of publication. An author may have changed his/her view in a later edition. Use the most up-to-date version of books, especially standard reference books in your field.

13, Don’t show me you don’t care:

Getting basic facts wrong shows me don not care about your topic. You might ask: “Does it really matter?” If you find yourself asking that question, you really don’t care.

14, Don’t forget your language:

It is easy to stoop to folk-language and colloquialism. It may work at home, but it does not work here, and it does not work with the external examiner, or with the general reader. The best way to improve your English is to read. Don’t just read to mine facts and information for your research. Notice how other people write, and which writing styles you find easy to read.

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. These notes were prepared for a seminar on research and writing with Year II MTh students on 27 January 2016.

A note on this evening’s hymns
and the story of ‘Mavourneen’

Jesus rejected in the Synagogue … James Tissot (1836-1902)

Patrick Comerford

I am presiding at the Community Eucharist in the chapel of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute this evening [27 January], and the Revd Dr William Olhausen is the preacher.

We are using the Readings, Collect and Post-Communion Prayer of the Third Sunday after the Epiphany: Nehemiah 8: 1-3, 5-6, 8-10; Psalm 19; I Corinthians 12: 12-31a; and Luke 4: 14-21.

The booklet prepared for this evening includes two illustrations of the Gospel reading.

The cover image of ‘Jesus rejected in the Synagogue’ is a painting by the French artist James Tissot (1836-1902). He was born Jacques Joseph Tissot in Nantes on 15 October 1836 but he Anglicised his name while he was still in his teens. He was a successful painter of Paris society before moving to London in 1871. He became famous as a genre painter of fashionably dressed women shown in various scenes of everyday life. He also painted scenes and characters from the Bible.

Tissot’s mother, Marie Durand, was a devout Catholic who instilled pious devotion in her son at a very young age. In 1856 or 1857, he moved to study in Paris where he stayed with his mother’s friend, the painter Elie Delaunay. There too he got to know the American painter James McNeill Whistler and the French painters Edgar Degas and Édouard Manet.

He took part in the Franco-Prussian War as part of the Paris Commune in the defence of Paris. Perhaps because of these radical political associations, he left Paris in 1871 for London, where he worked as a caricaturist for Vanity Fair and exhibited at the Royal Academy. In London, he lived in Grove End Road in Saint John's Wood, an area then popular with artists, and his work was snatched up by wealthy British industrialists.

Around 1875 or 1876, Tissot met Kathleen Newton, a divorcee who became his companion, his frequent model, his muse and the love of his life. Kathleen ‘Kate’ Newton (1854-1882) was born Kathleen Irene Ashburnham Kelly into an Irish Catholic medical family: her father, Charles Frederick Ashburnham Kelly, was an Irish army officer who was employed by the East India Company in Lahore; her mother, Flora Boyd, was also from Ireland.

Kathleen was raised in Agra and Lahore in India, and when she was 16 she married Isaac Newton, a surgeon with the Indian Civil Service, in January 1870. But even before their marriage was consummated, Newton began divorce proceedings, alleging she had an affair on the passage to India with a Captain Palliser, who never actually seduced her. Her jealous husband sent her back to England. In London she met Tissot, and when she was 23 she posed in 1877 for his painting ‘Mavourneen,’ a title inspired by a term of endearment derived from the Irish mo mhuirnín (“my dear one”), and possibly a reference to ‘Kathleen Mavourneen,’ a popular song and play first staged in London in 1876.

Tissot was fascinated by the conflict of her Irish Catholic background, her divorce and her status as the unmarried mother of two children. She moved into his house in 1876, and they had a son, Cecil George Newton Ashburnham.

Tissot described their life together as ‘domestic bliss,’ and she lived with him until her death in November 1882. When she was diagnosed with tuberculosis, she feared she would be a burden on Tissot and overdosed on Laudanum. When she died, a grieving Tissot sat by her coffin for four days.

After Kathleen’s death, Tissot returned to Paris, and a revival of his Catholic faith in 1885 led him to spend the rest of his life painting Biblical scenes and events, and this evening’s cover painting was completed in 1894. To help his completion of biblical scenes, he travelled to the Middle East in 1886, 1889 and 1896 to study the landscape and the people. His series of 365 illustrations of the life of Christ were shown to critical acclaim and enthusiastic audiences in Paris (1894-1895), London (1896) and New York (1898-1899), before being bought by the Brooklyn Museum in 1900. He spent his last years working on paintings of Old Testament subjects and themes. He died on 8 August 1902.

Christ preaching in the synagogue, Visoki Decani Monastery, Serbia, 14th century

The back cover of this evening’s brochure is illustrated with a 14th century fresco of Christ preaching in the synagogue from the Serbian Orthodox Monastery of Visoki Decani in Kosovo.

The church has a five-nave naos, a three-part iconostasis, and a three-nave parvise. The portals, windows, consoles and capitals are richly decorated. Christ the Judge is shown surrounded by angels in the western part of the Church. Its 20 major cycles of fresco murals represent the largest preserved gallery of Serbian mediaeval art, featuring over 1,000 compositions and several thousand portraits.

The brochure also includes the following:

A note on this evening’s service and hymns:

This evening’s readings, collect and post-communion prayer are those for last Sunday, the Third Sunday after the Epiphany. Two of our hymns this evening are from the new supplemental hymnal, Thanks & Praise.

Processional Hymn: ‘O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness’ (Church Hymnal, 196) by John SB Maunsell (1811-1875), who was born in Derry, the son of Archdeacon Thomas Bewley Monsell. He served in the dioceses of Derry and Connor for almost 20 years before moving to England, and built or rebuilt three churches. He died when he fell from the roof of Saint Nicholas’s Church, Guildford, while it was being rebuilt. This hymn is based on Psalm 96 and I Chronicles 16. It was written as an Epiphany hymn, but is also popular as a processional hymn.

Gloria: ‘Glory to God’ (Thanks & Praise, 196) is a Peruvian liturgical version of the canticle Gloria in Excelsis Deo, set to a Peruvian traditional chant. It was collected by John Ballantine.

Gradual:‘Rise and hear! The Lord is speaking’ (Church Hymnal, 385) is by Canon Howard Gaunt (1902-1983), a school headmaster and hymn writer who also played county cricket for Warwickshire. The tune ‘Sussex’ by Ralph Vaughan Williams is better known as the setting for ‘Father, hear the prayer we offer’ (Church Hymnal, 645).

Offertory: ‘The feast is ready’ (Church Hymnal, 448) was written by Graham Kendrick for the musical event ‘Make Way for the Cross.’ The music is arranged by Christopher Norton, the composer of the ‘Microjazz’ series, and Alison Cadden, who has been organist of Lisburn Cathedral and Shankill Parish Church, Lurgan.

Communion Hymn: As we receive Holy Communion, we sing ‘Jesus, remember me’ (Church Hymnal, 617), by Jacques Berthier (1923-1994) and the Taizé Community. Berthier, working with Father Robert Giscard and Father Joseph Gelineau, developed the ‘songs of Taizé’ genre. He composed 284 songs and accompaniments for Taizé, including Laudate omnes gentes and Ubi Caritas.

Post Communion Hymn: ‘Go at the call of God’ (Thanks & Praise, 42) is by Canon Rosalind Brown was first published in Being a Priest Today (2002), which she co-wrote with Bishop Christopher Cocksworth. She is a Residentiary Canon and Canon Librarian of Durham Cathedral, and a weekly columnist in the Church Times. The tune Diademata by Sir George Job Elvey (1816-1893), was originally written for ‘Crown him with many crowns’ (Church Hymnal, 263) by Matthew Bridges and Godfrey Thring.

