An occasional supplement to The Church of Ireland Gazette
FRIDAY 6 MARCH 2009
Why the Hard Gospel?
Anne Brown, ConsultAnt to the hArd Gospel projeCt, And eArl storey (projeCt direCtor) detAil the BACkGround of the reCently ConCluded projeCt
he late 1990s in the island of Ireland were a time of challenge and change for many people and organisations. As an institution with a wide and diverse membership, the Church of Ireland was thrust into the limelight by events at Drumcree with the challenge of how, as a Christian Church, to deal responsibly with the problems arising out of sectarianism in a divided society. In 1997, the General Synod of the Church of Ireland, the Church’s governing body, overwhelmingly adopted a motion that the Church was opposed to sectarianism. It started a process of selfexamination with the intention of determining how “to promote, at all levels of Church life, tolerance, dialogue, cooperation and mutual respect between the Churches and in society”. So began a challenging and demanding journey for the Church of Ireland as an institution and as a membership to determine how, rather than being perceived as contributing to the problem, to become instead an integral part of the solution. The SecTarianiSm educaTion ProjecT The Church of Ireland Sectarianism Working Party’s work from 1997 led to the setting up of the Sectarianism Education Project in 2001, with the aim of assisting parishes throughout the island of Ireland to increase their capacity for dealing with sectarianism and difference and of exploring how dealing positively with these issues would have an impact on decision-making within the Church. Rather than proceed with this at a theoretical level, it was decided to commission a wide-ranging research project throughout the Church of Ireland to ascertain the attitudes, needs and experiences of clergy and lay people on these issues. This turned out to be what has been described as possibly the most comprehensive piece of research ever attempted in one Christian denomination/Church in Ireland, and has involved people at all levels of the Church. The ScoPing STudy rePorT The outcome of this research was the Scoping Study Report entitled ‘The
Hard Gospel: Dealing Positively with Difference in the Church of Ireland’. This report was presented to and received by the General Synod in 2003. The significance and importance of the report resulted in it being distributed to all the dioceses in the Church of Ireland for information and for consideration of the implications of the study. It gave rise to much discussion and reflection within the Church. This nationwide process was described in the Church’s Standing Committee Report of 2004 as being “without precedent in the life of the Church of Ireland”.
‘The Hard Gospel Project began, as a three-year project, in November 2005. It was overseen by the Hard Gospel Committee which had secured funding for the Project from the Church of Ireland, the International Fund for Ireland and the Department for Foreign Affairs’
Although originally intended to investigate the issues of sectarianism and religious and political differences, the scoping study disclosed a deep desire within the clergy and lay membership of the Church for open debate and guidance on how to deal with the many issues of “living with difference” which now exist in our rapidly-changing societies in the north and south of Ireland. In recognition of this, it was decided that, whilst dealing with sectarianism would remain a major thrust of the project, the original initiative was too narrow and that a strategic vision for the future was required. The hard goSPel ProceSS The remit of the Sectarianism Education Project was widened to consider how to deal with difference in many and diverse areas, including relationships with minority ethnic groups
and people of other religions and issues of sexuality and gender. In determining what to call the expanded initiative, the words of a retired rector quoted in the Scoping Study Report proved inspirational. He said: “I want to see a return to the hard gospel…that you love God and love your neighbour as yourself.” So began the “Hard Gospel” process which, as the Standing Committee of the Church has pointed out, conveys the willingness of the Church of Ireland to be challenged by the Gospel. The Hard Gospel Project began, as a three-year project, in November 2005. It was overseen by the Hard Gospel Committee which had secured funding for the Project from the Church of Ireland, the International Fund for Ireland and the Department for Foreign Affairs. A Director (The Revd Earl Storey) and two Project Officers (Stephen Dallas and Philip McKinley) were appointed and commissioned by Archbishop Eames, then Archbishop of Armagh and President of the Project. The present Archbishop of Armagh, Archbishop Harper, became President of the Project upon the retirement of Lord Eames. The challenge of the Hard Gospel Project for the Church of Ireland involved: • Investigating how to deal positively with difference in both Church and in society; • Examining current policies and practice in both central institutions and parish communities and • Endeavouring to make dealing with difference a priority for the Church in understanding its ministry and in the allocation of time and resources.7 In seeking creative and faith-driven ways of dealing with difference, the Hard Gospel Project continued the heartsearching and critical reflection which had already begun in the Church of Ireland. It aimed to have an impact not only on the Church internally as an institution and membership but also externally in how the Church and its members relate to and deal with the very real and difficult issues facing our rapidly-changing and increasingly multi-cultural and multi-faith societies in both Northern Ireland and the Republic
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“love your neighbour”. Defining SucceSS One of the most important tasks in any enterprise is to define what success looks like. The Hard Gospel Project commissioned external evaluation of its work from the very beginning of the process. A copy of the Final Evaluation,
CHURCH OF IRELAND GAZETTE
of Ireland. It set out to examine not only the profound questions of faith which arise for Christians in what has been described as the “vertical” relationship in loving God but also the practical implications of these (should the word “questions” go in here?) in the outworking of their faith in their “horizontal” relationships through the command to
conducted by Macaulay Associates, can be found on the Hard Gospel website www.hardgospel.net. This will give a sense of the range of the Project’s work. It is not possible to detail the full range of work undertaken during the last three years. This Supplement does not seek to do that. It reflects on specimen key areas of work.
