New Year statement from the Church Leaders Group


The members of the Church Leaders Group.

As the Christmas season comes to an end and we turn our attention to a New Year many in our communities are daunted by the uncertainty and division which are increasingly prevalent today.

At the beginning of this New Year we remember that Jesus’ revelation starts with the “outsider” with the shepherds and the wise men who were outside the “in” groups of the time. The baby Jesus, from his very birth, is not simply interested in appealing to those who are like him. He has come for all; in Jesus, God’s light comes to the whole earth and to every part of our community.

In the past few years we have faced difficult and divisive referenda and elections across this island.

The effects of these events do not cease to be felt once the polls have closed. In our conversations with friends, family and those we interact with day to day we feel the weight of these cultural and political divisions. At the beginning of this new year how do we understand Christ’s revelation of himself to, and for, those with whom we disagree? What does the story of the wise men tell us about how Jesus would relate to those on the other side of our community, the border or the Irish Sea?

North of the border the latest round of all party talks gives renewed hope that the profoundly damaging political vacuum might be brought to an end, south of the border we see the impact of the housing crisis on the most vulnerable in our communities, and in both jurisdictions, we see the consequences of sectarianism and criminality. Often in the face of social and economic crises the Church has been a beacon of hope in our communities. Across this island, many of the foodbanks and winter night shelters which provide vital service to those in need are provided by communities of faith.

As we move forward together into the new year, we as Church Leaders pray that the churches of this island will be a beacon of hope in the face of this crisis in our common life. May the Church model unity and demonstrate love in the face of disagreement and difference both among Christians and with those outside the church’s walls. At Christmas we see the love of God displayed for all humanity. The story of the wise men reminds us that this love embraces the diversity of all of God’s people across the earth.

As we have consistently done throughout this year, we call for leadership across all sections of society to support a return to devolved government that will be sustainable in the context of significant social, economic and political challenges. A sense of collective responsibility will be required to enable a new Executive and Assembly to take difficult decisions in the interests of the common good. Our political context north and south demands courageous decision making which moves beyond self interest and takes account of the whole of society.

We pray that the members of our churches will be at the forefront of demonstrating the nature of God’s love across our divided homes and cities. Our call is also to all people of good will to commit to building relationships across cultural and political divisions so that in this new year and in the years to come we build communities where all can flourish.

The Most Rev Dr Richard Clarke
Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh & Primate of All Ireland

The Rt Rev Dr William Henry
Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland

The Most Rev Eamon Martin
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Dromore & Primate of all Ireland

The Rev Sam McGuffin
President of the Methodist Church in Ireland

The Rev Brian Anderson
President of the Irish Council of Churches

Church Leaders Group
The Church Leaders Group comprises the Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic Primates of All Ireland, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, and the President of the Irish Council of Churches.