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty God,
whose Son revealed in signs and miracles
the wonder of your saving presence:
Renew your people with your heavenly grace,
and in all our weakness
sustain us by your mighty power;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Post-Communion Prayer:

Almighty Father,
your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ is the light of the world.
May your people,
illumined by your word and sacraments,
shine with the radiance of his glory,
that he may be known, worshipped,
and obeyed to the ends of the earth;
for he is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

26 January 2016

Memories of the Holocaust, and
today’s refugee crisis in Europe

‘Each pair of shoes belonged to one person. Every person had a name …’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

My parents waited until World War II was over to get married in September 1945, and I was born 6 ½ years after the end of the war. Long before that, my grandfather, his brothers and his cousins, lived at different times in the ‘Little Jerusalem’ area of Dublin that was centred on Clanbrassil Street.

In the short space of a half century or little more, immediate members of this one branch of the Comerford family had addresses in at least 15 houses in Lower and Upper Clanbrassil Street. Many more lived at different times in the same era in houses in the warren of streets off Clanbrassil Street, in Little Jerusalem, in Portobello and around Charlemont Street. If I add to their names their in-laws, their cousins and their nieces and nephews, it must have been impossible to walk along Clanbrassil Street any time of night or day over 100 years ago without meeting either someone who was Jewish or another member of the Comerford family.

Holocaust Memorial Day is commemorated tomorrow [27 January], the date when the concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated 71 years ago, on 27 January 1945.

On Sunday evening [24 January 2016], I was a guest at the National Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration in the Mansion House, Dublin.

In his address, the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, said all who are fleeing war and terror must be treated with compassion and respect according to human rights under international conventions and the law. He challenged us to draw parallels between the failure of European states to offer sanctuary to Jews during the Holocaust and the refugee crisis facing Europe today.

He recalled that in 1938, Ireland and 26 other states gathered at the Évian conference to consider the plight of Jewish refugees fleeing persecution by Nazi Germany, but that Europe “closed its borders to the men, women and children facing them.”

“Today with the refugee crisis from Syria, the men, women and children are from another faith, but Europe shares with them something so profound, both estimable and inestimable: our common humanity. If we keep our focus on that, there can be no ‘them’, only ‘us’,” the Taoiseach said.

Albert Sutton and Rebecca Murray speak about the liberation of the camps in 1945 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Three Holocaust survivors now living in Ireland – Suzi Diamond, Jan Kaminski and Tomi Reichental – were present on Sunday night. Mr Kenny said that as the survivors of the Shoah grew fewer in number their testimony became even more important: “I am struck by how for each of them they don’t as much tell their story, as relive it. And we are privileged to be in their presence.”

Tomi Reichental, who was born in Slovakia in 1935, told us of how he was captured by the Nazis when he was a nine-year-old boy. He and his family were herded into a cattle car and “treated like animals” until, seven days later, the doors opened and they were faced with shouting SS men and barking Alsatians.

At Bergen-Belsen, he watched people die of disease and the cold in horrific conditions. “Seventy-thousand prisoners of Bergen-Belsen are buried there in unmarked graves. I lost 35 members of my family in the Holocaust,” he said.

Jan Kaminski, who came to Ireland as a political refugee, had his “entire family wiped out” in the Holocaust. His daughter Jadzia Kaminska told his story. He was born in the small town of Bilgoraj in south-east Poland. I once worked with his son Jas in The Irish Times, and Jan only revealed his original Jewish identity to his family about 25 years ago. Today, a modest project of Jewish revival is taking place in Bilgoraj, but no traces of his direct family have ever been found.

Suzi Diamond, who was born in Hungary in 1942, was a small infant when she was deported first to Ravensbruck and then to Bergen Belsen. Bob Collis brought Suzi and her brother Terry to Ireland in 1945, and they were adopted by a Jewish couple in Dublin, Elsie and Willie Samuels.

After her brother died in 2007, she thought she had no surviving family members. But things changed over the last two years when she visited Hungary, met her first cousins, saw her grandfather’s house in Karcag, visited the Jewish cemetery where her grandparents are buried, and visited the synagogue where all her family prayed – 778 Jews lived in Karcag before World War II; 461 of them were murdered in the Holocaust.

“There is a memorial scroll on the synagogue wall recalling the Jews from Karcag who perished in the Holocaust,” she said. “My family is listed on it, but now the scroll has to be corrected because my brother and I survived.”

Sue Conlan of the Refugee Council drew connections between boats that carried Jewish refugees to the US and Turkey, only to be refused permission to land, and those that bring refugees from Syria and elsewhere to Europe’s southern shores today. “Not a lot has changed in the past 75 years,” she said.

The ceremony, organised by the Holocaust Education Trust Ireland, was also addressed by Chief Justice Susan Denham, former president Mary Robinson, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, the Ambassador of Israel, Ze’ev Boker, the writer Sebastian Barry and the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Críona Ní Dhálaigh.

Charlie Flanagan said: “The National Holocaust Memorial Commemoration provides a valuable opportunity for us to remember the lives of the over 11 million men, women and children who suffered in the most harrowing way imaginable during a time which is in living memory for some.”

Lighting candles in memory of the victims of the Holocaust (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

He said the Holocaust was the “most extreme manifestation of intolerance and hatred of difference”, and warned that it must never be forgotten. “It must, indeed, be in our minds, when confronting intolerance, persecution and hatred in the world of today.” he said.

Candles were lit in memory of the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust, and candles were also lit to remember the other victims of the Nazis and their collaborators, including 300,000 people with disabilities, more than 3 million Poles and Slavs, thousands of black people, members of other ethnic minorities, 250,000-300,000 Roma or Sinit people (Gypsies), an unknown number of homosexuals, the political victims and Christian victims.

The figures are impossible to grasp. Of the 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, 165,200 were from Germany, 3 million were from Poland, almost 1 million from the Soviet Union, over half a million from Hungary and over one-third of a million from Romania. In Greece, 58,885 of the country’s 77,000 Jews, or over 76% of the Greek Jewish population, was wiped out. The Jewish community in Greece dates back to before Roman times.

Other speakers and readers included Albert Sutton, a World War II veteran who was involved in the liberation of the concentration camps, and Mark Leslie from Glaslough, Co Monaghan, whose mother, the actress Agnes Bernelle (1923-1999), was born Agnes Elizabeth Bernauer in Berlin, and fled Germany as a young teenager with her family in 1936.

Reading the names of the victims (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Pupils from four schools – Stratford College, Dublin, Laurel Hill Coláiste FCJ, Limerick, Coláiste Dhúlaigh, Dublin, and Newtown School, Waterford – read a scroll of victims’ names.

Sunday night’s ceremony also recalled the Armenian genocide, when over one million people were murdered between 1915 and 1923, and more recent genocides including Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

During a musical interlude, we heard Rivkele, the Sabbath Wife, sung by Carl Nelkin, accompanied by Mary Barnecutt on the cello. This is a sad love song in Yiddish by Pesach Kaplan, and tells the story of a woman who continued to hope for her husband’s return.

The evening closed with El Malay Rachamim or prayers for the repose of the souls of the departed, led by Rabbi Zalman Len and Cantor Alwyn Shulman of the Irish Jewish community.

Later, I met the grandchildren of other people who had lived in Dublin’s ‘Little Jerusalem’ once again. But there were other memories to take home.

25 January 2016

Anglican Studies (2015-2016) 2.2: the
challenges facing Anglicanism today

The Anglican Primates at their meeting in Canterbury earlier this month (Photograph: ACNS)

Patrick Comerford

The Church of Ireland Theological Institute

MTh Year II

TH 8825: Anglican Studies in an Irish context:

Mondays: 10.30 a.m. to 1 p.m., The Hartin Room.

Monday 25 January 2016

The challenges facing the communion of global Anglicanism today, including the Anglican Covenant.