The Hard Gospel and Loyalist Communities
Stephen DallaS, BelfaSt-BaSeD project officer, reflectS on meeting the neeDS of loyaliSt communitieS in northern irelanD
oyalist communities have some of the highest level of deprivation across Northern Ireland. In December 2006, I listened to the late David Ervine speak at a Hard Gospel public discussion on the subject of leadership. He talked of the “poverty of aspiration in loyalist communities”. This was something I could relate to. I grew up in a loyalist community and am active in the same area with a local youth centre and through church attendance. I have witnessed the lack of ambition or personal drive to take advantage of education or training.
‘... the loyalist community needs to redevelop a sense of purpose, to regain a sense of civic ability and pride.’
Shortly after being struck by David Ervine’s comments, I noticed that the Public Accounts Committee published a report highlighting the poor results in numeracy and literacy in Protestant communities in Belfast. This general malaise is causing deep concern for people from these communities and across various voluntary agencies, political parties and academics. There is a range of educational options for people to take advantage, whether vocational, further education or university. But if
small groups of young people accept the dominant community culture of low aspiration, it is difficult to see how the loyalist community can become vibrant, involved and committed to the process of transformation in a post-conflict Northern Ireland. These realities led me to ask some crucial questions about the role of the Hard Gospel Project. The Hard Gospel at its core was a reconciliation project. In Northern Ireland, the Project focused on challenging people to leave behind the structures and behaviours associated with conflict and live out the golden rule of the Christian faith: to love God and love your neighbours. But before that point can be reached, the loyalist community needs to redevelop a sense of purpose, to regain a sense of civic ability and pride. A process of regeneration is needed to help this section of society to find its place, not in nurturing violence but in civic participation. This must precede the next necessary step of meeting Catholic, republican or nationalist neighbours. It is certain that adaptation is the call for loyalists today. Declan Kiberd, writing for the Irish Times, wrote about the cultural changes within the nationalist community in Ireland: “…old style nationalism, which was cashed in with the Belfast Agreement, is being replaced by civic republicanism whose leaders are attending commemorations of the dead of the Somme as well as that of 1916 … arch-traditionalists may feel scandalised by this national genius for adaptation.” A similar process is needed within loyalism. However, there will be some considerable difficulties in the loyalist community finding a forum to allow these debates about change and transformation to occur. As a one member of the UDA has recently said: “The DUP … haven’t engaged the Loyalist community,
or brought in the resources for us to deal with a new civil society, the way Sinn Féin has tried to do for the Nationalist community.” It is into this role that a variety of organizations such as the Progressive Unionist Party and the Ulster Political Research Group have tried to create possibilities. Christian agencies like Church Community Work Alliance and Centre for Contemporary Christianity Ireland have also been active contributors. The Hard Gospel Project has also sought to offer some support. The Hard Gospel Project considered how it could contribute to raising aspirations and assist in a process of adaptation. If the loyalist communities have any chance of moving forward, achievements in education and training must be one of the means of integrating into
‘If the loyalist communities have any chance of moving forward, achievements in education and training must be one of the means of integrating into the benefits of peace’
the benefits of peace. This belief led the Hard Gospel to generate a project that would document the personal stories of people living in loyalist communities who had taken advantage of education and training. The aim was to get indigenous members of the community to
