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Church of Ireland clergy object to conservative bishop's appointment

Church of Ireland clergy object to conservative bishop's appointment
Letter claims David McClay's membership of Gafcon group 'antithetical' to new role

By Patsy McGarry
https://www.irishtimes.com/
November 18, 2019

Rev. Andrew McCroskery, one of the signatories. Others include former head of the Theological Institute in Dublin Canon John Bartlett; Dean of Dublin Dermot Dunne; Dean of Waterford Maria Jansson. File photograph: Dave Meehan

Thirty-six senior Church of Ireland clergy have put their names to an open letter objecting to the appointment of the newly elected Bishop of Down and Dromore due to his involvement with a conservative Anglican group.

In a letter to the church's House of Bishops, the signatories say they are concerned Archdeacon David McClay may not be an appropriate choice due to his membership of the Gafcon (Global Anglican Future Conference) Ireland movement.

They believe the group's policies are "antithetical" to the principles a Church of Ireland bishop must commit to in the rite of consecration. These include "fostering unity, care for the oppressed, and building up the people of God in all their spiritual and sexual diversity".

Gafcon was founded in 2008, originally to oppose same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ+ people. It has proclaimed itself as a unique upholder of biblical orthodoxy and as "a global family of authentic Anglicans standing together to retain and restore the Bible to the heart of the Anglican Communion".

The letter says a Gafcon taskforce last June recommended that "the provinces of Gafcon should retain the historic practice of the consecration only of men as bishops". In 1990, the church voted in favour of ordaining women as deacons, priests and bishops. It has one woman bishop currently, Bishop of Meath and Kildare Pat Storey.

'Uphold the doctrine'

"How could Archdeacon McClay possibly accept a woman as his colleague in the House of Bishops or uphold the doctrine of the Church of Ireland on women in the episcopacy?" the letter asks.

Among those who signed the letter are former head of the church's Theological Institute in Dublin Canon John Bartlett; Dean of Dublin Dermot Dunne; Dean of Waterford Maria Jansson; Dean of Kilkenny David Mac Donnell; Dean of Limerick Niall Sloane, and 12 canons of the church.

On November 4th last, the episcopal electoral college for Down and Dromore diocese chose Archdeacon McClay to succeed Bishop Harold Miller, who retired in September. Before he can assume office the archdeacon's election has must be confirmed by the House of Bishops.

That is due for consideration at its next meeting on Wednesday.

Full text of letter sent to Church of Ireland House of Bishops:

Dear Members of the House of Bishops,

Archdeacon David McClay has been elected as potential Bishop of Down and Dromore, the largest diocese in the Church of Ireland. His election will need to be confirmed by the House of Bishops on Wednesday, 20th November, to come into effect. The following does not impugn his sterling work in parochial ministry, but raises real concerns regarding the appropriateness of his membership of the Council of Gafcon Ireland (Global Anglican Future Conference) in relation to his election as bishop.

In the rite of Consecration of a Bishop, bishops must commit to:

"share with their fellow bishops a special responsibility to maintain and further the unity of the church

"promote unity, peace, and love among all Christian people

"guard the faith, unity and discipline of the Church

"help the oppressed

"unite its members in a holy fellowship of truth and love

"use one's authority to heal, not to hurt, to build up, not to destroy

(Book of Common Prayer pp.574- 583)"

The policies of Gafcon are antithetical to these principles of fostering unity, care for the oppressed, and building up the people of God in all their spiritual and sexual diversity.

Gafcon, founded in 2008, is a movement to outlaw same-sex marriages, the ordination of LGBTQ+ people, proclaiming itself as the unique upholder of biblical orthodoxy and systematically undermining the global diversity and unity of Anglicanism.

1. As recently as June 2019, in a taskforce on Women in the Episcopate, it recommended that "the provinces of Gafcon should retain the historic practice of the consecration only of men as bishops".

2. In Ireland, all extant Christian practice is under question. Gafcon Ireland has stated that Gafcon Ireland has Theological Education and Church Planting as its two main objectives. On an island of approximately 6.6 million people, vast swathes are without faithful gospel witness. We seek to train and deploy those who will preach and build churches. Is ecumenism to be replaced by proselytisation?

3. Thirty years ago the Church of Ireland voted for the ordination of women as deacons, priests and bishops. Is this now to come under question? How could Archdeacon McClay possibly accept a woman as his colleague in the House of Bishops or uphold the doctrine of the Church of Ireland on women in the episcopacy?

4. Who will decide the agenda of his episcopacy, Gafcon or the General Synod the Church of Ireland? One cannot serve two masters.

