24 March 2014

Anglican Studies (2014) 10.1: Is there an Anglican culture?
Anthony Trollope and the ‘Barchester’ novels

For many people their first introduction to Anglican culture is through the Barchester novels of Anthony Trollope

Patrick Comerford

MTh Year II

Anglican Studies in an Irish context:

Mondays: 2 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. noon, The Hartin Room.

Monday, 24 March 2014, 4.30 p.m.:

10.1: Is there an Anglican culture? Anthony Trollope and the Barchester novels


Next week, we are asking whether there is such a thing as an “Anglican culture,” and shall be looking at the poetry of TS Eliot and the novels of Rose Macaulay, for example.

But for many people their first introduction to Anglican culture may come in the Barchester novels of Anthony Trollope (1815–1882).

Trollope, who lived in Ireland from 1841 to 1851, including some years as town postmaster of Clonmel, Co Tipperary, was one of the most successful, prolific and respected Victorian novelists. His best-loved works, collectively known as the Chronicles of Barsetshire, revolve around cathedral and church life in the imaginary county of Barsetshire.

Although Trollope also wrote perceptive novels on political, social, and gender issues, and on other topical matters, his novels about Church life are among the important accounts of Anglican spirituality and culture in the Victorian era.

1, The Warden

The Warden is the first novel in Anthony Trollope’s series, the Chronicles of Barsetshire. Trollope said his first vision for The Warden came to him while walking in the cathedral close of Salisbury Cathedral. It was his fourth novel and was published in 1855.

The Warden concerns Canon Septimus Harding, the elderly warden of Hiram’s Hospital and Precentor of Barchester Cathedral.

Hiram’s Hospital is an almshouse supported by the income from a mediaeval charitable bequest to the Diocese of Barchester. The income maintains the almshouse itself, supports its twelve bedesmen, and, in addition, provides a comfortable abode and living for its warden. Canon Harding has been appointed to this position through the patronage of his old friend, the Bishop Grantly of Barchester, who is also the father of Archdeacon Grantly to whom Harding’s older daughter, Susan, is married.

The warden, who lives with his remaining child, an unmarried younger daughter, Eleanor, performs his duties conscientiously.

The story concerns the impact upon Harding and his circle when a zealous young reformer, John Bold, launches a campaign to expose the disparity in the apportionment of the charity’s income between its object, the bedesmen, and its officer, Canon Harding.

John Bold embarks on this campaign out of a spirit of public duty, despite his romantic involvement with Eleanor and previously cordial relations with Canon Harding.

Bold attempts to enlist the support of the press and engages the interest of The Jupiter (a newspaper representing The Times), whose editor, Tom Towers, pens editorials supporting reform of the charity, and presenting a portrait of Canon Harding as selfish and derelict in his conduct of his office.

This image is taken up by the commentators, Dr Pessimist Anticant and Mr Popular Sentiment, who have been seen as caricatures of Thomas Carlyle and Charles Dickens respectively.

Ultimately, despite much brow-beating by his son-in-law, the Archdeacon, and the legal opinion solicited from the barrister, Sir Abraham Haphazard, Mr Harding concludes that he cannot in good conscience continue to accept such generous remuneration and resigns the office.

John Bold, who has appealed in vain to Tom Towers to redress the injury to Mr Harding, returns to Barchester, where he marries Eleanor.

Those of the bedesmen of the hospital who have allowed their appetite for greater income to estrange them from the warden are reproved by their senior member, Bunce, who has been constantly loyal to Harding whose good care and understanding heart are now lost to them.

2, Barchester Towers

The second novel, Barchester Towers (1857), is possibly Trollope’s best known work. Among other things, it satirises the then raging antipathy in the Church of England between High Church and Evangelical adherents.

Barchester Towers concerns the leading citizens of the imaginary cathedral city of Barchester. The much loved bishop having died, all expectations are that his son, Archdeacon Grantly, will gain the office in his place.

Instead, owing to the passage of the power of patronage to a new Prime Minister, a newcomer, the far more Evangelical Bishop Proudie, gains the see. His wife, Mrs Proudie, exercises an undue influence over the new bishop, making herself unpopular with right-thinking members of the clergy and their families. Her interference in the reappointment of the universally popular Canon Septimus Harding (hero of The Warden) as warden of the hospital is not well received, although she gives the position to a needy clergyman with a large family to support.

Even less popular than Mrs Proudie is the bishop’s newly appointed chaplain, the hypocritical Revd Obadiah Slope, who takes a fancy to Harding’s wealthy widowed daughter, Eleanor Bold, and hopes to win her favour by interfering in the controversy over the wardenship.