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adding a few improvements. The process in Rathcoole was intense and the aims ambitious. We sought to record 100 stories using 50 volunteers from local churches, schools and those from the area. I worked with the Rector to manage the project over a five-month period from the moment we secured funds until completion. The results in Rathcoole were very significant. We were able to get 80 interviewees and 45 recruit volunteers. We secured interviews with individuals such as award-winning playwright, Gary Mitchell; Alan Green, sports correspondent for BBC Five Live; and the ex-Manchester United player, Jimmy Nicholl. Most of the contributors made mention of their memories of the area during the Troubles. They shared how important places like youth clubs and local people helped them on their journeys towards adulthood. All 80 stories painted a rich
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share their personal achievements for the sake of encouragement in the wider community. We sought to use Church members and the local community to gather an oral history of the successes in loyalist areas and display these in the form of a public exhibition. The project was called ‘Our Kind of People’, and aimed to identify role models that would act as motivators. I approached the rector of Rathcoole Parish, in Co. Antrim, to run an exhibition. Rathcoole, on the edge of North Belfast, could be described as a heartland of loyalist activity and control. I wanted to see if this method of trying to raise aspirations and pride in local achievements would work in a loyalist stronghold. The rector of the parish, Alan Millar, agreed to the idea and took it to the local clergy in the area to garner support. We used a framework developed in a similar event in Monkstown,
picture of a community that has much to be grateful for. The event itself caught the imagination of people in the area, as over 300 people viewed it over a four-day period. There are many ways in which this model could be developed. It was able to show that even small parishes can achieve a positive involvement in loyalist communities when they get the appropriate support. The new ‘fight’ in loyalist communities needs to focus on the development of aspiration and the equality of outcome in education and training. If the loyalist community continues to adapt to the new realities in Northern Ireland, the Church should welcome this. Not only that but it should bring what it can in seeking to build social partnerships that can improve some of the most deprived areas in Northern Ireland.
Immigration and Interculturalism
PhiliP McKinley reflects on the role of the hard GosPel Project in assistinG the church of ireland to MaKe a Positive contribution to interculturalisM in ireland and soMe challenGes ahead
n January 2003, the Scoping Study of the Hard Gospel dedicated a chapter to the issue of ‘Ethnic difference and Asylum-Seekers’. Its bulletpoint conclusions said that “the issue of ethnic minorities and asylum-seekers has only recently emerged for the Church of Ireland and, although some good practice exist, most respondents have little or no experience in the area.” It went on to claim that “clergy do not, on the whole, feel resourced to respond to the issue”. From 2006-2008, therefore, the Hard Gospel Project committee and team dedicated an extensive amount of energy and resources into initiatives under the following five pillars of the Parishbased Integration Project’s ‘Ecumenical Integration Strategy’: 1) Anti-Discrimination and Equality: Resource materials such as ‘WhereWould Jesus Be’ and ‘Faith and Difference’ were developed with the Church of Ireland Youth Department to highlight issues of faith and ethnicity. Hard Gospel intercultural values were also communicated through a wide variety of print, internet, radio and television media. However, a theology of interculturalism should now be articulated and translated into daily language, thinking and expression. ‘Recession racism’ and the negative
attitudes and apathy towards migrants brought about by the economic downturn must be challenged, particularly publicly and by leaders, and the Church of Ireland should also contribute to inter-faith dialogue through local initiatives and encourage the formation of a national inter-faith forum.
‘Local churches should ask whether worship, regardless of churchmanship, is attractive or accessible to all nationalities and language needs.’