Part 1: The present challenges:

Paul Avis, in his recent book, The Identity of Anglicanism, concludes his chapter on ‘Anglican Ecclesiology in the Twenty-first Century’ with this assessment of the state of Anglicanism today:

“Anglicanism does indeed attempt to hold together elements that are opposed in other traditions – though not without strains. It defines itself as catholic and reformed; orthodox in doctrine yet open to change in its application. Its polity is both episcopal (and its bishops have real authority) and synodical – an unusual combination in a church that has maintained the historic episcopate. It acknowledges an ecumenical council as the highest authority in the Church, but is not opposed in principle to a universal primacy and virtually never has been. It confesses the paramount authority of Scripture, but reveres tradition and harkens to the voice of culture and science. It tries to be neither centralized nor fragmented, neither authoritarian nor anarchic. It is comprehensive without being relativistic. This interesting experiment has endured and evolved for nearly five centuries; in spite of the present difficulties, I believe it is worth persevering with.” [Paul Avis, The Identity of Anglicanism: Essentials of Anglican Ecclesiology (London: T&T Clark, 2007), pp 168-169.]

But given the present difficulties, can Anglicanism persevere?

Indeed, we might ask, can it survive?

And what is holding Anglicanism together at this present moment?

Last week we looked at the present state of the Anglican Communion, and outlined the four “Instruments of Communion.” Traditionally there have been four instruments of unity, now known as the “Instruments of Communion”:

● The Archbishop of Canterbury, who calls and convenes the Lambeth Conference and the Primates’ meetings, and who presides at the meetings of the Anglican Consultative Council – although the ACC has its own chair and vice-chair. He is often referred to as a “focus of unity.”

● The Lambeth Conference, first called in 1867 and now meeting every 10 years – the last meeting was in Canterbury in 2008, and the Archbishop of Canterbury intends to call the next meeting in 2010.

● The Anglican Consultative Council, formed in 1968. Its last meeting, ACC-15, was held in New Zealand at the end of 2012, and it meets again later this year [8-20 April 2016] in Lusaka, Zambia. The Church of Ireland members are the Revd Dr Maurice Elliott (Director of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute) and Mr Wilfred Baker, the former Cork Diocesan Secretary.

● The Primates’ Meetings, which take place every two or three years. They last met the week before last [11-15 January 2016] in Canterbury. Their previous meeting was in the Emmaus Retreat Centre in Swords, Co Dublin, in January 2011, and the three meetings before that were in Alexandria, Egypt (February 2009), Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (February 2007), and Dromantine, near Newry (2006).

Let us look at each of these instruments of communion, and see what are the challenges facing the communion of global Anglicanism today, and then discuss the Anglican Covenant.

The challenges

At their meeting in Canterbuty the week before last [11 to 15 January 2016], the Anglican primates issued the following statement:

Communiqué from the Primates, 15 January 2016


Walking Together in the Service of God in the World

The meeting of Anglican Primates, the senior bishops of the 38 Anglican Provinces, joined by the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of North America, took place in Canterbury between Monday 11 January and Friday 15 January at the invitation of Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The first morning was spent in prayer and fasting.

We came knowing that the 2016 Primates’ meeting would be concerned with the differences among us in regard to our teaching on matters of human sexuality. We were also eager to address wider areas of concern.

The meeting started by agreeing the agenda. The first agreed item was to discuss an important point of contention among Anglicans worldwide: the recent change to the doctrine of marriage by The Episcopal Church in the USA.

Over the past week the unanimous decision of the Primates was to walk together, however painful this is, and despite our differences, as a deep expression of our unity in the body of Christ. We looked at what that meant in practical terms. We received the recommendation of a working group of our members which took up the task of how our Anglican Communion of Churches might walk together and our unity be strengthened. Their work, consistent with previous statements of the Primates’ meetings, addressed what consequences follow for The Episcopal Church in relation to the Anglican Communion following its recent change of marriage doctrine.

The recommendations in paragraphs 7 and 8 of the Addendum A below are:

“It is our unanimous desire to walk together. However given the seriousness of these matters we formally acknowledge this distance by requiring that for a period of three years The Episcopal Church no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.

“We have asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to appoint a Task Group to maintain conversation among ourselves with the intention of restoration of relationship, the rebuilding of mutual trust, healing the legacy of hurt, recognising the extent of our commonality and exploring our deep differences, ensuring they are held between us in the love and grace of Christ.”

These recommendations were adopted by the majority of the Primates present.

We will develop this process so that it can also be applied when any unilateral decisions on matters of doctrine and polity are taken that threaten our unity.

The Primates condemned homophobic prejudice and violence and resolved to work together to offer pastoral care and loving service irrespective of sexual orientation. This conviction arises out of our discipleship of Jesus Christ. The Primates reaffirmed their rejection of criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people.

The Primates recognise that the Christian church and within it the Anglican Communion have often acted in a way towards people on the basis of their sexual orientation that has caused deep hurt. Where this has happened they express their profound sorrow and affirm again that God’s love for every human being is the same, regardless of their sexuality, and that the church should never by its actions give any other impression.

We affirmed the consultation that had taken place in preparation for the meeting by Archbishop Welby and commended his approach for future events within the Communion.

The consideration of the required application for admission to membership of the Communion of the Anglican Church of North America was recognised as properly belonging to the Anglican Consultative Council. The Primates recognise that such an application, were it to come forward, would raise significant questions of polity and jurisdiction.

In the wake of the climate change conference in Paris last month, the meeting heard about a petition of almost two million signatures co-ordinated by the Anglican Environment Network. Reports were made about moves to divest from fossil fuels, the expansion of the African Deserts and the struggle for survival of the peoples of the Pacific as island life is threatened in many places by the rise of sea levels.

The meeting discussed the reality of religiously motivated violence and its impact on people and communities throughout the world. Primates living in places where such violence is a daily reality spoke movingly and passionately about their circumstances and the effect on their members. The Archbishop of Canterbury himself has taken important initiatives in bringing people together from a range of faith communities globally for discussion and mutual accountability.

The Anglican Primates repudiated any religiously motivated violence and expressed solidarity with all who suffer from this evil in the world today.

The Primates look forward to the proposal being brought to the Anglican Consultative Council for comprehensive child protection measures to be available throughout all the churches of the Communion.

In a presentation on evangelism, the Primates rejoiced that the Church of Jesus Christ lives to bear witness to the transforming power of the love of God in Jesus Christ. The Primates were energised by the opportunity to share experiences of evangelism and motivated to evangelise with their people.

“The Primates joyfully commit themselves and the Anglican Church, to proclaim throughout the world the person and work of Jesus Christ, unceasingly and authentically, inviting all to embrace the beauty and joy of the Gospel.”

(See Addendum B.)

The Primates supported the Archbishop of Canterbury in his proposal to call a Lambeth Conference in 2020.

The Primates discussed tribalism, ethnicity, nationalism and patronage networks, and the deep evil of corruption. They reflected that these issues become inextricably connected to war and violence, and derive from poverty. They agreed to ask the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion to commission a study for the next Primates’ meeting. The Primates agreed to meet again in 2017 and 2019.

The Primates owe a debt of gratitude to the staff of the Anglican Communion Office, and especially the Secretary General, to the staff at Lambeth Palace and at Church House Westminster. The Primates were especially grateful for the warm welcome, generous hospitality and kindness offered by the Dean of Canterbury and all at the Cathedral. Their contribution was very important in setting the mood of the meeting in prayer and mutual listening. Thanks to the Community of St Anselm for their prayer, help and support, Jean Vanier for his inspiring addresses, and the Community of St Gregory for the loan of the crosier head to sit alongside the St Augustine gospels.

The Primates received their time together as a gift from God and experienced many signs of God’s presence amongst us. They appreciated the personal care and humility shown by the Archbishop of Canterbury especially in his chairing of the meeting. We leave our week together enriched by the communion we share and strengthened by the faithful witness of Anglicans across the world. The Primates deeply appreciate the prayers of many throughout the world over our time together.