The bishop, or rather Mr Slope under the orders of Mrs Proudie, also orders the return of the Revd Dr Vesey Stanhope from Italy. Dr Stanhope has been there, recovering from a sore throat, for 12 years and has spent his time catching butterflies. With him to the Cathedral Close comes his wife, and his three children.

The younger of Dr Stanhope’s two daughters causes consternation in the Palace and threatens the plans of Mr Slope. Signora Madelina Vesey Neroni is a crippled serial flirt with a young daughter and a mysterious husband whom she has left. Mrs Proudie is appalled by her and considers her an unsafe influence on her daughters, her servants and Mr Slope. Mr Slope is drawn like a moth to a flame and cannot keep away. Bertie Stanhope is a man skilled at spending money but not at making it; his two sisters think a marriage to rich Eleanor Bold will suit, and they pay off his debts.

Summoned by the local clergy to assist in the war against the Proudies and Mr Slope is another clergyman, the brilliant Revd Francis Arabin. Mr Arabin is a considerable scholar, a fellow of Lazarus College, Oxford, and almost followed his mentor, John Henry Newman, into the Church of Rome. He is genuinely attracted to Eleanor, but the efforts of Archdeacon Grantly and his wife to stop her marrying Slope also interfere with any relationship that might develop.

Finally, at the Ullathorne garden party, matters come to a head. Mr Slope proposes and is slapped for his presumption, Bertie proposes and is refused with good grace and the Signora has a chat with Mr Arabin. Mr Slope’s double-dealings are now revealed and he is dismissed by Mrs Proudie, and the Signora. The Signora drops a delicate word in several ears and Mr Arabin and Eleanor become engaged.

The old dean of the cathedral having died it seems obvious that Mr Arabin should become the new dean, with a beautiful house in the Close, 15 acres of garden and an income even greater than that of his wife.

With the Stanhopes’ return to Italy, life in the Cathedral Close returns to its previous quiet and settled ways and Mr Harding continues his life of gentleness and music.

3, Doctor Thorne

The third Barchester novel, Doctor Thorne (1858), is mainly concerned with the romantic problems of Mary Thorne, niece of Doctor Thomas Thorne (a member of a junior branch of the family of Mr Wilfred Thorne, who appeared in Barchester Towers), and Frank Gresham, the only son of the local squire, although Trollope as the omniscient narrator assures the reader at the beginning that the hero is really the doctor.

The major themes in this book are the social pain and exclusion caused by illegitimacy, the nefarious effects of the demon drink, and the difficulties of romantic attachments outside one’s social class. The novel also gives a vivid picture of electioneering and all the just-legal shenanigans that accompany the event. Most of the action takes place in a village of Barsetshire and a country house not far off.

The idea of the plot was suggested to Trollope by his brother Thomas.

When their father dies, Doctor Thomas Thorne and his younger, ne’er-do-well brother Henry are left to fend for themselves. Dr Thorne begins to establish a medical practice, while Henry seduces Mary Scatcherd, the sister of stonemason Roger Scatcherd. When Scatcherd finds out that Mary has become pregnant, he seeks out Henry and, in the ensuing fight, kills him.

While her brother is in prison, Mary gives birth to a girl. A former suitor offers to marry her and emigrate to start a new life, but refuses to take the baby. Dr Thorne persuades her to accept the generous offer, promising to raise his niece. He names her Mary Thorne but, wishing neither to have her illegitimacy made public nor to have her associate with the uncouth Roger Scatcherd, he keeps her birth secret. He tells Scatcherd that the baby had died.

After his release from prison, Scatcherd rises quickly in the world. In time, his skills make him extremely rich. When he completes a seemingly-impossible important project on time, he is created a baronet for his efforts. Throughout his career, he entrusts his financial affairs to Dr Thorne. When Thorne becomes the family doctor to the Greshams, he persuades Scatcherd to loan ever growing sums to the head of the family, the local squire. Eventually, much of the Gresham estate is put up as collateral.

Meanwhile, Mary grows up with the Gresham children and becomes a great favourite with the whole family. As a result, Thorne feels obliged to tell his friend the squire her secret.

Mary falls in love with Frank Gresham, the son and heir of the squire of Greshamsbury and nephew of the Earl and Countess De Courcy, and he with her. However, his parents desperately need him to marry wealth, in order to rescue them from the financial distress resulting from the squire’s expensive and fruitless campaigns for a seat in Parliament.

His snobbish mother and aunt wish him to marry an eccentric, if kind-hearted, older heiress, Martha Dunstable. He reluctantly visits her at Courcy Castle and they become friends. But foolishly and playfully he proposes. She demurs, knowing that he does not love her, and he tells her about his love for Mary.

