12 October 2016

Making mission and pilgrim
links with southern Europe

With Bishop Carlos López Lozano at the Dublin and Glendalough diocesan synod

Patrick Comerford

I was at the diocesan synod of Dublin and Glendalough last night [11 October 2016] in Templecarrig School in Greystones, Co Wicklow, and it was interesting to share stories of mission and pilgrimage.

During the debate on the report of the Diocesan Council for Mission, I was able to tell the synod that USPG had returned to using the traditional and long-loved initials describing the mission agency. With recent changes in the structuring USPG in Ireland, I spoke of USPG’s continuing work in mission, and encouraged support in particular for USPG’s work with refugees in Greece.

But it was good too to make links between the mission of the Church today and a mission story that links the Church of Ireland with two other southern European countries, Spain and Portugal.

Two guests at the synod were the Right Revd Carlos López Lozano, Bishop of the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church, and the Right Revd Dr Fernando da Luz Soares, Bishop of the Lusitanian Church or Portuguese Episcopal Church. Both are also Honorary Assistant Bishops in the Diocese in Europe, and Bishop Carlos is a long-time Facebook friend.

The two bishops are visiting the Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough at the invitation of Archbishop Michael Jackson as part of the programme marking the 800th anniversary of the unification of the two dioceses in 1216 under a Papal Bull received by Archbishop Henry de Loundres after the Fourth Lateran Council in Rome.

Both bishops spoke last night of how these two churches on the Iberian peninsula have strong historic links with the Church of Ireland.

After Vatican I, several congregations emerged in Spain and Portugal under the leadership of former Roman Catholic priests, seeking to follow Anglican teaching and order. When one of these priests, Father Juan Bautista Cabrera Ivars (1837-1916), approached Lambeth Palace and the Church of England in 1878 requesting the consecration of a bishop, he received a negative response.

In 1880, the Bishop of Mexico, Henry Chauncey Riley (1835-1904), a missionary bishop of the Episcopal Church in the US, visited Spain and Portugal and accepted the new congregations under his care. This was the beginning of the organisation of both the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church and the Lusitanian Catholic Apostolic Evangelical Church, each with its own synodical government.

The Lambeth Conference in 1888 opposed any episcopal consecrations in Spain and Portugal that offended the Roman Catholic Church, saying such consecrations would not ‘regard primitive and established principles of jurisdiction and the interests of the whole Anglican Communion.’

When the bishops of the Church of Ireland were approached, William Magee, the Irish-born Bishop of Peterborough, warned them that if they consecrated a bishop for Spain they risked severing relations between the Church of Ireland and the Church of England.

But William Conyngham Plunket (1828-1897), 4th Baron Plunket, successively Bishop of Meath (1876-1884) and Archbishop of Dublin (1884-1897), had a long-standing interest in Spain, and in 1891 he ordained his private chaplain, Andrew Cassels, for the newly-formed Lusitanian Church in Portugal.

In September 1894, Archbishop Plunket, with Charles Maurice Stack (1825-1914), Bishop of Clogher (1886-1902), and Thomas James Welland (1830-1907), Bishop of Down, Connor and Dromore (1892-1907), consecrated Juan Bautista Cabrera in Madrid as the first bishop of the Spanish Church. Since then, the Spanish Church has maintained apostolic succession through the bishops of the Church of Ireland.

After Cabrera’s death in 1916, the church remained without a bishop for a time and was placed under the authority of the Church of Ireland. Archbishop Gregg regularly visited Spain and Portugal from 1924 to 1934.

The Spanish and Portuguese churches experienced persecution under the Franco and Salazar regimes. In 1954, Santos M. Molina, who had been jailed in Burgos by the Franco regime, was consecrated a bishop by James McCann, Bishop of Meath and later Archbishop of Armagh, with two North American bishops. Bishop McCann visited Madrid by travelling on a tourist visa.

Meanwhile, the bishops of the Church of Ireland undertook in the Lusitanian Church until the first Portuguese bishop was consecrated by Bishop McCann of Meath, also in 1958. Since then, the two churches have experienced a resurgence, and in 1963 they entered into full communion with both the Church of Ireland and the Church of England.

