Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 13 July 2014

Church of Ireland Synod analysis

Church of Ireland primate Dr Richard Clarke says Christians should confront those who seek to commodify life
Church of Ireland primate Dr Richard Clarke says Christians should confront those who seek to commodify life

The tone of this year’s Church of Ireland Synod was set by the low-key Presidential speech of the Primate Richard Clarke in which he outlined several important social and ethical issues.

They included abortion, child poverty, same-sex relationships and the need for the church to adapt to changing circumstances.

This General Synod also illustrates the different political and social issues facing the modern Church. There were no barnstorming speeches about violence and political deadlock, as in previous years.

Instead the focus was placed upon how the Church should deal with difficult internal matters, including same-sex relationships, and how to reassure the clergy about their pensions in the aftermath of the economic upheavals in the Republic and also the financial challenges in Northern Ireland.

The Primate was keen to emphasise that while he held a traditional view of marriage, he and other people should listen openly and carefully to the current debate on same-sex relationships.

Many of the issues being discussed this week at the General Synod would not interest most people outside the Church of Ireland but this lack of dramatic headlines is an indication of a slow return to normality after all the abnormality in which the General Synod met during the Troubles.

Despite the discussions on contentious issues like same-sex marriage, the General Synod is demonstrating-like the other main churches like the Presbyterians and Methodists may do next month - that sometimes no “major” news headlines can also be good news about the state of the peace process in Northern Ireland.

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