Addendum A

1. We gathered as Anglican Primates to pray and consider how we may preserve our unity in Christ given the ongoing deep differences that exist among us concerning our understanding of marriage.

2. Recent developments in the Episcopal Church with respect to a change in their Canon on marriage represent a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our Provinces on the doctrine of marriage. Possible developments in other Provinces could further exacerbate this situation.

3. All of us acknowledge that these developments have caused further deep pain throughout our Communion.

4. The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union. The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching.

5. In keeping with the consistent position of previous Primates’ meetings such unilateral actions on a matter of doctrine without Catholic unity is considered by many of us as a departure from the mutual accountability and interdependence implied through being in relationship with each other in the Anglican Communion.

6. Such actions further impair our communion and create a deeper mistrust between us. This results in significant distance between us and places huge strains on the functioning of the Instruments of Communion and the ways in which we express our historic and ongoing relationships.

7. It is our unanimous desire to walk together. However given the seriousness of these matters we formally acknowledge this distance by requiring that for a period of three years TEC no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.

8. We have asked the ABC to appoint a Task Group to maintain conversation among ourselves with the intention of restoration of relationship, the rebuilding of mutual trust, healing the legacy of hurt, recognising the extent of our commonality and exploring our deep differences, ensuring they are held between us in the love and grace of Christ.

Addendum B

We, as Anglican Primates, affirm together that the Church of Jesus Christ lives to bear witness to the transforming love of God in the power of the Spirit throughout the world.

It is clear God’s world has never been in greater need of this resurrection love and we long to make it known.

We commit ourselves through evangelism to proclaim the person and work of Jesus Christ, unceasingly and authentically, inviting all to embrace the beauty and joy of the Gospel.

We rely entirely on the power of the Holy Spirit who gives us speech, brings new birth, leads us into the truth revealed in Christ Jesus thus building the church.

All disciples of Jesus Christ, by virtue of our baptism, are witnesses to and of Jesus in faith, hope and love.

We pledge ourselves together to pray, listen, love, suffer and sacrifice that the world may know that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Come Holy Spirit.


The Anglican Primates at their meeting in Swords, Co Dublin, five years ago (Photograph: Orla Ryan/ACNS)

At their meeting in Swords four years ago [January 2011], the Anglican primates issued a number of statements or open letters expressing concerns about the situations in Zimbabwe, the Middle East, Egypt, Haiti and the Korean peninsula, and about global warming, the circumstances surrounding the murder of a gay activist in Uganda, gender-based violence, and other issues.

Many external matters received serious consideration at that meeting. But it is often internal matters – the question marks that hang over the future of the Anglican Communion – that draw the most attention. These include the following:

● The role of the Archbishop of Canterbury as the focus of unity for the Anglican Communion.
● Whether the Anglican Communion needs a central, structured institution.
● The future of the Lambeth Conference as a purely Episcopal gathering.
● The status, role or authority of the resolutions passed at the Lambeth Conferences.
● The tension between maintaining theological diversity and unity in communion.
● The possibility of a future Anglican Congress that is representative of the laity.
● Whether the future of the Anglican Communion is as some looser form of alliance or federation, what the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, described once as a World Alliance of Anglican Churches?

Part 2: The ‘Instruments of Communion’ today

The tensions within the Anglican Communion, and the questions over its future shape or survival, are also created, to a large degree, by new demographic realities.

In many ways, the Church of England and the Episcopal Church (TEC) appear to dominate the agenda, the budgets and the ethos of the Anglican Communion. But, as Professor Alister McGrath pointed out at a conference in Oxford on the “Future of Anglicanism”: “On any given Sunday there are more Anglicans attending church in the west African state of Nigeria than in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Australia, taken together.”

Anglican Churches are thriving and growing in many parts of Africa and Asia. But Anglicanism appears to be in decline, numerically, in the traditional Anglican heartlands such as England, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

In the US, the decline of Anglicanism or Episcopalianism is in sharp contrast to the rise in membership of Pentecostal and Evangelical churches. Alister McGrath claims: “The implications for the future direction of Anglicanism are momentous.”

1, The Archbishop of Canterbury:

The Most Revd Justin Portal Welby ... enthroned as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury in 2013

Archbishop Justin Portal Welby was enthroned as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury three years ago [21 March 2013]. As Archbishop of Canterbury, he is the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, and he will probably crown the next British monarch.

He has placed poverty at the heart of his priorities. He has been critical of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, been supportive of the Occupy protests at Saint Paul’s Cathedral, and has not been fooled by the smooth talking of bankers. He has asked whether companies can sin, and has sat on the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards. He favours women bishops, but supports “the Church of England’s opposition to same-sex marriage.” However, he has spoken out strongly against homophobia and says he is “always averse to the language of exclusion, when what we are called to is to love in the same way as Jesus Christ loves us.”

Archbishop Rowan Williams … hopes for “a church that is honest about its diversity – even when that diversity seems at first embarrassing and unwelcome”

You may agree with Paul Avis that “in spite of the present difficulties,” Anglicanism “is worth persevering with.” I certainly hope you do!

In his farewell letter to the Anglican Primates, Archbishop Rowan Williams said the member churches of the Anglican Communion must live with some diversity but not become like “distant relatives who sometimes send Christmas cards to each other.”

He told the primates that the loose association of 38 member churches “has endured much suffering and confusion and still lives with this in many ways.” But he added: “Our Communion has never been the sort of Church that looks for one central authority… We have to have several points of reference for the organising of our common life.”

“As I leave office … there will of course be some self-questioning for me at the thought of much left undone and unresolved,” he said.

In his letter, he described the Anglican Communion as a “halfway formal model of a global community of prayer” that links Anglicans around the world through common work on projects such as spreading the faith, promoting healthcare and defending rights of women and children. “What we aspire to as Anglicans is not to be a federation of loosely connected and rather distant relatives who sometimes send Christmas cards to each other, but a true family and fellowship.”

Eight years ago, at the General Synod of the Church of England, Archbishop Williams expressed the hope that as Anglicans we “want to be part of a family still. And that means some dreams of purity and clarity are not going to be realised. Both [sides] have turned their backs on the fantasy of a church that is pure in their own terms, in favour of a church that is honest about its diversity – even when that diversity seems at first embarrassing and unwelcome.” [The Guardian, 11.2.2008.]

Some years earlier, in an interview with Paul Handley [The Church Times, 6.12.2002, pp 14-15], the former archbishop was asked about the future of the Anglican Communion, and whether it needs “a stronger pull at the centre, that it has been too diffused and disorganised,” he answered: “I don’t think it [the Anglican Communion] needs to have a more centralised executive. That would be a mistake; it would be following a model that, on the whole, in Anglican history, we have not followed. We have seen ourselves as a federation of essentially local churches.”

Lord Williams went on to say: “We are now faced with an unprecedented challenge about how much of a Communion we want to be.” And he asked: “If, in ten years’ time, we were the World Alliance of Anglican Churches – an assemblage of local bodies that didn’t acknowledge these different theologies, priorities, policies – would that be a loss? And what to do about it?”

“In ten years’ time ...” Where do you think we got to then in 2016?

2, The Lambeth Conference:

Canterbury Cathedral ... the Lambeth Conferences are called by the Archbishop of Canterbury

Over the generations, bishops at the Lambeth Conferences have debated many of the real social and pressing issues of the day, often issuing radical statements, for example on Socialism in the Victorian age, or on war at the height of the Vietnam war. They were able to change their views, for example on contraception and family planning, moving from an outright disapproval of contraception to openly encouraging planned parenthood.