The Right Rev Jack Coote Duggan (1900-2000), former Bishop of Tuam, Killala and Achonry (1970-1985), was committed to building links between the Church of Ireland and the Episcopal churches in Spain and Portugal. His intimate connections with these churches began in September 1971, when he and his wife, Mary, were on holiday near Marbella and attended an English-language service in Saint George’s Church, Malaga. Introductions followed and Bishop Duggan built on the traditional links with the Church of Ireland, taking an active role in the Spanish and Portuguese Church Aid Society, and acting as locum tenens in Saint George’s, Malaga, which was shared by the Anglican Church and the Episcopal Church.

In 1978, he represented the bishops of the Church of Ireland at the Partners-in-Mission Consultation on behalf of the Iberian Churches, in Lisbon, and supported the request made at that conference for the two Churches to be integrated into the Anglican Communion as full members – a move approved at the Primates’ meeting in November 1979.

In 1980, he took part in the consecration of Bishop Fernando da Luz Soares for the Portuguese or Lusitanian Church, and he was present at Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Lisbon, in 1980 when the Lusitanian Church was formally received into the Anglican Communion. Since 1980, these two churches have been ‘extra-provincial’ churches in the Anglican Communion under the metropolitan authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Spanish Episcopal Reformed Church has its cathedral at the Cathedral of the Redeemer in Madrid. It cherishes the sacramental tradition handed down through the Mozarabic Rite, which dates back to the 7th and 8th centuries. Saint Isidore of Seville, who was influential at the Fourth Council of Toledo 633, gave the Hispanic rite its final form before the Muslim conquest of the Iberian peninsula. Mozarab is the term used for the Christian population living under Muslim rulers in Al-Andalus.

The church is one diocese, and for administrative purposes it is divided into three zones: Catalonia, Valencian Country, and the Balearic Islands; Andalusia and the Canary Islands; and the Centre and Northern Spain.

In 1998, the two churches became full members of the Communion of Porvoo Churches, which brings together the Anglican and Episcopal Lutheran churches in Europe.

Bishop Carlos was born in Madrid in 1962. He has degrees in history from the Autonomous University, Salamanca (1984) and in theology from the United Evangelical Seminary, Madrid (1985) and the Pontifical University, Salamanca (1991).

He worked as an accountant with the Bible Society Spain in Madrid (1987-1990), before becoming an assistant to the bishop of the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church (1990-1991) and then a parish priest in Salamanca (1991-1995). He was archdeacon (1992-1994) and Vicar-General (1994-1995), and was consecrated bishop in Madrid in 1995. He is the author of three books: Introduction to the Psalms (1987), Study on the Temptations of Christ (1989), and Beginnings of IERE (1991).

Last night, Bishop Carlos told us how his Church is planning to build an Anglican Centre at Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain, which is the third most popular site for Christian pilgrims, after Jerusalem and Rome. But while there are long-established Anglican centres in Jerusalem and Rome, there is none in Santiago de Compostela.

Bishop Carlos said last night that there are more Protestants on the Camino than Catholics. However, he said, there is no place for Protestant pilgrims to receive Eucharist when they finish the Camino. The new Anglican Centre at the end of the Camino de Santiago will cost an estimated $5 million.

Bishop Carlos López Lozano, Bishop Fernando da Luz Soares and Archbishop Michael Jackson at the Dublin and Glendalough Diocesan Synod (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Praying with the Publican,
and praying with the Pharisee

A contemporary icon of the Pharisee and the Publican praying in the Temple ... who was good at praying, and who was a model for praying?