Sir Roger is a drunkard, and Dr Thorne tries in vain to get him to curtail his drinking. In his will, he stipulates that bulk of his estate should go to his odious, dissolute only son Louis Philippe, but leaves Dr Thorne in control of the inheritance until the heir reaches the age of 25. Should Louis die before then, Scatcherd stipulates that the estate must go to the eldest child of his sister Mary. Dr Thorne is forced to divulge Mary’s history, but Scatcherd leaves the will unchanged.

Sir Roger eventually dies of his excesses, and Sir Louis inherits his vast wealth. The son proves just as much an alcoholic as the father, and his weaker constitution quickly brings him to the same end. After consulting with many lawyers, Dr Thorne confirms that his Mary is the heiress, richer than even Miss Dunstable.

Unaware of these proceedings, the more-resolute Frank finally persuades his doting father to consent to his marriage to Mary. When all is revealed, everyone is elated, even Frank’s mother and Countess De Courcy.

4, Framley Parsonage

The fourth novel, Framley Parsonage, was first published in serial form in the Cornhill Magazine in 1860.

The hero of Framley Parsonage, the Revd Mark Robarts, is a young vicar, newly arrived in the village of Framley in Barsetshire. The living has come into his hands through Lady Lufton, the mother of his childhood friend Ludovic, Lord Lufton.

Mark Robarts has ambitions to further his career and begins to seek connections in the county’s high society. He is soon preyed upon by local MP, Mr Sowerby, to guarantee a substantial loan, which Mark in a moment of weakness agrees to, even though he does not have the means and knows Sowerby to be a notorious debtor.

The consequences of this blunder play a major role in the plot, with Mark eventually being publicly humiliated when bailiffs begin to confiscate the Robarts’s furniture. At the last moment, Lord Lufton forces a loan on the reluctant Mark.

Another plot line deals with the romance between Mark’s sister Lucy and Lord Lufton. The couple are deeply in love and the young man proposes, but Lady Lufton is against the marriage. She would prefer that her son instead choose the coldly beautiful Griselda Grantly, daughter of Archdeacon Grantly, and fears that Lucy is too “insignificant” for such a high honour.

Lucy herself recognises the great gulf between their social positions and declines. When Lord Lufton persists, she agrees only on condition that Lady Lufton asks her to accept her son. Lucy’s conduct and charity (especially towards the family of the poor curate, the Revd Josiah Crawley) weaken Lady Lufton’s resolve. In addition, Griselda becomes engaged to Lord Dumbello. But it is the determination of Lord Lufton that in the end vanquishes the doting mother.

The book ends with Lucy and Ludovic’s marriage as well as three other marriages of minor characters. Two of these involve the daughters of Bishop Proudie and Archdeacon Grantly. The rivalry between Mrs Proudie and Mrs Grantly over their matrimonial ambitions forms a significant comic subplot, with the latter triumphant. The other marriage is that of the outspoken heiress, Martha Dunstable, to Dr Throne, the eponymous hero of the third novel in the series.

5, The Small House at Allington

The Small House at Allington, the fifth Barchester novel, was published in 1864. The novel concerns the Dale family, who live in the “Small House,” a dower house intended for the widowed mother (Dowager) of the owner of the estate. The landowner, in this instance, is the bachelor Squire of Allington, Christopher Dale. Dale’s mother having died, he has allocated the Small House, rent free, to his widowed sister-in-law and her daughters Isabella (“Bell”) and Lilian (“Lily”).

Lily has for a long time been secretly loved by John Eames, a junior clerk at the Income Tax Office, while Bell is in love with the local doctor, James Crofts. The handsome and personable, but somewhat mercenary Adolphus Crosbie is introduced into the circle by the squire’s nephew, Bernard Dale. Adolphus rashly proposes marriage to portionless Lily, who accepts him, to the dismay of John Eames.

Crosbie soon jilts her in favour of Lady Alexandrina de Courcy, whose family is in a position to further his career. Lily meets her misfortune with patience, and remains single, continuing to reject Eames, though retaining his faithful friendship. Bell marries Dr Crofts, after refusing an offer of marriage from her cousin Bernard.

As with all of Trollope's novels, this one contains many sub-plots and numerous minor characters. Plantagenet Palliser (of the Pallisers series) makes his first appearance, as he contemplates a dalliance with Griselda Grantly, the now-married Lady Dumbello, daughter of the archdeacon introduced earlier in the Chronicles of Barsetshire.

6, The Last Chronicle of Barset

The final Barchester novel, The Last Chronicle of Barset, was first published in 1867. This novel concerns an indigent but learned clergyman, the Revd Josiah Crawley, the curate of Hogglestock, as he stands accused of stealing a cheque.

The novel is notable for the non-resolution of a plot continued from the previous novel in the series, The Small House at Allington, involving Lily Dale and Johnny Eames. Its main storyline features the courtship of Crawley’s daughter, Grace, and Major Henry Grantly, son of the wealthy Archdeacon Grantly.