The Lambeth Conference is a gathering of bishops, meeting every 10 years under the presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury. There have been 13 conferences to date, between 1867 and 2008. Until 1978, the conferences were for bishops only, but in 1988 the full membership of the Anglican Consultative Council was invited too, as well as representative bishops of the Churches in Communion (the Churches of Bangladesh, North and South India, and Pakistan) joined with the bishops in the discussions, as did bishops of the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht.

But Lambeth Conferences remain essentially gatherings of bishops only, they are deliberative and, while they claim teaching authority, they were without canonical authority and their composition does not reflect the synodical structures of individual Anglican churches or provinces.

From the beginning, Lambeth Conferences have been marked by tensions and divisions. The first Lambeth Conference was called because of crisis and division among Anglicans in Southern Africa, the Province of York refused to take part in the first conference, Dean Stanley refused to make Westminster Abbey available for the first conference, and there were later divisions over, for example, the ordination of women to the priesthood, the consecration of women bishops, and, in 1998 and again in 2008, sexuality and more particularly homosexuality.

The 14th Lambeth Conference took place from 16 July to 4 August 2008 at the Canterbury campus of the University of Kent. Before the conference, Archbishop Williams issued a pastoral letter to the 38 Primates of the Anglican Communion and Moderators of the United Churches, indicating that the emphasis should be on training, “for really effective, truthful and prayerful mission.” He ruled out (for the time being) re-opening the debate on Resolution 1.10 on human sexuality from the 1998 Lambeth Conference, but emphasised the so-called “listening process” which was to encourage diverse views and experiences of human sexuality being collected and collated under the terms of that resolution, and he said it “will be important to allow time for this to be presented and reflected upon in 2008.”

The traditional plenary sessions and resolutions were reduced, with a bigger number of more focused groups.

Attendance at the Lambeth Conference is by invitation from the Archbishop of Canterbury. When he sent out his invitations to Lambeth 2008, Archbishop Williams reminded bishops: “the Lambeth Conference has no ‘constitution’ or formal powers; it is not a formal Synod or Council of the bishops of the Communion.”

More than 880 bishops were invited to the 2008 Conference. Those notably absent from the invitation list were Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire and Bishop Marty Minns, a bishop in the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) until his retirement in 2014.

Bishop Gene Robinson … not invited to Lambeth 2008 (Photograph: Donald Vish)

Bishop Robinson was the first Anglican bishop to exercise the office of diocesan bishop while in an acknowledged same-sex relationship. Many see him as being at the heart of the current controversy in the Anglican Communion.

Marty Minns, a former rector of Truro Episcopal Church in Fairfax, Virginia, became the leader of the “Convocation of Anglicans in North America,” a splinter group of American Episcopalians. On the other hand, the (Anglican) Church of Nigeria saw him as its own missionary bishop to the US, despite protests from Canterbury and TEC.

Six (out of the total of 38) Anglican Primates decided not to attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference because of their opposition to TEC actions in relation to homosexual clergy and same sex unions. Those Primates represent the Anglican provinces of Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, the Southern Cone of the Americas, Uganda and West Africa. In addition, Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney, who was talking about the end of the Anglican Communion, and the other bishops in Sydney in Australia, stayed away. However, the bishops of Uganda insisted that they remain part of the Anglican Communion.

The Global Anglican Future Conference, a meeting of conservative bishops in Jerusalem in June 2008, took place a month before the Lambeth Conference. Some observers saw this as an “alternative Lambeth” for those who opposed to the consecration of Gene Robinson.

The GAFCON conference primarily attracted Anglican leaders who say they are in impaired communion with much of Anglicanism, including Archbishop Jensen, Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria and other bishops who saw themselves as in “impaired communion” with TEC and the Archbishop of Canterbury, as well as Canon Dr Vinay Samuel of India; and Canon Dr Chris Sugden of England. No bishop from the Church of Ireland attended, although the late Ian Smith of CMS Ireland was there.

GAFCON met most recently in Nairobi three years ago [21-26 October 2013]. Archbishop Welby visited Nairobi immediately beforehand to meet the leaders and organisers. A number of members of the Church of Ireland were present.

The Church leaders who identify with GAFCON claim to represent 30 million of the 55 million “active” Anglicans in the Anglican Communion. However, this figure assumes the support of all Anglicans in central sub-Saharan Africa, and it is calculated on a low estimate of the numbers of Anglicans in the rest of the world. The official figure for Anglicans worldwide is 80 million.

Archbishop Williams said GAFCON did not signal disloyalty, but also said the meeting “would not have any official status as far as the [Anglican] Communion is concerned.”

The first GAFCON conference and the absence of GAFCON’s leadership from Lambeth 2008 was criticised significantly, even by some conservatives. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, said: “If the Jerusalem conference is an alternative to the Lambeth Conference, which I perceive it is, then I think it is regrettable. The irony is that all they are going to do is weaken the Lambeth Conference. They are going to give the liberals a more powerful voice because they are absent and they are going to act as if they are schismatics.”

At the same time, Archbishop Carey once again called on the House of Bishops of TEC to commit itself to the Windsor Report, which sought a moratorium on the consecration of homosexual bishops and blessing of same-sex unions.

The Bishop of Jerusalem, Bishop [now Archbishop] Suheil Dawani, in whose diocese the conference took place, said: “I am deeply troubled that this meeting, of which we had no prior knowledge, will import inter-Anglican conflict into our diocese, which seeks to be a place of welcome for all Anglicans. It could also have serious consequences for our on-going ministry of reconciliation in this divided land. Indeed, it could further inflame tensions here. We who minister here know only too well what happens when two sides cease talking to each other. We do not want to see any further dividing walls!”

The Provincial Primate, the Bishop of Cairo, Dr Mouneer Hanna Anis, was concerned about GAFCON taking place in a diocese in his province. He advised the organisers that it was not the right time or place for such a meeting, but his advice was ignored.

Ahead of the meeting, Archishop Suheil Dawani of Jerusalem met the GAFCON organisers, including Archbishop Jensen and Archbishop Akinola, and explained his objections to the conference taking place in his diocese, and his fear for the damage it would do to his local ministry of welcome and reconciliation in the Holy Land. He insisted that the Lambeth Conference was the correct venue for internal discussions.

As an alternative, he proposed, “for the sake of making progress in this discussion,” that GAFCON should meet in Cyprus, followed by a “pure pilgrimage” to the Holy Land. Despite those requests, the conference went ahead. And, while the House of Bishops of TEC had apologised in 2007 for their part in the current divisions within Anglicanism, it was evident from the principal participants in GAFCON, and even from the structure of Archbishop Carey’s remarks, that this apology was not good enough for many conservatives.

To continue the work of GAFCON, many of those involved in it or who supported in set up the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.

Meanwhile, the number of bodies set up to mediate within the Anglican Communion continues to confound outside observers; parishes and dioceses within TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada continue to secede and to ask for Episcopal oversight from other Anglican Churches, including the Southern Cone, Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria. In England, the Church Society – whose Vice-President was the then Bishop of Lewes, the Irish-born Wallace Benn – wrote to the “Global South” Primates calling on them to break fellowship with the Archbishop of Canterbury because of what they see as his false teaching on homosexuality.

At the end of 2008, theological conservatives estranged from TEC and the Anglican Church in Canada formed a separate province, the Anglican Church in North America. The bishops involved in setting up this new church included Martyn Minns and Robert Duncan, although those new groupings are currently facing disarray and internal divisions.

3, The Anglican Consultative Council:

The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) is an international assembly of the Anglican Communion, bringing together bishops, priests, deacons and lay members to work on common concerns.

The ACC was formed following a resolution of the 1968 Lambeth Conference which discerned the need for more frequent and more representative contact among the member churches than was possible through a once-a-decade conference of bishops. The constitution of the council was accepted by the general synods or conventions of all the member churches of the Anglican Communion.