Patrick Comerford

12 October 2016

Luke 18: 9-14

9 Εἶπεν δὲ καὶ πρός τινας τοὺς πεποιθότας ἐφ' ἑαυτοῖς ὅτι εἰσὶν δίκαιοι καὶ ἐξουθενοῦντας τοὺς λοιποὺς τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην: 10 Ἄνθρωποι δύο ἀνέβησαν εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν προσεύξασθαι, ὁ εἷς Φαρισαῖος καὶ ὁ ἕτερος τελώνης. 11 ὁ Φαρισαῖος σταθεὶς πρὸς ἑαυτὸν ταῦτα προσηύχετο, Ὁ θεός, εὐχαριστῶ σοι ὅτι οὐκ εἰμὶ ὥσπερ οἱ λοιποὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ἅρπαγες, ἄδικοι, μοιχοί, ἢ καὶ ὡς οὗτος ὁ τελώνης: 12 νηστεύω δὶς τοῦ σαββάτου, ἀποδεκατῶ πάντα ὅσα κτῶμαι. 13 ὁ δὲ τελώνης μακρόθεν ἑστὼς οὐκ ἤθελεν οὐδὲ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ἐπᾶραι εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν, ἀλλ' ἔτυπτεν τὸ στῆθος αὐτοῦ λέγων, Ὁ θεός, ἱλάσθητί μοι τῷ ἁμαρτωλῷ. 14 λέγω ὑμῖν, κατέβη οὗτος δεδικαιωμένος εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ παρ' ἐκεῖνον: ὅτι πᾶς ὁ ὑψῶν ἑαυτὸν ταπεινωθήσεται, ὁ δὲ ταπεινῶν ἑαυτὸν ὑψωθήσεται.

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.” 13 But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’

The Pharisee and the Publican

In the module in Year II, we have been discussing how prayer is both an individual and a collective action. Even when we pray individually, we both pray for ourselves and pray on behalf of others.

Prayer is a dialogue with God, a spiritual breathing of the soul, a foretaste of the bliss of God’s kingdom.

Christ teaches his disciples how to pray, by word and by example. When they ask how to pray, he teaches them the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6: 9-13; Luke 11: 1-5), giving them an immediate example of model prayer.

But he also gives examples of prayer in the parables, particularly in the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee in the Temple (Luke 18: 9-14), which is the Gospel reading in the Revised Common Lectionary for the Sunday after next, 23 October, the Fifth Sunday before Advent.

The parable of the Pharisee and the Publican and their prayers is an interesting way to examine our own approaches to prayer. Monday’s talk on the Spiritual Disciplines introduced a variety of approaches to prayer and spiritual life. In this parable, Christ teaches the disciples to pray not by giving words but by giving examples of how others pray, But perhaps we can we be too quick to say that we are presented with one good example and one bad example.

Both the Pharisee and the Publican prays for himself. Each bares himself before God.

The Pharisee gives thanks to God. He prays. In fact, by all the current standards of and means of measuring Jewish piety, he is a good man. Look at what he tells God and us about himself.

First of all he thanks God that he is not like other people. The Morning Prayer for Orthodox Jewish men, to this day, includes a prayer with these words: ‘Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who hast not made me a gentile, … a slave, … a woman.’

Thanking God that I am not like others is not an expression of disdain for others; it is merely another, humble way of thanking God for being made the way we are, in God’s image and likeness. The Pharisee’s prayer is not unusual.

The Pharisee then goes on to tell God that he obeys all the commandments: he prays, he fasts and he tithes – in fact, he tithes more than he has to, and perhaps also fasts more often than he has to – and he gives generously to the poor. He more than meets all the requirements laid on him by the Mosaic law, and he goes beyond that. He is a charitable, kind and faithful man.

Anyone who saw him in the Temple and heard him pray would have gone away saying he was a good man, and a spiritual man.

But, despite attending to his responsibilities towards others, the Pharisee in this parable does not pray for the needs of others, in so far as we are allowed to eavesdrop on his prayers.

But then, neither does the publican pray for the needs of others.

So neither man is condemned for not being heard to pray for the needs of the other.

What marks the prayers of the Pharisee out from the prayers of the publican is that, in his prayers, the Pharisee expresses his disdain for the needs of others.

The parable of the Pharisee and the Publican is also a reminder that at times people may think that because they have sinned they should not pray.

But the story of the Pharisee (apparently good) and the Publican (apparently bad), tells us that the Pharisee prayed easily, while the publican could not even lift his eyes to heaven. Instead, the publican smote his breast and prayed: ‘Lord, be merciful to me a sinner.’