The archdeacon, although allowing that Grace is a lady, does not think her of high enough rank or wealth for his widowed son; his position is strengthened by Crawley’s apparent crime.

Almost broken by poverty and trouble, Crawley hardly knows himself if he is guilty or not; fortunately, the mystery is resolved just as Major Grantly’s determination and Grace Crawley’s own merit force the archdeacon to overcome his prejudice against her as a daughter-in-law.

As with Lucy Robarts in Framley Parsonage, the objecting parent finally invites the young lady into the family; this new connection also inspires the dean and archdeacon to find a new, more prosperous, post for Grace’s impoverished father.

Through death or marriage, this final volume manages to tie up more than one thread from the beginning of the series. One subplot deals with the death of Mrs Proudie, the virago wife of the Bishop of Barchester, and his subsequent grief and collapse. Mrs Proudie, upon her arrival in Barchester in Barchester Towers, had increased the tribulations of the gentle Canon Harding, the title character of The Warden. He dies of a peaceful old age, mourned by his family and the old men he loved and looked after as Warden.

Barchester on television

The Barchester Chronicles is a 1982 BBC television serial adaptation of the first two Barchester novels, The Warden and Barchester Towers. The series, directed by David Giles, was largely filmed in and around Peterborough Cathedral, where the locations included the Deanery and Laurel Court.

The series starred Donald Pleasence as Mr Harding, Nigel Hawthorne as Archdeacon Grantly, Angela Pleasence as Mrs Grantly, Cyril Luckham as Bishop Grantly, David Gwillim as John Bold, George Costigan as Tom Towers, John Ringham as Finney,Barbara Flynn as Mary Bold, Janet Maw as Eleanor Harding, Clive Swift as Bishop Proudie, Geraldine McEwan as Mrs Proudie, Alan Rickman as Obadiah Slope, Susan Hampshire as Signora Madeline Neroni, and Ursula Howells as Miss Thorne.

Next week:

Monday, 31 March 2014:

2 p.m., 10.2: Is there an Anglican culture? The poetry of TS Eliot.

3.30 p.m., 10.3: Is there an Anglican culture? Rose Macaulay and The Towers of Trebizond


1, Essays;

2, Evaluations;

3, Dissertation proposals.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and an Assistant Adjunct Professor, Trinity College Dublin. These notes were published online on Monday 24 March 2014 as an introduction to a seminar on ‘Anglican Culture’ on the MTh Year II course, EM8825: Anglican Studies in an Irish context, on Monday 31 March 2014.

Anglicanism (2014) 9.2: Anglicanism, ecumenical
engagement and inter-religious dialogue

Patrick Comerford

MTh Year II

Anglican Studies in an Irish context:

Mondays: 2 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. noon, The Hartin Room.

Monday, 24 March 2014, 3.30 p.m.:

9.2: Anglicanism, ecumenical engagement and inter-religious dialogue.

Patrick Comerford


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

Ecumenical dialogue: origins

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

Two weeks ago [11 March 2014], we saw how the search of Christian Unity was one of the priorities on the agendas of Lambeth Conferences from the very beginning. William Reed Huntington was the original thinker behind the Chicago Lambeth Quadrilateral, which became the touchstone for future Anglican endeavours to promote Christian unity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dialogue with Irish Churches

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

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

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

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

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

‘Appeal to all Christian people’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continuing dialogue in Ireland:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legislation to regulate full inter-changeability of ministry between the Church of Ireland and the Methodist Church in Ireland comes before the General Synod of the Church of Ireland within the next two month [May 2014].

National and international ecumenical bodies:

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

The Irish Council of Churches:

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

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

Today, there are 16 member churches: Antiochian Orthodox Church; Church of Ireland; Cherubim and Seraphim; Greek Orthodox Church; Lutheran Church in Ireland; Methodist Church in Ireland; Moravian Church (Irish District); Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church (including the Unitarian Church); Presbyterian Church in Ireland; Redeemed Christian Church of God; Religious Society of Friends (Quakers); Romanian Orthodox Church; Russian Orthodox Church; and Salvation Army (Irish Division).

The current President is the Revd Father Godfrey O’Donnell of the Romanian Orthodox Church, chair of the Orthodox Network of Churches. The incoming president this year [2014] is the Rev Dr Donald Watts, Clerk of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, and the immediate past President is the Most Rev Richard Clarke, Archbishop of Armagh.

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

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

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

The Conference of European Churches (CEC):

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

The World Council of Churches (WCC):

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church:

Pope Francis I and Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury met in the Vatican on 13 July 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liturgical dialogue

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

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

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

Inside Saint Carthage’s Cathedral, Lismore, Co Waterford ... Dean Gilbert Mayes was the first secretary of Societas Liturgica (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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

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

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

The most recent Congress of Societas Liturgica was held in Würzburg, Germany, last summer [5-10 August 2013].