The council came into being in 1969, and it is the only one of three collective instruments of communion to have a legal identity and constitution. But is remains consultative, it has no canonical authority, and at times there have been tensions with the other instruments, as when the primates suggested the TEC and Canadian members should absent themselves from the ACC.

4, The Primates’ Meeting:

The two archbishops with Bishop Pat Storey at her consecration … the Archbishop of Armagh is part of the primates’ meeting, but not the Archbishop of Dublin

The Primates (the senior archbishop or presiding bishop) of the autonomous Churches of the Anglican Communion have been meeting every two or three years since 1979 in consultation on theological, social, and international issues, for fellowship and for prayer.

They do not include all archbishops, and they have no constitution. Their meeting is called by the Archbishop of Canterbury for consultation, and there is no consensus yet among the primates about the nature and exercise of primacy.

The fact that the primates at their meetings have no canonical authority to act collectively on decisions explains some of the responses to this month’s meeting (January 2016), particularly Professor Norman Doe’s comments reported in the Church Times.

Patrick Comerford with Archbishop Rowan Williams at the Primates’ meeting in Dublin in 2011

Part 3: The Anglican Covenant

Ridley Hall, Cambridge, founded in 1881 … the Ridley Cambridge Draft of the Anglican Covenant was finalised there in April 2009 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The idea of an Anglican covenant was first put forward in the Windsor Report (pars 113-120), which prosed a Covenant that would become “foundational for the life of the Anglican Communion.” Signatories would agree that “recognition of, and fidelity to, the text of this Covenant, enables mutual recognition and communion.”

Does this means that Provinces that do not sign the Covenant no longer count as part of the Communion? Until now, “mutual recognition and communion” have applied across all Anglican provinces. Would the Covenant mean withdrawing recognition and communion from non-signatories? And, if so, would the Anglican Communion cease to consist of the 38 provinces and instead consist of the new international structure, composed only of the Provinces that sign the Covenant.

Archbishop Robin Eames of Armagh presenting the Windsor Report in the crypt of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London, in 2004

The Anglican Covenant was first proposed by the Windsor Report after the Diocese of New Hampshire in the US elected an openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, and the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada approved a same-sex blessing.

Opponents had no legal way to expel TEC or the Canadians. The subsequent debates led to the Windsor Report and eventually to the Anglican Covenant, which is now being debated by Anglican Provinces. The debate raises questions about whether the Covenant can achieve Anglican unity or is redefining the Anglican Communion.

The Windsor Report was produced by a commission chaired by the then Archbishop Robin Eames, was published in October 2004, and was a major topic at the meeting of the Anglican Primates in Dromantine, Co Armagh, eight years ago (2005).

The Windsor Report:

● Censured TEC for proceeding with the consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.
● Censured the Diocese of New Westminster for sanctioning same-sex blessing.
● Criticised bishops in provinces such as Uganda and the Southern Cone for intervening in US dioceses during the crisis.
● Recommended new procedures for dealing with disagreements, including an agreed covenant to restrain unilateral decision-making.
● Recommended the arbitration of disputes by the Archbishop of Canterbury and an advisory panel.

In the responses, it was said the Windsor Report:

● Represented worldwide Anglican consensus, “rooted in scripture, engaging with tradition, while facing new challenges, thought through with as much reason as our collective and prayerful wits could muster” (Bishop Tom Wright in the General Synod of the Church of England, February 2005).
● Relied “too much on law as a solution to our problems. It would mean any province of the Anglican Communion could veto anything [the Church of England General] Synod wanted to do” (Professor David McClean).
● “Is part of a pilgrimage towards healing and reconciliation.” (Archbishop Eames).

The Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and of the Anglican Consultative Council commissioned a study paper on the idea in 2005, Towards an Anglican Covenant.

At its meeting in 2006, the Joint Standing Committee asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to establish a Covenant Design Group to further the project. This group presented its preliminary report to the Primates in Dar es Salaam in 2007.

In Dar es Salaam in Tanzania in 2007, the primates continued this process. Seven primates there were unhappy with what they saw as the failure to censure TEC or even force its withdrawal from the Anglican Communion. On the other hand, there were those within the Anglican Communion who are unhappy with the terms of the invitation issued to the TEC primus. In 2007, the Primates produced a draft covenant for the Anglican Communion – the Nassau Draft – and initial consultations took place in 2007.

A second report – the Saint Andrew’s Draft – took into account many of the submissions to the group. That draft was then sent to the member churches for further reflection, ahead of last year’s Lambeth Conference.

The Saint Andrew’s Draft, drawn up by the Covenant Design Group, proposed that the Archbishop of Canterbury would oversee a mediation process between provinces that disagree on issues such as homosexuality. It suggested that if mediation failed, contentious matters would be referred to the ACC, which would then have the power to expel a province whose policies might threaten a schism. This proposal gave the ACC more prominence in resolving disputes than the Primates, a move which has been opposed by some groups.

The draft was discussed at the Lambeth Conference in 2008 and then sent to the member Churches of the Anglican Communion.

When the Anglican primates met four years ago (2009) in Alexandria, they discussed the draft covenant, and abandoned proposals for the primates to be ex-officio members of the ACC. Interestingly, five African primates who had boycotted Lambeth 2008 were present, and both the Presiding Bishop of TEC and the Primate of Uganda shared a platform with three other primates as they contributed reflections.

The primates also asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to initiate early mediation and talks with all the disaffected Anglican represented in the Common Cause Partnership aimed at seeking reconciliation. When they discussed the draft covenant, the primates reportedly came to “a realisation of what a covenant can and can’t do about sanctions and ‘teeth’.” They agreed that punitive action was less appropriate than a framework with a clear emphasis on koinonia, and a Church’s agreement to accept limitations on its self-autonomy.

Ridley Hall, Cambridge … the Covenant Design Group met there in 2009 and finalised the Anglican Covenant now being debated throughout the Anglican Communion (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Covenant Design Group, which included the then Archbishop of Dublin, Archbishop John Neill, met again in April 2009 in Ridley Hall, Cambridge, and sent another draft, An Anglican Covenant - Ridley Cambridge Draft Text, for review to the ACC at its meeting in Jamaica that year. The ACC then sent that version of the Covenant to the provinces for their adoption. In 2011, the General Synod of the Church of Ireland agreed to “subscribe” to the Covenant, but it was rejected in the diocesan synods of the Church of England in 2012, and it looks like the General Convention of TEC has “kicked for touch” but is unlikely to adopt it.

The covenant gives the “Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and of the Primates’ Meeting, or any body that succeeds it,” the responsibility of overseeing the functioning of the Covenant in the life of the Anglican Communion (4.2.1).

The Joint Standing Committee may make ask any covenanting Church to defer a planned course of action (4.2.2). If a member church refuses to defer a controversial action, the Joint Standing Committee may recommend consequences such as a provisional limitation of participation in, or suspension from, one of the Instruments of Communion (4.2.3).

The committee may suggest that the decision of a covenanting Church continues with an action that is “incompatible with the Covenant” that this impairs or limits the communion between that Church and the other Churches of the Anglican Communion, with consequences for participation in the life of the Anglican Communion and the Instruments of Communion (4.2.5).

Each Church should put into place mechanisms, agencies or institutions to oversee the maintenance of the affirmations and commitments of the Covenant in the life of that Church, and to relate to the Instruments of Communion on matters pertinent to the Covenant (4.2.6).

Any covenanting Church may withdraw from the Covenant. Although withdrawing would not imply an automatic withdrawal from the Instruments of Communion or a repudiation of its Anglican character, it raises questions about the meaning of the Covenant, and of compatibility with its principles (4.3.1).

More recently, Archbishop Williams admitted the covenant is seen in some quarters as trying to create an Anglican executive and “for seeking to create means of exclusion. This is wholly mistaken. There is no supreme court envisaged, and the constitutional liberties of each province are explicitly safeguarded,” he said.

