What does 2006 hold for the Church of Ireland?
2005 was a year of turmoil for the Anglican Church worldwide and the Church of Ireland did not escape from the turmoil. Will 2006 be any different?
Looking at the year ahead we can see only more strife and division within the Anglican Church worldwide and within the Church of Ireland in particular. Towards the end of 2005 it appeared that a more concerted and co-ordinated effort was being made by the 'liberal-catholic' establishment of the Church of Ireland to promote the revisionist agenda witnessed elsewhere in the Anglican Communion, especially in ECUSA. Dean Michael Burrows, Dean White and Dean McCarthy, to name but a few, all weighed in with public pronouncements and publications which promoted the acceptance of same-sex relationships and the diminishing of biblically orthodox teaching in the area of human sexuality, marriage and sin. In essence their attack was on the authority and role of Scripture in the life of the individual Christian believer and the Church.
In 2006 we believe that the attack on teaching in the area of human sexuality will continue and the opponents of the biblical and traditional church teaching in this area will become more vocal and outspoken. It is alarming that towards the end of 2005, when these 'prominent' churchmen were promoting this revisionist agenda that the House of Bishops remained silent. For Reform Ireland it was particularly alarming that those Bishops who would hold to the biblical teaching in this area remained silent. Added to this the new Civil Partnership Act has opened up a pastoral and legal dilemma for parish clergy in Northern Ireland. Once again little, or no, leadership has been given by the northern bishops on this issue.
Reform Ireland believes that in 2006 'a line in the sand has to be drawn' concerning the authority of Scripture in the life of the Church of Ireland and those called by God to positions of leadership must take their stand on the side of what Scripture teaches. We must be prepared to say that those who teach, and propagate that which is contrary to the plain teaching of Scripture have broken fellowship with us and are no longer in communion with us. We must be prepared to take a stand on this issue and in so doing we must be ready to support one another in that stand. It may mean that certain clergy are not welcome to exercise their ministry within our parishes. It may mean that we refuse to adhere to their teaching because it no longer conforms to the biblical teaching historically and traditionally held to by the wider Church.
So 2006 lies before us. Reform Ireland calls on the faithful believers in the Church of Ireland to be earnest in prayer for the year ahead. Pray that God will raise up biblical leaders within the Church of Ireland at parish and diocesan level. Pray that those Bishops who are orthodox will have the necessary courage to break from the chains of collegiality and give a biblical lead to the wider community of believers within the Church of Ireland. Pray that parish clergy and Select Vestries will hold to the biblical teaching of the church in this area and be prepared to stand firm against all who would teach what is contrary to it. Pray that lay people will become better informed and more pro-active at parish, diocesan and general synod in challenging those who are pushing this revisionist agenda and in so doing call the Church back to its biblical roots. Finally pray that God would move mightily by his Holy Spirit to cleanse the church by cleansing the hearts of men and women and bring them into a living faith in Christ Jesus.
Reform Ireland commits itself afresh in 2006 to continue to stand for biblical teaching in all areas of personal and church life. We will continue to seek to support in prayer and in practice those clergy and laity who wish to win this island for Christ and continue to remain faithful to the teaching of Holy Scripture. May God continue to be merciful to us in 2006. 18th Jan 2006