Clogher members play their part at General Synod 2006

Bishop Michael Jackson addresses the SynodThe 2006 meeting of the General Synod of the Church of Ireland took place in the Armagh City Hotel from 9th to 11th May 2006. Undoubtedly the news story which dominated proceedings, media headlines and private conversations at the Synod was that Archbishop Robin Eames was to retire at the end of the year, after over twenty years as Primate of All-Ireland.

“I have decided after much prayer, thought and discussion with those I love that I should retire from my position as Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland. Accordingly I will be informing the House of Bishops next October of my wish to retire on 31 December this year. I am announcing my intentions today as this will be the last occasion I preside over the General Synod of the Church of Ireland”, he said.

Addressing the Synod, the Most Revd John Neill, Archbishop of Dublin paid tribute to the Primate’s contribution to the life of the Church of Ireland. “There is already in this Synod a sense of deep gratitude to you and to God who provided the right person for the right time. During that period you have been a steady influence. You have been trusted by many people who dare not trust each other…… God has given you a steady mind, strong judgement and warm personality”, he said.

Forty-two members are elected by the diocese of Clogher to the General Synod, fourteen clerical and twenty-eight lay, and along with Bishop Michael Jackson, they played a full part in the debates, votes and acts of worship which make up the Synod’s business.

The Synod agreed to enshrine Safeguarding Trust, its code of good practice for working with children in its constitution and to make provision for two Child Protection Officers, to ensure that the child protection policy is adhered to in all aspects of the church’s life. It also agreed to a call that Fairtrade products ought to be used on all church premises, where possible.

The Synod also considered the work of the Hard Gospel project, set up to examine issues of sectarianism and discrimination. Following a presentation by the Hard Gospel director, Rev. Earl Storey, Bishop Michael Jackson commended its work, “The possibilities are many. The opportunities for us as an all-Ireland church to engage creatively with one another and witness into the societies of which we are part are many. The models of good practice are already there – not least in the part of the country where I have the privilege of ministering, in a cross-Border diocese.”

The Church of Ireland has also been considering living with difference within the Anglican Communion, and in particular, looking at the Windsor Report on aspects of communion. The debate over human sexuality has brought this matter to the forefront within Anglicanism in recent years, and the Windsor Report sought to find ways of maintaining communion between the different national churches.

During a debate on the findings of the Windsor Report Working Group, of which Bishop Jackson was a member, Precentor Brian Courtney of Enniskillen called for the Church of Ireland to have the debate on human sexuality in a fruitful, open and loving way. He commended the Working Group for its statement on Scripture and spoke of the need to take the debate to the authority of Scripture. The church did not need another layer of ecclesiastical bureaucracy, he said, the most important thing is to submit to God’s will revealed in God’s word.

In seconding the report of the Pensions Board, the Rev Ted Woods of Dublin spoke warmly of the work of Chancellor Victor McKeon, the recently-retired rector of Trory and Killedeas, who had served as Honorary Secretary on the Board, “As a former accountant he brought to the board a great knowledge of finance and investments, and though not voluble like some of us, when he spoke his opinions carried a lot of weight because he made sense and was therefore listened to. Having been a member of the board for nineteen years, he is now one of its pensioners and we wish him well in his retirement.

After its three days, the Synod concluded business, with good wishes to Archbishop Eames for his forthcoming retirement, and also a degree of speculation in members’ minds as to who would occupy the President's chair when Synod meets next year in Kilkenny.

15th May 2006