The current status of the Covenant

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh ... the General Synod of the Church of Ireland agreed in Armagh in 2011 to “subscribe” to the Covenant (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The General Synod of the Church of Ireland agreed in Armagh five years ago [13 May 2011] to “subscribe” to the Covenant, but made it clear that the Covenant does not supplant existing governing documents of the Church of Ireland.

What about the reception of the Anglican Covenant in other member Churches of the Anglican Communion?

Lichfield Cathedral ... the Diocese of Lichfield was one of the dioceses of the Church of England to approve the Anglican Covenant (Photograph; Patrick Comerford)

The Church of England: The General Synod of the Church of England sent the Covenant to the diocesan synods for consideration. The measure was supported by Archbishop Williams but could only come back to the General Synod for a final vote in 2012 if it was accepted in the dioceses. Bishop Michael Perham of Gloucester expressed concern that it could be used to take “punitive action” against certain Anglicans, but he voted in favour of it out of loyalty to Archbishop Williams. Bishop John Saxbee of Lincoln said the Covenant represented “factory-farmed religion rather than free range-faith” and would only lead to a two-tier Communion.

It was finally defeated in the diocesan synods in April 2012 and was not brought back to the General Synod. The tally of dioceses was 26 against the Covenant and 18 for.

The Anglican Church of Australia: Two years ago [30 June 2014], the General Synod adopted a resolution affirming openness to considering a covenant but without mention of the covenant currently on offer.

Burma (Myanmar): has accepted the covenant.

The Anglican Church of Canada: The Covenant has been sent to the dioceses and parishes for study, and a vote by the General Synod, which was expected two years ago [2013], but this vote has now been postponed until this year [2016].

Japan: In May 2010, the General Synod agreed to move forward with considering the covenant, over-ruling a recommendation from the theological committee of the House of Bishops.

Mexico: adopted the Covenant in June 2010.

The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia: On 9 July 2012, the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia declared that it was unable to adopt the Covenant.

The Philippines: The bishops rejected the Covenant in May 2011.

The Episcopal Church of Scotland: On 8 June 2012, the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church voted decisively against a resolution to adopt the Covenant in principle.

The Church in Wales: The Governing Body passed a motion on 18 April 2012 indicating its willingness to consider the Covenant but asking the Anglican Consultative Council to clarify the status of the Covenant in the light of its rejection by the Church of England.

South-East Asia: The Church “acceded” to the Covenant in May 2011 and published an explanation of its understanding of the action, which seems to go beyond the Covenant text itself.

Hong Kong: The Hong Sheng Kung Hui, the Hong Kong Anglican Church, adopted the Covenant in June 2013.

Southern Africa: The Provincial Synod approved the Covenant in October 2010. The decision was ratified three years ago [2013].

Sudan: At a meeting in May 2014, the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan adopted the Covenant.

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town (left), and the Most Revd Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of TEC (centre) at a USPG conference in Swanwick, Derbyshire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Episcopal Church (TEC): In July 2012, the Episcopal Church considered the Covenant at the General Convention, which voted to “decline to take a position on the Anglican Covenant” and “to continue to monitor the progress of the Covenant until the next General Convention in 2015.”

West Indies: The Provincial Synod voted to accept the Covenant in December 2009, and the Standing Committee did so in November 2010.

Melanesia: the Church of the Province of Melanesia adopted the Covenant in November 2014.

The debate about the Covenant:

But many questions still remain:

Will any intervention by the Joint Standing Committee, now known as the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion, help heal the divisions or simply delay them?

Is the Standing Committee likely to become a new ‘Instrument of Communion’ within the Anglican Communion?

Will we end up with a more-closely bound Anglican Communion or a looser Anglican Federation?

Or will we end up with a two-tier Anglican Communion with two categories of membership?

When Inclusive Church and Modern Church together placed a large advertisement in the Church Times and the Church of England Newspaper, the Revd Dr Andrew Goddard replied with a lengthy, 15,000-word defence of the Anglican Covenant, “How and Why IC & MCU Mislead Us On the Anglican Covenant.” He says: “The IC/MCU statement ... pays little or no attention to the text of the covenant itself.”

Critics say they judge the covenant in the light of its potential and how it could be used once it is in place.

The most obvious disagreement is whether provinces will be subordinated to the international authorities and threatened with punishment if they do not obey.

Andrew Goddard considers this a “highly implausible spin,” but does not say why. The Windsor Report said it was a stated aim was that a covenant “would make explicit and forceful the loyalty and bonds of affection which govern the relationships between the churches of the Communion” (para 118).

But how can we enforce true “loyalty and bonds of affection”?

Whether or not the text of the Covenant claims to be punitive, whether its framers intend it to be, or whether it can be used in a punitive manner, a province that rejects recommendations can be excluded from the Covenant’s “enhanced” relationship with other provinces and international committees. Is this enhanced relationship not the relationship most provinces already have with each other? Will there be a third tier for the truly disobedient provinces, those nearly, but not quite beyond the pale?

Does the Covenant redefine Anglicanism?

Would the Covenant make Anglican Churches more inward-looking?

Every time the Standing Committee upholds an objection it will establish a new ruling, another doctrine Anglicans are expected to believe. Over time, Anglicanism may become less inclusive and more dogmatic.

The 1998 Lambeth Conference declared homosexuality “incompatible with Scripture” and the Windsor Report, faced with threats of schism, took this to mean that there is an Anglican consensus on this matter. On the basis of this presumed “consensus,” it was declared that the North American churches were out of order in consecrating a gay bishop and permitting the blessing same-sex unions.

But Lambeth conference resolutions have never had legislating powers. Yet the Windsor Report treated Resolution 1.10 as binding on Anglicanism – in effect, another component part of Anglican belief to add to the Bible, the Creeds and the Thirty-Nine Articles.

A resolution and a report quickly came to be treated as dogma. Bishop Martin Barahona, the retired Primate of Central America, said: “The Windsor Report, it’s just a report. When did it become like The Bible. The Covenant. Why do we need another covenant? We have the Baptismal Covenant. We have the creeds. What else do we need?”

The bitter controversies of the last decade or more have indeed been most unfortunate. The presenting issues have been ethical and theological disagreement. Can they be resolved by patient, informed ethical and theological dialogue? Or do they need to be dealt with through what some see as “ecclesiastical politics and threats of exclusion”?

What would the Anglican Covenant do?

Opponents says the covenant would enable objectors to forbid new developments.

Each of the 38 Provinces in the Anglican Communion was asked to sign the Anglican Covenant. By signing the Covenant, a province undertakes not to introduce any new development if another Anglican province anywhere in the world opposes it – unless granted prior permission from a new international body, the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion.

It would redefine Anglicanism.

The Covenant does not mention either the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson or the decisions in the Diocese of New Westminster. But it imposes restrictions on any future church developments that another province opposes.

Would the Covenant establish an authoritarian leadership in the Anglican Communion?

What is to happen now that the Church of England has indefinitely postponed signing up for the Covenant?

Would the Covenant subordinate once-autonomous provinces to a new international body?

The Covenant text states it affects only the relations provinces have with each other, without any effect on their internal governance. However, provinces would be to subordinate a province to the decisions of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion.

If the Covenant is approved, would this mean that every time the Standing Committee upholds an objection it will establish a new ruling, which then becomes another doctrine Anglicans are expected to accept and believe?

Is there a danger that over time Anglicanism will become less inclusive and more dogmatic?

What about those parishes and clergy who disagree, or who simply prefer a more open-minded approach?

Classical Anglican theology seeks to balance scripture, reason and tradition, and this balance allows for new developments. However, the Covenant reduces Anglicanism’s authorities to “the Scriptures, the common standards of faith, and the canon laws of our churches,” making it more difficult to justify changes.

