What is the Spirit Saying to the Churches Today? – An initial response by Archbishop Michael Jackson to ‘Sectarianism in Northern Ireland: A Review’
Sectarianism in Northern Ireland: A Review by Prof Duncan Morrow of Ulster University is being launched at a conference in Belfast today, Tuesday May 14.
A report published today entitled: Sectarianism in Northern Ireland: A Review by Professor Duncan Morrow, University of Ulster, takes the on–going reality of sectarianism by the short hair. With more than fifty recommendations for implementation, it clearly is not for hanging around. It moves everyone forward from conversation to commitment, from argument to action in intensely practical ways. Its purpose, along with the Conference in which its launch is set, is to prevent those who shape society and claim a stake in the common good, churches included, from kicking the can any further down the road.
Professor Morrow, a respected analyst and passionate practitioner of community relations, presents facts around the on–going impact of changing demographics on minority–majority structures and on inherited expectations around personal and community identities. The Report confirms and objectifies many perceptions that some of us working on the ground have discerned in recent years.
Among the wide–ranging recommendations, the leaders of all major churches are called upon to run an agreed programme to encourage respect for other faiths. Such a recommendation is a clarion call to everyone involved in religious activity, not simply leaders, to move beyond sectarianism and beyond the binary definitions of faith and of religion as denominational entities within inherited Christianity. It is a call to encourage respect for faiths in an Ireland that, in its entirety, is multi cultural and multi faith today. People of more than two hundred ethnicites of origin live on the island of Ireland of 2019.
The broad questions for members of the Church of Ireland, as we embark this very week on our General Synod 2019 and during the Year of Commemoration of Disestablishment 150 where our theme is: free to shape our own future, surely are these:
– Do we see our face in the mirror of this analysis?
– What does it mean to us today to be an all–island church and how do we express our co–operation as a response to this analysis both South and North?
– How do those of us residing in the Republic of Ireland and claiming to be part of an all–island church accept our own role in perpetuating negative stereotypes and incapacity to achieve true reconciliation?
– What will it mean to take ourselves not to so much by the short hair but to take one another and those who are our neighbours by the hand and address the findings on identity, exclusion and inclusion showcased by the Report?
This is about community every bit as much as it is about politics; this is about the presence and the prompting of the Holy Spirit of God every bit as much as it is about exisitng institutional churches. This is about a thirty–two county approach on the part of our church.
During nine years serving in the diocese of Clogher and a further nine years serving in the dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough, I have seen that both action and interaction can flourish. Spearheading with others right across the community an outworking of The Hard Gospel issues in the border areas of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, I found significant commitment on the part of my own people to cross–community work of reconciliation, particularly following the Enniskillen bomb. During an equivalent time in Dublin and Glendalough, I remain painfully aware of the need to keep this work going in order to enable an understanding of how all on this island are tied into such work of reconciliation combatting sectarianism and need each another practically, prayerfully and respectfully. I have also seen the flourishing of respect in Dublin and Glendalough across World Faiths and the embedding of the dialogue of life and humanity together with the dialogue of ideas culminating in the agreeing and issuing of the Dublin Interfaith Charter in 2018.
Apocalypse is about disclosure and about revelation and about self–understanding under God. This Report is such an apocalyptic moment as it asks us to reflect on what might be called The Laodicean Question in The Apocalypse itself: I know what you are doing; you are neither hot nor cold. How I wish you were either hot or cold! (The Revelation of John 3.15)