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

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

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

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

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

It discusses the Eucharist under five headings:

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

Dialogue with the Lutheran churches

A map showing the churches participating in the Porvoo Communion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lutheran bishops from the member Churches of the Porvoo Communion have taken part in the most recent episcopal consecrations in Ireland: Pat Storey of Meath and Kildare (2013, Bishop Karsten Nissen of Viborg, Denmark), John McDowell of Clogher (2011, Bishop Ingeborg Midttømme, Bishop of Møre, Norway), Trevor Williams of Limerick (2008, the Bishop of Iceland), Alan Abernathy of Connor (2007, Linkoping, Sweden), Michael Burrows of Cashel (2006, Lund, Sweden); Peter Barrett of Cashel (2003, Lund, Sweden, as well as Haarlem, the Old Catholic Church).

Last year [April 2013], the Church of Ireland Theological Institute hosted a Porvoo Communion consultation on the diaconate and diaconal ministry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anglicans and inter-faith dialogue:

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

[Discussion: Experiences of inter-faith dialogue]

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

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

Guidelines for Interfaith Events and Dialogue

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

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

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

NIFCON does this by:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional reading:

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


The ARCIC Final Report

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

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

The Church of Ireland/Methodist Church in Ireland Covenant

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

The Methodist Church in Ireland
The Church of Ireland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Robert Armagh
Primate of All Ireland

W Winston Graham
President of the Methodist Church in Ireland

26 September, 2002
Chrome Hill,

On-line later today:

10.1: Is there an Anglican culture? Anthony Trollope and the Barchester novels.

Next week:

Monday, 31 March 2014:

2 p.m., 10.2: Is there an Anglican culture? The poetry of TS Eliot.

3.30 p.m., 10.3: Is there an Anglican culture? Rose Macaulay and The Towers of Trebizond


1, Essays;

2, Evaluations;

3, Dissertation proposals.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and an Assistant Adjunct Professor, Trinity College Dublin. This is an expanded version of notes prepared for a lecture on the MTh Year II course, EM8825: Anglican Studies in an Irish context, on Monday 31 March 2014.

Anglicanism (2014) 9.1: The Anglican Covenant:
the debate today and the future of Anglicanism

Patrick Comerford

MTh Year II

Anglican Studies in an Irish context:

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

Monday, 24 March 2014, 2 p.m.:

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

The Anglican Covenant is a proposed solution to the public conflicts and threats of schism within the Anglican Communion over the past decade or so.

The idea of a covenant was first suggested in the Windsor Report (2004), which responded sympathetically to the complaints from those parts of the Anglican Communion – described variously described as conservative, traditionalist, or orthodox – that were dissatisfied with developments in the churches of the West, including the election of Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire (the US), and the blessing of same-gender partnership in the Diocese of New Westminster (Canada).

But it is sometimes forgotten that the Windsor Report also addressed concerns of cross-border interventions by bishops from the so-called “Global South” in the Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada.

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

The Covenant went through a number of drafts and comment periods before a “final” text was codified in December 2009. The 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion have since been asked to adopt this text. In June 2010, the Anglican Church of Mexico became the first church to do so.

The Covenant is immediately effective for churches that adopt it. Churches adopting the Covenant commit themselves to a new relationship with other Anglican churches. Churches that do not sign up to the covenant or are in the process of adoption may be allowed to take part in certain Covenant-defined activities, though their status is not completely clear.

At the centre of the new arrangement is the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion, formerly the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and Primates’ Meeting.

When conflicts arise, the Standing Committee is to seek consensus. If no consensus is found, the Standing Committee may ask an “offending” church to delay or stop a controversial action.

If that request is ineffective, the Standing Committee can recommend “relational consequences.”

In practice, would enacting “relational consequences” mean demoting or excluding a church from participation in certain bodies?

Or would it mean asking other provinces effectively to shun the offending church, banishing it from the Anglican family?

Even if such extreme actions are never taken, at the heart of the new covenanted relationship among Anglican Churches would always be the threat of exclusion.

At Lambeth 2008, it was initially made clear to the bishops that the conference was not a legislative meeting and that there would be no voting. A series of meetings on the proposed covenant was held.

The bishops were divided up into daily Indaba groups or discussion groups of about 40 bishops each, and the covenant was a discussion topic on one day.

Although there was no voting, the report that came from Lambeth 2008 said that a majority of bishops present favoured an Anglican Covenant.

In December 2009, the text of The Anglican Communion Covenant was sent to all the member churches of the Anglican Communion, asking them to consider it for adoption according to their own internal procedures.