2) Access and Inclusion: Guidelines and resources for clergy and laity were produced, in partnership with the Armagh Working Group on Migration. A Hard Gospel Sunday ‘Welcome’ poster was distributed to all clergy in the Church of Ireland, for display in the
porches of all parish buildings. The Dublin and Glendalough Committee for the International Community was assisted with the organisation of migrant-friendly services within the Dioceses and support was given to the committee’s full-time staff member. Dialogue with migrant-led Churches was encouraged, particularly with African Pentecostal Churches, to build relationships with key Irish media, Christian and Government contacts, such as work with the RI Government/ Faith Groups Dialogue Initiative and the RI Department of Justice. However, the Church should also consider further addressing the practical and pastoral needs of migrants, through the provision of English language classes, childcare and access to information and services, particularly in partnership with County/District Councils and local community groups. Local churches should ask whether worship, regardless of churchmanship, is attractive or accessible to all nationalities and language needs. The Church of Ireland might indeed explore the model adopted by the Roman Catholic Church of language services and ethnic chaplaincies. Finally, many of the structures which the Church of Ireland has created, such as hospitals, schools, graveyards,
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ministry formation and continuing ministry programmes. Hospital, prison and university chaplains may indeed require specialised training and schools should be utilised as key centres of intercultural education. 4) Intercultural Communication and Networking: A Directory of Migrant-Led Churches and Chaplaincies in Ireland featuring 361 entries was produced in collaboration with the All-Ireland Churches Consultative Meeting on Racism. Eleven Diocesan Consultations on Immigration (in collaboration with each Bishop) were organised to hear and respond to the needs of migrants, laity and clergy throughout the island. Diocesan Intercultural Advisors were encouraged to be appointed in Dioceses throughout the Church of Ireland. The Hard Gospel supported a number of ecumenical initiatives, such as Churches Asylum Network, All-Ireland Churches Consultative Meeting on Racism, Parish-based Integration Project and Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (Racial Justice Sunday material) and many parish groups were supported and resourced on a variety of issues of migration and interculturalism. These models of learning and individual champions within the Church, however, should be networked, communicated and supported at all levels. The Church of Ireland might consider appointing a specialised General Synod Committee to coordinate an all-island response. Although anti-racism and interculturalism are often thought of in terms of ‘skin colour’ and ‘culture’, issues of ‘faith’ go to the very core of our human essence. The Church, therefore, should utilise its vital and unique role in engaging deeply and building relationships honestly with migrants, who themselves have statistically high levels of religiosity. The Church of Ireland should also utilise
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worship practices, marriage procedures, nursing homes, baptismal certificates, membership and parochial boundaries were developed in very different social and religious contexts. Each structure should continually examine its openness and attractiveness to all nationalities and ethnic backgrounds.
‘All clergy should ... undergo anti-racism and intercultural training through both ministry formation and continuing ministry programmes.’
3) Intercultural Education and Training: A keynote Church of Ireland Conference on Immigration, entitled ‘A Pilgrim People’, was organised in January 2008 featuring RI Minister for Integration, Mr Conor Lenihan TD, OFMDFM’s Mr Gerry Kelly MLA and the Archbishops of Dublin and Armagh. Regional Hard Gospel Intercultural Training was delivered and long-term planning within Dioceses was encouraged. Parishes also engaged with intercultural issues through the ‘Reflect and Act’ and ‘Love Your Neighbour’ courses. Educational lectures, presentations and workshops were delivered through the CITI, secondary schools, educational fraternities, ecumenical groups, youth groups, theological colleges, migrant-led Churches and parish groups. All clergy should, however, undergo anti-racism and intercultural training through both
its role as a Catholic, Reformed and Global Church, by engaging in dialogue with a diverse spectrum of migrantled Churches, hopefully enriching local ecumenism. 5) Participation and Collaboration: The Hard Gospel worked with the Urban Soul project to encourage the participation of young migrants. Church staff and Afghan hunger strikers were also supported during and after the St Patrick’s Cathedral protest in May 2006. Central level committees and agencies, whose remit covered issues of interculturalism, were also encour-
‘The Church of Ireland should also make the participation of migrants in every level of Church life a priority.’
aged to consider their contribution. The Church should, however, consider applying for funding which is available for faith-based approaches to integration, especially through NI OFMDFM’s CSI strategy and the RI Minister for Integration’s ‘Migration Nation’ strategy. The Church of Ireland should also make the participation of migrants in every level of Church life a priority. Perhaps the Church of England’s ‘Minority and Ethnic Anglican Concerns’ committee model should be adopted in focusing primarily on migrant youth and vocations.