5. We urge the House of Bishops to exercise spiritual leadership and not confirm this appointment.

Signatories:

Revd John Ardis, Revd Canon Dr John Bartlett, Revd Grace Clunie, Revd Eileen Cremin, Revd Andrew McCroskery, Revd Canon Prof Patrick Comerford, Revd Canon Ian Coulter, Revd Olive Donohoe, The Very Revd Dermot Dunne, Revd Victor Fitzpatrick, Revd Canon Barbara Fryday, Revd Jane Galbraith, Revd Mark Gardner, Very Revd Susan Green, Revd Canon Sonya Gyles, Revd Cathy Hallissey, Very Revd Maria Jansson, Revd Canon Virginia Kennerley, Revd Jason Kernohan, Very Revd David Mac Donnell, Revd Canon Arthur Minion, Revd Dr Christine O'Dowd Smythe, Revd Dr Anne-Marie O'Farrell, Revd Ása Björk Ólafsdóttir, Revd Canon Katharine Poulton, Revd Charles Mullen, Revd Canon Elaine Murray, Revd Canon Ben Neill, Revd Stephen Neill, Revd Lesley Robinson, Revd Canon Marie Rowley-Brooke, Revd Canon Nigel Sherwood, Revd Aisling Shine, Very Revd Niall Sloane, Revd Nigel Waugh, Revd Canon Paul Willoughby

*****

North/South Church of Ireland divide deepens
Conservative clergy elected amid opposition to women bishops and same-sex marriage

By Patsy McGarry
https://www.irishtimes.com/
November 18, 2019

LP Hartley wrote in his 1953 novel The Go-Between that "the past is a foreign country: they do things differently there".

Increasingly Northern Ireland is becoming a foreign "country" where the Republic is concerned and inevitably, being the North, this is driven by religion -- Protestantism in particular, and of a more fundamentalist variety.

It also led the Presbyterian Church's General Assembly in Belfast last year to loosen ties with its mother church, the Church of Scotland, because of a perception that the latter had become too liberal on same-sex issues. It also decided then that same-sex Presbyterian couples could no longer be full members, nor could their children be baptised.

As with the Presbyterian church on this island, within the Church of Ireland this spreading fundamentalism is leading to a hardening border between more liberal followers in the Republic and those increasingly more rigid in the North.

Contributing to this within the Church of Ireland has been growth in the North and along border areas over recent years of two fundamentalist movements, Gafcon and New Wine Ireland, with considerable overlap between the two.

Gafcon (the Global Anglican Future Conference) was set up in 2008 as a response to the election in the US Episcopal Church (Anglican) five years previously of the openly gay Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.

Gafcon is described on its website as "steadfastly orthodox" and "a Bible-based movement which submits to the authority of the scripture".

Study of scripture

An interim report last June, from its task force on women bishops, advised: "It is our prime recommendation that the provinces of Gafcon should retain the historic practice of the consecration only of men as bishops until and unless a strong consensus to change emerges after prayer, consultation and continued study of scripture among the Gafcon fellowship."

Internationally, membership of Gafcon includes Anglican primates from some African countries as well as those bishops and clergy from Australia, Canada and the US who boycotted the last gathering of the worldwide Anglican Communion at Lambeth in 2008.

Gafcon Ireland was launched in Belfast in April of last year, where it was noted that "the Church of Ireland has followed many in the Anglican Communion into a confused collection of opposing 'theological traditions'".

Its website is critical of two Church of Ireland bishops who publicly supported the Yes campaign for same-sex marriage in 2015. In November of last year, it objected to Dr Amal Abdullah al-Qubaisi being allowed give an address in Waterford's Church of Ireland Christ Church Cathedral.

Dr al-Qubaisi was then president of the Federal National Council of the United Arab Emirates, and the first senior Arab Muslim politician to give an address from a Christian pulpit in Ireland.

Gafcon said that allowing her do so gave a "misleading impression that the Bible and the Koran are different books by the same author". It also objected to "leaders of other faiths" being allowed speak in St Anne's Church of Ireland Cathedral in Belfast.

Jerusalem meeting

Gafcon's Jerusalem meeting last year was attended by the recently retired Bishop of Down and Dromore Harold Miller and the current Bishop of Elphin, Kilmore and Ardagh Ferran Glenfield. Bishop Miller's recently elected successor, Archdeacon David McClay, is a member of Gafcon. He is also chair of the similarly minded New Wine Ireland, of which his wife Hilary is a director.

The Church of Ireland Bishop-elect of Derry and Raphoe Andrew Forster, who is to be installed next month, last week chaired a discussion involving Archdeacon McClay at an event co-hosted by New Wine Ireland at Willowfield Church in Belfast, at which the archdeacon is rector. Willowfield is described on its website as "a New Wine resource church".

New Wine Ireland's "network leaders" include Rev Isaac Hanna, rector of Drumcliffe, Lissadell and Munninane in Co Sligo and the Bishop Ferran Glenfield of the diocese of Elphin, Kilmore and Ardagh.

There have been sustained protests from members of Rev Hanna's congregations in recent weeks since he removed from a church position a parishioner who married his same-sex partner a short time ago.

Another of New Wine Ireland's network leaders is Rev Alison Calvin, rector of Killeshandra, Killegar and Derrylane in Co Cavan.

Speaking at the church's 2017 general synod in Dublin, against a motion that the bishops consider preparing a public thanksgiving service for legally married same-sex couples, she explained how, at times "I feel I am being bullied. It's not fair that my deeply held convictions are portrayed as those of a narrow-minded bigot."

The motion was defeated.

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