At the General Synod of the Church of Ireland in Armagh three years ago, the Church of Ireland agreed to “subscribe” to the Covenant on 13 May 2011. But the General Synod also made it clear that the Covenant did not supplant existing governing documents of the Church of Ireland.

In the Church of England, the Act of Synod adopting the Covenant was sent to the diocesan synods before it could have any possibility of returning to the General Synod for approval.

The General Synod of the Church of England voted on 24 November 2010 to send the Covenant to diocesan synods. If a majority of synods voted in favour of adopting the Covenant, the question would then be brought back to General Synod for a final vote.

The final vote was 26 dioceses against the Covenant and 18 for it:

● 26 voted against the Covenant returning to the General Synod for a final vote: Bath and Wells, Birmingham, Chelmsford, Derby, Ely, Gloucester, Guildford, Hereford, Leicester, Lincoln, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford, Portsmouth, Ripon and Leeds, Rochester, St Albans, St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, Salisbury, Sodor and Man, Southwark, Truro, Wakefield and Worcester.

● 18 have voted for it: Blackburn, Bradford, Bristol, Canterbury, Carlisle, Chester, Chichester, Coventry, Durham, Exeter, Europe, Lichfield, Norwich, Peterborough, Sheffield, Southwell and Nottingham, Winchester and York.

As a consequence, the Church of England cannot now sign up to the Anglican Covenant, which many have seen as the one plan that might have prevented the global Anglican Communion from fracture and division.

During the voting in the diocesan synods, a consistent the pattern emerged: around 80% of the bishops voted in favour of the covenant, but the clergy and laity votes have split around 50-50 for and against, with votes against nudging ahead among the clergy. Does that suggest that the bishops are out of touch with faithful Anglican churchgoers and clergy in England, as Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch of Oxford argued in The Guardian two years ago [25 March 2012]?

The previous Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, supported the Anglican Covenant in an effort to ensure divisive issues – including gay and lesbian bishops – do not split the Anglican Communion. However, the covenant had already been rejected by conservative many Anglican leaders around the world, even though they are the ones it was intended to placate.

Archbishop Williams said he saw the Anglican Covenant is about the autonomous, self-governing member Churches of the Anglican Communion being “accountable to each other in the Communion.” Defending the Covenant, he said it would not give anybody the power to do anything but recommend courses of action.

However, critics have said the Anglican Covenant is in danger of undermining the traditional independence or autonomy of the member churches of the Anglican Communion.

The concept of an Anglican Covenant grew out of fears that disagreements over the divisive issues between different provinces of the Anglican Communion would lead to irreconcilable division within the Church.

The arguments included the appointment of bishops in non-celibate gay relationships, including Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, and the blessing of same-gender unions, in Anglican dioceses in the US and Canada.

Some provinces in Africa, Latin America and Asia vehemently condemned these developments.

When an Anglican Covenant was first proposed within the recommendations of the Windsor Report, Bishop Bob Anderson warned the House of Bishops in the US that if the Anglican Covenant became a reality, it would change the nature of Anglicanism.

The Primate of Korea said his Church would reject the covenant, because, in their considered opinion, to accept it would be to internalise the colonialism that he felt existed in the relationship between the Anglican provinces of the West and their province.

Provinces critical of the actions of the North American churches have formed a separate grouping known as Gafcon (from the Global Anglican Future Conference held in 2008).

They also supported the foundation of breakaway churches in North America, and these actions served only to worsen the divisions within the Anglican Communion.

Looking at the Covenant

The Anglican Covenant seeks to commit member churches of the Anglican Communion to respect each other’s autonomy, and to “spend time with openness and patience in matters of theological debate and reflection, to listen, pray and study with one another in order to discern the will of God.”

The covenant provides for the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) to consider whether an action by one autonomous Anglican province complies with Anglican teaching if other Churches disagree with it.

Under the covenant, the Standing Committee could request a Church to defer a controversial action, and having consulted other bodies within the Anglican Communion, may declare that an action would be “incompatible with the Covenant.”

The Church of England General Synod backed the covenant in November 2010, despite the misgivings of many, and referred it to the dioceses.

But the covenant received a decisive setback immediately afterwards when it was rejected by the Gafcon Primates’ Council – seen by many as the very Church leaders that the Covenant was intended to placate.

The Gafcon leaders said: “While we acknowledge that the efforts to heal our brokenness through the introduction of an Anglican Covenant were well intentioned, we have come to the conclusion the current text is fatally flawed and so support for this initiative is no longer appropriate.”

The 38 self-governing provinces of the Anglican Communion were asked to sign an agreement under which a Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion would consider actions such as the ordination of gay bishops and whether they were compatible with Anglican teaching.