The Hard Gospel Beyond the Box Seminars
The Revd doug BakeR looks aT an iniTiaTive To encouRage The chuRch To Be a caTalysT foR puBlic conveRsaTion aBouT difficulT issues
s part of the Hard Gospel Project, a range seminars entitled ‘Beyond the Box’ were arranged in places as diverse as Londonderry, Lurgan and Dublin. The purpose was simple. It was to facilitate new thinking and energetic discussion on key
issues about sectarianism, racism and difference in Ireland – both inside and outside the Church. The first series was planned in partnership with The Junction, a community relations organisation in Londonderry. The themes and speak-
ers were: Where there is no vision … Leadership in the Protestant/Unionist community with Liam Clarke, Northern Ireland Editor of the Sunday Times and David Ervine, Leader of the Progressive Unionist Party; Remembrance … whose story is it anyway? with Alan McBride,
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The themes and speakers for this series were Culture - A Clash of Cymbals or Symbols (Speaker: Dr David Stevens, Leader of the Corrymeela Community); Dealing with the Past (Speaker: Alan McBride from WAVE); and Education and the Peace Dividend (Speaker: the Most Revd Donal McKeown, Auxiliary Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Down and Connor and a Trustee Representative on the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools involved in inter-Church discussions about the future of post-primary education.) Additional ‘Beyond the Box’ seminars were held at Belvoir parish, Belfast, in conjunction with the Trinity Theological Society (Is There Sectarianism in the Republic?); in The Synod Hall, Armagh (Dealing with the Past); and, most recently, at St Michael's, Shankill Road, Belfast (Peace Walls - Can They Go Away?). These ‘Beyond the Box’ ventures demonstrated there is real value in providing safe spaces and opportunities for discussion of contentious issues inside and outside the Church. Part of what made them safe was that these were not decision-making forums where participants had to argue for a particular position. An atmosphere was created and ground rules established which helped to generate openness. Maximum exploration was aided by providing participants with an opportunity to discuss topics with each other in small diverse groups, rather than simply listening to and then putting questions to a speaker or panel. It’s Good to talk There are two temptations when faced with difficult issues. If the matter is one of deep significance and affecting profoundly-held beliefs, it is easy to move beyond rational discussion or debate into exchanges that become more heated, and consequently less productive. On the other hand, the temptation is to take the attitude of “leave well alone” – talking about anything other than the issues at hand. Reticence about openly discussing difficult issues is not new in our community. Our historical experience of dealing with deeply-held differences on this island is that it sometimes led to violence and death. Some of the matters that we struggle to find agreement on are such that we perceive them going to the very core of our identity or most deeply-held beliefs. The Church of Ireland is not immune to either temptation. Perhaps its greatest temptation is to fall into the trap of dealing with difficult issues by not talk-
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WAVE, and Gerry O’Hara, former Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Derry and initiator of the Day of Reflection in Derry/ Londonderry; Grassroots Leadership in the Protestant Community … withered or blooming? with David Stevens, Leader of the Corrymeela Community and Margaret Lee, Managing Director of the Crisco Trust; and Racism … the new sectarianism? with Daniel Holder, Project Manager of ANIMATE and Robbie McVeigh, author, researcher and activist. The second major series, held in Lurgan, was a joint initiative by the Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic parishes of Shankill with the Hard Gospel Project. Venues for each seminar alternated between the Jethro Centre and St Peter’s Old School. The hope for the Lurgan series was that the seminars would enable new conversations on difficult issues to happen, thus contributing to improving community relations. It was also hoped that there would be an increased recognition that people from both major traditions have significant common issues that can be addressed. This series aimed to create an appetite in participants for further joint initiatives; and that by modeling constructive dialogue on difficult issues, confidence would grow that such an approach to other divisive topics was possible. It was decided that the seminar series would be most effective if participants
ing about them. To encourage a constructive dealing with difference, the Hard Gospel Project organised dialogue with a range of different organizations. The purpose was not necessarily to resolve issues, to take a Hard Gospel ‘view’ on a matter or to endorse any particular viewpoint. The purpose was rather to model a discussion process whereby issues of mutual concern could be discussed in an open and constructive manner. The Hard Gospel Project had dia-
‘In every case, discussion addressed substantial issues. On some matters, there was agreement. On others, clear disagreement was voiced.’
logue meetings with the senior management teams of the following organizations: the Orange Order, the Royal Black Perceptory, the Masonic Lodge of Ireland, Changing Attitudes and the Ulster Council of the GAA. Each dialogue meeting had an agreed simple agenda. Both the Hard Gospel Project and host organization had an opportunity to give some background as to their values, beliefs and activities. This was followed by a free-flowing discussion in which issues of mutual concern were discussed. There were two key learning experiences from this dialogue process. The first was to note that on every occasion organizations were more than willing to take part in such a conversation. Secondly, dialogue was always open, frank and respectful. It was never a case that the conversation remained at the level of superficial politeness. In every case, discussion addressed substantial issues. On some matters, there was agreement. On others, clear disagreement was voiced. One of the most encouraging aspects of this exercise was the fact that a number of subsequent discussions took place that continued to address important issues. It has also highlighted an important opportunity for the Church of Ireland to continue a healthy process of dialogue.