Jesus tells us it was the publican who ‘returned home justified’ not the Pharisee.

The publican wants to pray even when he feels guilty of sin.

We do not have to wait until we feel righteous, like a Pharisee, so that we can pray. Such prayer is almost useless. I know I can all too easily pray the Jesus Prayer, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me the sinner,’ more readily when I am feeling righteous than when I realise I am a sinner.

The error of the Pharisee is to confuse the means with the end. Acts of virtue or piety are meant to dispose our hearts towards communion with God, not turn us in on ourselves. As Metropolitan Anthony Bloom wrote: ‘From the [Pharisee] learn his works, but by no means his pride; for the work by itself means nothing and does not save.’

Religious feelings can be deceptive in the extreme. When I think I feel like praying, I may in fact be feeling ‘pious,’ and I may not be ready to pray at this stage. Instead, I may be preparing to be self-consumed and self-congratulatory about being a pious person of prayer.

Humility does not come easily at any time. It is deeply opposed to the values of the world. The late Father Alexander Schmemann saw how humility has no place in our secular culture. He wrote: ‘If there is a moral quality almost completely disregarded and even denied today, it is indeed humility. The culture in which we live constantly instils in us the sense of pride, self-glorification, and self-righteousness. It is built on the assumption that man can achieve anything by himself and it even pictures God as the one who all the time ‘gives credit’ for man’s achievements and good deeds. Humility – be it individual or corporate, ethnic or national – is viewed as a sign of weakness, as something unbecoming a real man…’

But when I feel like the Publican in our parable, then I can pray like a Publican. Many times people will tell you, ‘I cannot take Communion … lead the intercession … serve at the altar today, because I do not feel worthy.’ But surely I am in much greater danger when I do feel worthy.

When does someone ever say, ‘I have been so good this week I have not felt in the least like a sinner, and this is a great sin and deception?’ Now we would be getting somewhere with prayer!

The 19th century Russian, Saint John of Kronstadt, writes: ‘When the foolish thought of counting up any of your good works enters into your head, immediately correct your fault and rather count up your sins, your continual and innumerable offences against the All-Merciful and Righteous Master, and you will find that their number is as the sand of the sea, whilst your virtues in comparison with them are as nothing.’

In ministry, we need to help people to pray like a publican. They will find so many more times available for prayer if they do. And while they are there, you and I should pray for those who are praying like a Pharisee, so that God may free us from our delusions.

A poem for reflection

‘In Westminster Abbey’ by John Betjeman’s is a dramatic monologue that retells one part of the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

It has been suggested that a poem on the topic of the reading might add our reflections on Wednesday mornings.

‘In Westminster Abbey’ is one of John Betjeman’s most savage satires. This poem is a dramatic monologue, set during the early days of World War II, in which a woman enters Westminster Abbey to pray for a moment before hurrying off to ‘a luncheon date.’

She is not merely a chauvinistic nationalist, but also a racist, a snob and a hypocrite who is concerned more with how the war will affect her share portfolio than anything else. Her chauvinistic nationalism leads her speaker to pray to God ‘to bomb the Germans’ … but ‘Don’t let anyone bomb me.’ But her social and ethical lapses are a product of her spiritual state, which is a direct result of her nation’s spiritual sickness.

But she lets God know prayer and her relationship with God are low down her list of priorities:

Let me take this other glove off
As the vox humana swells,
And the beauteous fields of Eden
Bask beneath the Abbey bells.
Here, where England’s statesmen lie,
Listen to a lady’s cry.

Gracious Lord, oh bomb the Germans,
Spare their women for Thy Sake,
And if that is not too easy
We will pardon Thy Mistake.
But, gracious Lord, whate’er shall be,
Don’t let anyone bomb me.

Keep our Empire undismembered
Guide our Forces by Thy Hand,
Gallant blacks from far Jamaica,
Honduras and Togoland;
Protect them Lord in all their fights,
And, even more, protect the whites.

Think of what our Nation stands for,
Books from Boots’ and country lanes,
Free speech, free passes, class distinction,
Democracy and proper drains.
Lord, put beneath Thy special care
One-eighty-nine Cadogan Square.

