12 May 2018

Ecumenical guests and
divisive debates at the
General Synod in Armagh

With ecumenical guests from the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Revd Patrick Burke, editor of the ‘Diocesan Magazine’ (Cashel, Ferns and Ossory) at the General Synod in Armagh

Patrick Comerford

The General Synod of the Church of Ireland is coming to an is coming to an end in Armagh and I hope to be back in Askeaton, Co Limerick, later this evening.

One of my pleasant tasks at the General Synod this year, as in many previous years, was being one of the hosts for the ecumenical guests from other churches.

This week, I was asked to be the host for three groups of special guests: the Revd Sarah Groves of the Moravian Church of Great Britain and Ireland; Ms Miriam Weibye, Church Relations Officer, the Scottish Episcopal Church; and the Revd Father Rouies Anba Bishoy of the Coptic Orthodox Church, and Dr Sherif Kelada.

The other ecumenical guests this week included Archbishop Emanon Martin of Armagh, Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick and Mr Tommy Burns from the Roman Catholic Church; the Very Revd Frank Sellar and Mrs Sadie Somerville from the Presbyterian Church in Ireland; the Revd Lawrence Graham and Mr Kenneth Twyble from the Methodist Church in Ireland; Dr Nicola Brady of the Irish Council of Churches, and the Revd Brian Anderson, the new President of the Irish Council of Churches; and Bishop Dirk Jan Schoon of Haarlem, representing the International Bishops’ Conference of the Old Catholic Church.

Sometimes I wonder what they make of our way of debating, and how we often fail to listen to each other. But that is an ‘Anglican-centric’ way of looking at ecumenism. They probably care little, but in equal measure probably wonder what we think of their internal debates.

In all our debates these days, as we worry about maintaining our own unity and at times have been less than charitable about our differences as we feigned hurt about those we differed with in the debates at General Synod, I wondered if all these were ‘first world’ problems that we had the luxury to wallow in while representatives from the Coptic Orthodox Church know at first hand what it is truly like to suffer as a minority in Egypt.

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