Those member churches that declined to sign the Anglican Covenant would continue to be Anglicans inside the Anglican Communion, but in an outer or slower tier.

Nine provinces have approved the convent in their own way:

● The Church of Ireland, “subscribed,” May 2011.
● Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, the Hong Kong Anglican Church, adopted, June 2013.
● The Anglican Church of Mexico, adopted, June 2010.
● The Church of the Province of Myanmar (Burma), adopted, November 2010.
● The Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea, adopted, November 2011
● The Church of the Province of South East Asia, adopted, April 2011, with an added preamble of its own.
● The Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACNA), adopted, October 2013.
● The Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of America, approved, November 2011.
● The Church in the Province of the West Indies, adopted, November 2010.

On 18 April 2012, the Governing Body of the Church in Wales, passed a motion indicating its willingness to consider the Covenant, but it asked the ACC to clarify the status of the Covenant in light of its rejection in the Church of England last year.

But the covenant has been rejected by the Council of Bishops in the Philippines. On 8 June 2012, the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church voted decisively against a resolution to adopt the Covenant in principle. On 9 July 2012, the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia declared that it was unable to adopt the Covenant. It has subscribed to the covenant’s first three sections but says it cannot adopt section 4, which outlines a process for resolving disputes. On 10 July 2012, the General Convention of The Episcopal Church (TEC) declined to take a position on the Covenant. The matter cannot come up for debate in TEC before 2015.

In Australia, the Covenant has been sent to the dioceses for study. In Canada, it has been sent to the dioceses for study, and the Church is also seeking theological, ecclesiastical, legal and constitutional implications of action to adopt or not. Korea has acknowledged sections 1-3 as “excellent and useful” but has postponed for further consideration any decision on Section 4. Melanesia has no difficulties with first three sections, but has deferred consideration until this year’s General Synod (2014).

The secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Canon Kenneth Kearon, indicated after the deciding votes in the diocesan synods of the Church of England two years ago, that the Anglican Covenant is still alive and on the agenda of the member provinces of the Anglican Communion.

What next steps are taken by the Church of England is up to the Church of England, he said. But he said that “consideration of the Covenant continues across the Anglican Communion and this was always expected to be a lengthy process.”

Canon Kenneth Kearon ... “consideration of the Covenant continues across the Anglican Communion and this was always expected to be a lengthy process.”

The Anglican Consultative Council, at its meeting in Auckland, New Zealand in 2012 (ACC-15), spent an hour in private conversations on 31 October considering the status of the Anglican Covenant, but it took no action.

Before those conversations began, Bishop Victoria Matthews of Christchurch, New Zealand, asked the members to consider “why [the covenant] is a cause of fear and why is it a sign of hope for others?”

Bishop Matthews said she thought there were two Anglican Communion Covenants: “One is the document that people have in their mind and the other is the Anglican Communion Covenant on paper.”

For that reason, she said, she wanted people “to read the Covenant and be focused on that” because often, when people start talking about the Covenant, “what they describe in their mind as the Covenant is unrecognisable.”

She said that the questions behind the Covenant were: “What is the best way?”, “Is there a way that will keep us together safely?”, ‘and “hat is our deepest fear when we consider decision-making processes?”

The results of the reflections at ACC-15 were sent on to the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) and the Anglican Communion Standing Committee “as they discern the ways to take the matter forward.”

Criticism of the Covenant:

Many opponents of the Covenant within the Church of England would say that they believe in an Anglicanism adapted to local needs and based on a shared heritage of worship, but not on specific understandings of church doctrines to which all must subscribe. Their view of Anglicanism, they say, leads them to conclude that the Anglican Covenant is “profoundly un-Anglican.”

They would argue that the fourth part of the covenant contains a mechanism whereby “errant” provinces could have their status as full and equal members of the Anglican Communion reduced.

Other critics argue that the Anglican Covenant seeks to codify the love that should already be there and to ratify the fear that inspired the Windsor Report.

Writing in The Guardian two years ago [26 March 2012], after that absolute majority of dioceses in the Church of England had voted down the Anglican Covenant, the Revd Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of History of the Church at the University of Oxford, described the covenant as “a pernicious scheme” and a “sorry diversion.”

He sees the Covenant as an attempt “to increase the power of centralising bureaucracy throughout the … Anglican Communion.”

For Professor MacCulloch, the principal aim of the Covenant is to discipline the Anglican churches in the US and Canada.

Some questions:

The compass rose, the symbol of the Anglican Communion … it is surmounted by a bishop’s mitre, in the centre is the cross of Saint George, and the Greek motto, Ἡ ἀλήθεια ἐλευθερώσει ὑμᾶς (“The truth will set you free”), a quotation from John 8: 32.

