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November 2013 Standing Committee News

The Standing Committee of the General Synod met on Tuesday 19 November 2013 in Church House, Dublin and was chaired by the Archbishop of Armagh and the Archbishop of Dublin. The meeting was opened with a scripture reading and prayers led by Archdeacon George Davison.

The Archbishop of Armagh noted that this was the last meeting of the Standing Committee which the Revd Pat Storey was attending before her consecration as a bishop and assured her of his prayers for God’s blessing as she prepares to take on her new role in Meath & Kildare; members congratulated the bishop–elect with applause.

The Archbishop of Armagh congratulated the Bishop of Connor on his recent election to the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, following his attendance at the WCC 10th Assembly in Korea, 30 October–8 November.

Honorary Secretaries’ Report

Guide Promise
The Honorary Secretaries reported that they are to meet with the Chief Guide of Girlguiding UK, Ms Gill Slocombe, and other Guides representatives at the end of November, following the resolution relating to the new Girlguiding promise adopted at the September Standing Committee meeting. They will be joined by the Bishop of Down & Dromore, Mr Andrew Brannigan and Mrs Hilary McClay.

Employment Equality Acts 1998–2001
The Republic of Ireland Government proposes to amend Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act 1998–2001 which exempts a religious, educational or medical institution from the provisions of the Act as regards discrimination ‘where it is reasonable to do so in order to maintain the religious ethos of the institution’ or ‘it takes action which is reasonably necessary to prevent an employee or a prospective employee from undermining the religious ethos of the institution.’ Having considered the matter in relation to the ethos of Church of Ireland schools, the Board of Education responded to a call for submissions by 13 November; this can be viewed at www.ireland.anglican.org/officialsubmissions

Constitutional Convention and Blasphemy
The Constitutional Convention gave consideration to whether it would recommend the removal of the prohibition of blasphemy in the Constitution of Ireland. The convention invited submissions from various organisations. The Irish Council of Churches worked to agree a common position of all Churches in the ICC and the Irish Inter Church Meeting. The Honorary Secretaries liaised with the Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin on the issue and agreed a suggested approach to the ICC. Following consultation with the various Churches an agreed response was formulated, which can be found at: http://www.irishchurches.org/news/919/removal-of-blasphemy-from-the-constitution-of-ireland

The statement acknowledged that the constitutional prohibition was ‘largely obsolete’ and ‘may give rise to concern because of the way such measures have been used to justify violence and oppression against minorities in other parts of the world.’ The statement added, ‘the promotion of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience for all in society greatly enriches the social fabric of a country, and is one aspect of respect for the dignity of human persons. The human right of faith communities to contribute to public life, including public debate on issues that are of importance to everyone, without being subjected to attack or ridicule, needs to be acknowledged and respected.’ It concluded by expressing the Churches’ ‘solidarity with all those, throughout the world, who are experiencing persecution, and human rights abuses, because of their faith or beliefs.’

The Constitutional Convention has since recommended removal of the prohibition of blasphemy in favour of a general provision relating to incitement to religious hatred.

Clergy Pensions Board
Mrs Brigid Barrett was appointed to represent General Synod on the Church of Ireland Clergy Pensions Board.

Royalties Fund Grants
The following grants from the Royalties Fund were agreed:
€1200 to Columba Press to support the publication of the Very Revd John Mann’s forthcoming Lent with Saint John’s Gospel;
€1,000 to the Irish Traditional Music Archive to support the publication of Tunes of the Munster Pipers which includes a study of James Goodman, onetime Rector of Abbeystrewry and Professor of Irish at Trinity College, Dublin; and
€15,000 to the Synod Department from the General Synod Royalties Fund to undertake further research in respect of the copyright management and contractual issues related to the production of the Hymnal Supplement and associated products.

A number of reports were received: an interim report of the Select Committee on Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief; a report from the Church of Ireland Historiographer, Dr Kenneth Milne; a report from the Rev Ása Björk Ólafsdóttir on the Methodist Conference held in Carrickfergus; a report from the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church which took place in Edinburgh from the Venerable George Davison and a report from the Rev James Harries (of the Church in Wales, representing all of the Anglican Celtic Churches in an observer capacity) on the Meissen Commission Meeting held in Bradford, England during September.

For further information please contact:

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