The Covenant would oblige provinces “to act with diligence, care and caution in respect of any action which may provoke controversy, which by its intensity, substance or extent could threaten the unity of the Communion.”

Who would decide which decisions meet these criteria? Would it encourage opponents to exaggerate the strength of their objections?

Does the Covenant subordinate provincial decision-making to the new Standing Committee and the four Instruments of Communion?

Would it hinder mission? Think of how many people say they are put off the Church by our apparent reluctance to change and what they see as the Church’s backward-looking stance on many issues. If the covenant slows down change and development, would we have created an additional hindrance to mission?

Could local ecumenical initiatives become subject to objections from Anglicans in other places who do not know or understand the local situation?

If the Covenant goes ahead, provinces not signing up to it will govern themselves in the same way as now. But signatories may, at worst, no longer count them as part of the Anglican Communion, and at best as second-class members, they would be excluded from the Instruments of Communion, and they would become “Churches in association” with the Anglican Communion.

Opponents of the covenant say that if the Covenant had been there in the past, then over the centuries there have been few changes. Think of how the Church no longer approves of slavery, but permits divorce and contraception. We have introduced new prayer books and liturgies, approved the ordination of women as priests and bishops, but some provinces still do not have women as priests and bishops. If the Covenant had been in force when these changes were introduced, other provinces would have objected.

Is there a better way to resolve disagreements?

Refusing to allow reason a role, disagreements have often led each side to accuse the other of not being true Christians.

But are disagreements within the Church always a threat to the unity of the Church?

Anglicans traditionally value the role of reason and expect to learn from other people. We have been better at staying united because we have debated our disagreements openly within the Church, without threatening schism, until a time when we reach consensus.

Can differences of opinion be freely and openly debated within the Church, in the interests of seeking truth, without invoking powers of censure or threats of schism?

Part 4: current theological developments

If there is too much emphasis on law and legalism, perhaps we could take a more optimistic approach to the future by suggesting the future of Anglicanism rests not only on these debates, but on the vitality of its worship, spirituality and theology.

There have been exciting developments in Anglican theology recently.

In the Missiology module, you have already debated ‘Fresh Expressions’ and its implications for the mission of the church. But what does this development mean for Anglican theology? Later, when we look at Anglican ecclesiology, we shall ask about what it means for Anglicanism and Anglican identity.

But you should also be aware of the work of critics of ‘Fresh Expressions’ too, and what they say this movement means for Anglican identity. The Revd Dr Andrew Davison is Starbridge Lecturer in Theology and Natural Sciences in the University of Cambridge and before that was tutor in doctrine at Westcott House, Cambridge (2010-2014), tutor in doctrine at Saint Stephen’s House, Oxford, and junior chaplain of Merton College (2006-2010).

In pastoral theology, he is known for Care for the Dying: A Practical and Pastoral Guide (written with the physician Sioned Evans, Canterbury Press, 2014). In the Liturgy module, many of you have read his Why Sacraments? (London, SPCK, 2013). For some of you I have recommended his The Love of Wisdom: An Introduction to Philosophy for Theologians (London, SCM, 2013) as a way of helping to frame clear thinking and rational thought in writing theological essays.

Andrew Davison and the Revd Dr Alison Milbank have made a compelling critique of ‘Fresh Expressions’ in their study of mission and the church, For the Parish: A Critique of Fresh Expressions (SCM, 2010). This book provoked widespread debate as the most significant theological critique of this trend in contemporary Anglican ecclesiology.

Another important school of thinking to develop in Anglican theology in recent years is Radical Orthodoxy. This theological and philosophical school of thought makes use of postmodern philosophy to reject the paradigm of modernity. The movement was founded by John Milbank and others and takes its name from the title of a collection of essays published by Routledge in 1999: Radical Orthodoxy, A New Theology, edited by John Milbank, Catherine Pickstock and Graham Ward.

Alex Wright, in his Why Bother with Theology? (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2002) – while making strong criticisms of current theology – offers positive criticism and hope for Anglicanism, and singles out, for example, Radical Orthodoxy.

Some other important, relevant, recent publications contributing to exciting new developments in Anglican theology include:

Duncan Dormer, Jack McDonald and Jeremy Caddick (eds), Anglicanism the Answer to Modernity (London: Continuum 2003) (right). Duncan Dormer is Dean of Saint John’s College, Cambridge, and this collection of essays is an attempt by eight Cambridge college deans and chaplains to tackle the questions of religious identity that they believe are central to the way that the 21st century unfolds, and they regard their book as a bold attempt to address the future of Anglicanism in a confident way.

Robert Hannaford (editor), The Future of Anglicanism (Canterbury Press/Gracewing, 1996). This is another collection of essays looking at the future of Anglicanism and the serious challenges facing our communion.

Paul Avis, The Identity of Anglicanism: Essentials of Anglican Ecclesiology (London: T&T Clark/Continuum, 2007). This is the most comprehensive contemporary study of Anglicanism today that is both rigorous and provocative, exploring and explaining the identity of Anglicanism.

Mark D. Chapman (ed), The Anglican Covenant: Unity and Diversity in the Anglican Communion (London: Mowbray/Continuum, 2008). This is a collection of essays from a wide range of perspectives on the proposed Anglican Covenant, with a clear examination of the structures of authority within Anglicanism.

Philip Groves (ed), The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality (London: SPCK, 2008). Canon Groves is the Facilitator for the Listening Process at the Anglican Communion Office. He has been a CMS mission partner in Tanzania and is on the council of Saint John’s College, Nottingham. In this book, bishops, clergy and lay people with a diversity of views discuss the topic that has become the focus of divisions within Anglicanism. The book was sent to all bishops ahead of last year’s Lambeth Conference.

Jonathan Clark, The Republic of Heaven (London: SPCK, 2008) ... the chair of Affirming Catholicism makes an honest assessment of his own tradition and challenges that Catholic tradition within the Church of England and within Anglicanism to face the future.

Some questions for discussion:

Is the Church of Ireland vital at the moment?

Has the revision of The Book of Common Prayer helped to instil new vitality in parishes and congregations?

Is the current debate in Anglicanism about sexuality or about authority?

What is the appropriate balance between the competing claims for the authority of scripture, tradition and reason?

Do you have a vision for the future of Anglicanism and the Anglican Communion, and the place of the Church of Ireland within that?

Resources and supplemental reading:

The Anglican Communion Covenant – final text.
The Windsor Report.

Paul Avis, The Identity of Anglicanism: Essentials of Anglican Ecclesiology (London: T&T Clark/Continuum, 2007).
Mark D. Chapman (editor), The Anglican Covenant: Unity and Diversity in the Anglican Communion (London: Mowbray/Continuum, 2008).
Jonathan Clark, The Republic of Heaven (London: SPCK, 2008).
Andrew Davison, Alison Milbank, For the Parish, a Critique of Fresh Expressions (London: SCM, 2010).
Norman Doe, An Anglican Covenant: theological and legal considerations for a global debate (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2008).
Duncan Dormer, Jack McDonald and Jeremy Caddick (eds), Anglicanism, the Answer to Modernity (London: Continuum 2003).
Philip Groves (editor), The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality (London: SPCK, 2008).
Robert Hannaford (editor), The Future of Anglicanism (Canterbury Press/Gracewing, 1996).
Bruce Kaye, An Introduction to World Anglicanism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).
Kevin Ward, A History of Global Anglicanism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).


State-sponsored reform of the English and Irish churches in the 16th century.

3.2: Contextual understandings (1): the emergence, role and authority of The Book of Common Prayer, the Homilies, Articles of Religion.

(The Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, Dublin. These notes were prepared for a seminar on 25 January 2016 as part of the MTh Year II course, TH 8825: Anglican Studies in an Irish context