Would the Covenant bring a measure of discipline and accountability into relationships between the member churches of the Anglican Communion?

Those who support the Anglican Covenant say other Anglican member churches may still ratify the Anglican Covenant. Would this leave the Church of England in the second, outer, tier of a world-wide communion?

Without the Anglican Covenant, can the Anglican Communion hold together as a spiritual body, yet whose bonds are more than affection, where each community within the Anglican Communion is respected equally?

Would the Anglican Communion collapse without the covenant?

Would the Anglican Communion collapse without the Church of England?

Is it fair to argue that the covenant would not change much?

If so, why was it introduced?

Is it possible, as Professor McCulloch, describes it, to lay down the law “in that delicate, nuanced thing that is religious belief?”

Or do “you end up damaging or hurting a great many people”?

The fourth part – the part “with teeth” – has stayed in every draft of the covenant. Does this make it a firmly fixed, constituent part of the covenant? Is accepting any part of the covenant to be taken as approval of the fourth part as well?

Dioceses throughout the Anglican Communion have “companion diocese” links, and a variety of lines of mutual ministry and service across the whole Communion. Is affirming the Covenant necessary to hold the Anglican Communion together?

Some additional thoughts

Richard Hooker’s statue at Exeter Cathedral ... he set out the Anglican theological method of Scripture, Reason and Tradition

The issue underlying the conflicts in the Anglican Communion is one of authority. Who decides what is acceptable and on what basis do they do so?

Concern about homosexuality resulted in a powerful alliance of some Evangelicals and some Anglo-Catholics opposing the “innovations” of more liberal and tolerant Anglicans. The Evangelicals objected to homosexuality on the basis of what they see as biblical prohibitions, and Anglo-Catholics objected to the alleged rejection of Church tradition.

Classic Anglican theology stems from the writings of the 16th century theologian Richard Hooker, who argued in Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity that, in addition to scripture and tradition, we have reason to guide us. With these three sources of authority – Scripture, Reason and Tradition – change becomes possible and proper as conditions and understandings change and allowing a diversity of opinion allows us to explore new possibilities.

But Evangelicals are worried less about a change in interpreting Scripture as a rejection of Scripture and its authority.

Have the traditional forms of holding Anglicans together – the Lambeth Quadrilateral and the Four Instruments of Communion – lost their effectiveness in holding together the Anglican Communion?

Appendix 1: The Lambeth Quadrilateral

Lambeth Palace, seen from Westminster on the opposite bank of the River Thames ... the London home of the Archbishop of Canterbury also gives its name to the Lambeth Conference(Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, frequently referred to as the Lambeth Quadrilateral or the Lambeth-Chicago Quadrilateral, is a four-point articulation of Anglican identity, often cited as encapsulating the fundamentals of the Anglican Communion’s doctrine and as a reference-point for ecumenical discussion with other Christian denominations.

The four points are:

1, The Holy Scriptures, as containing all things necessary to salvation.
2, The Creeds (specifically, the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed) as the sufficient statement of Christian faith.
3, The Sacrament of Baptism and Holy Communion.
4, The historic episcopate, locally adapted.

Resolution 11 of the third Lambeth Conference (1888) reads:

That, in the opinion of this Conference, the following Articles supply a basis on which approach may be by God’s blessing made towards Home Reunion:
(a) The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as “containing all things necessary to salvation,” and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.
(b) The Apostles’ Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.
(c) The two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself – Baptism and the Supper of the Lord – ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s Words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him.
(d) The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the Unity of His Church.

Appendix 2: The instruments of communion in the Anglican Communion:

The Primates of the Anglican Communion at their meeting in Swords, Co Dublin, three years ago. Seated on each side of Archbishop Rowan Williams are Archbishop Alan Harper and Canon Kenneth Kearon; in the back row (second from left) is the Irish-born Scottish primus, Bishop David Chillingworth

The Anglican Communion is served by four “Instruments of Communion”:

1, The Archbishop of Canterbury
2, The Lambeth Conferences
3, The Primates’ Meeting
4, The Anglican Consultative Council


Anglican Studies (2014) 9.2: Anglicanism, ecumenical engagement and inter-religious dialogue.

Online later today:

10.1: Is there an Anglican culture? Anthony Trollope and the Barchester novels.

Next week:, Monday, 31 March 2014

10.2, Is there a way of talking about an ‘Anglican Culture’? (1), The poetry of TS Eliot.
10.3, Is there a way of talking about an ‘Anglican Culture’? (2), Rose Macaulay and The Towers of Trebizond


1, Essays

2, Evaluations

3, Dissertation proposals

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor, Trinity College Dublin. These notes were prepared for a lecture and seminar on the MTh Year II course, EM8825: Anglican Studies in an Irish context, on Monday 24 March 2014.