Although dear Lord I am a sinner,
I have done no major crime;
Now I’ll come to Evening Service
Whensoever I have the time.
So, Lord, reserve for me a crown,
And do not let my shares go down.

I will labour for Thy Kingdom,
Help our lads to win the war,
Send white feathers to the cowards
Join the Women’s Army Corps,
Then wash the steps around Thy Throne
In the Eternal Safety Zone.

Now I feel a little better,
What a treat to hear Thy Word,
Where the bones of leading statesmen
Have so often been interr’d.
And now, dear Lord, I cannot wait
Because I have a luncheon date.

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This essay is based on notes prepared for a Bible study with students on the MTh courses on 12 October 2016.

‘Ethics at the Beginning of Life’:
a book review in ‘Search’

Patrick Comerford

This book review is published in the current edition of Search, A Church of Ireland Journal, Vol 39.3, Autumn 2016 (pp 233-235):

Ethics at the Beginning of Life, A phenomenological critique

James Mumford, Oxford: Oxford University Press (Oxford Studies in Theological Ethics series) 2015. 212 pages. ISBN 978-0-19874505-1

The present campaign for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment may soon lead to another referendum on abortion in the Republic of Ireland. In the run up to the election earlier this year, many parties promised a referendum, a group of feminist law academics published model legislation to show what a post-Eighth Amendment law might look like, and more recently the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, voiced his support for a referendum. Since then, the government has appointed a Supreme Court judge, Mary Laffoy, to chair a Citizens’ Assembly to consider a number of topics, including the Eighth Amendment.

The Eighth Amendment, passed in 1983, recognises the right to life of an unborn child and at the time was supported by Fianna Fáil and much of Fine Gael, but was generally opposed by the political left. A new referendum is likely, and is likely to polarise society once again.

In this book, James Mumford of the University of Virginia recognises that when it comes to the debate about abortion in all Western societies, the debates have become intractable, the discussions have been exhausted and the issues hopelessly polarised: ‘Responses … have been reduced to two basic positions, which in the West have fatefully come to be associated with two dominant political options – pro-choice with the left, pro-life with the right.’

Contributions to the debate, whether ‘anti’ or ‘pro’ have taken on a ritualistic form, in which each side repeats words, actions and arguments, without listening to each other.

James Mumford offers a way through this impasse, in which we might not only hear but listen to those we disagree with in a looming debate. Dr Mumford is Postdoctoral Wolterstorff Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture and lectures in philosophy, teaching classes on ethics and human reproduction. He previously worked as a senior policy researcher at the Centre for Social Justice in London while he was completing his DPhil in Theology at Magdalen College, Oxford. He blogs regularly and writes for The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Spectator, The Huffington Post and other newspapers.

In this contribution to the debate on abortion and human life, he draws upon phenomenology to question many of the approaches, attitudes and arguments today. He argues that many of the positions simply fail to take into account the reality of human emergence, the particular way that new human beings first appear in the world.

He divides acute moral questions into two kinds: those about what it is that we are dealing with; and those relating to the situation in which the questions arise. He challenges the core convictions of English-speaking liberal moral and political philosophers, and concludes by exploring an alternative theological basis for human rights that might fill the vacuum created.

He offers fresh arguments about how we relate to unborn and new-born human beings, and challenges accepted ethical arguments, insisting that we look afresh at the assumptions we have made about abortion and the status of the unborn person.
This is a philosophical book rather than a theological book. But there is a moving point at the end of the book where he draws on a sermon of the fourth century Cappadocian Father, Gregory Nazianzus, who appealed to the doctrine of imago Dei when he challenged the people of Caesarea to recognise the shared humanity of the victims of an outbreak of leprosy. This shared humanity was no longer recognised by their family members and former friends, who could no longer recognise their human form and saw them as threats.

I find this book a helpful contribution to trying to get of the impasse we have already created in our society in advance of a coming referendum. If we listen to what James Mumford has to say, we might be more gracious in listening to what we have to say to each other.


Biographical note:

Patrick Comerford is lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute and adjunct assistant professor in TCD.