‘... there is real value in providing safe spaces and opportunities for discussion of contentious issues inside and outside the Church.’
engaged in discussion with each other in mixed religious/political groups rather than simply putting questions to the speakers. Therefore, along with speakers to stir up people’s thinking, the Revd Doug Baker was asked to facilitate interaction between participants. In small groups with a healthy balance from both Churches, participants were encouraged to listen to and understanding each other’s perspective, rather than debating.
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CHURCH OF IRELAND GAZETTE
Whatever You Say, Say Nothing
Earl StorEy conSidErS thE birth and impact of a rEport on thE ExpEriEncES of bordEr protEStantS during thE troublES
n September 2008, the Hard Gospel Project and Clogher Diocese launched the Whatever You Say, Say Nothing Report at the Clogher Diocesan Synod. The Report examined the experiences of Protestants in Clogher diocese during the Troubles. Researched and produced by David Gardiner, an independent consultant, it had a number of key aims: 1. To encourage members of the Protestant/Church of Ireland community to share their personal experiences of the Troubles and their aspirations for the future. 2. To encourage members of the Protestant/Church of Ireland community to share their experience of the Church during the Troubles and to articulate how they see its role in sustaining community in the future. 3. To encourage members of the Protestant/Church of Ireland community to share their experience of being a minority community, and to do so in such a way that is both heard and understood by the wider community. 4. To record and present the experiences and views of members of the Protestant/Church of Ireland community to: • The Roman Catholic community • The Nationalist community • The wider Protestant community in Northern Ireland • The community within the Irish
‘Pessimism, loss of confidence and a struggle to articulate a vision for the future produce increasing alienation’
Republic 5. To contribute to the building of peaceful rural community by enabling members of the Protestant/Church of Ireland community to engage with other communities to address issues key to peacebuilding. The Protestant community in Northern
Ireland is one that has experienced deep change within a relatively short period of time. Many old certainties have gone and familiar landmarks seem decidedly vulnerable. A large section of the Protestant community has to come to terms with a significant change in the relative balance of power between the two communities, and the change to the political agenda that this has produced. It has at times seemed disoriented in the light of changing circumstances. This can lead to vulnerability to characteristics of siege, fear and insecurity. The characteristics as described come within a particular context amongst communities of rural border Protestants. A sense of well-being in one section of the community has profound effects on the greater good of the whole community. Well-being comes as communities are enabled to rise above their worst fears and face the present and future with hope. It also comes with ability to articulate hopes and fears, not only to the members of one’s own community, but to other sections of the community. There may be those elements within the psyche of a border Protestant community that would suggest only the hope of survival as opposed to courageous creativity and engagement. Contemplation of the future may appear rooted in defensiveness rather than optimism. Pessimism, loss of confidence and a struggle to articulate a vision for the future produce increasing alienation. Most dangerously this can produce a vacuum at a civic and political level. This empty space may be filled by an unhealthy sense of victimhood and passivity. It is more vulnerable to being guarded by ‘gate-keepers’ with an agenda that does not reach towards the greater good. The effects on a rural community are in any case profound. There are choices in the way a rural border Protestant community can respond to its present challenges. The challenge is to recover a confidence in itself. A process of facilitation is vital to such a recovery. Success in this endeavour will profoundly help the Protestant community to shape both its own destiny as well as a shared future for the wider community in rural border areas. The cross-border area covered by the Church of Ireland diocese of Clogher covers Co. Fermanagh and Co. Monaghan,
as well as parts of Tyrone, Cavan, Leitrim and Donegal. It typifies the challenges faced by certain rural Protestant border communities, with implications for wider community cohesion. The Whatever You Say, Say Nothing Report aimed to facilitate a process of self-reflection that will proceed to meaningful engagement with other commu-
‘... a sustainable and engaged Protestant community is to be desired as part of the greater good’
nities. It embodies a number of values: • That a diverse community is to be desired. A wider community that is built upon diversity is stronger. It is also able to meet the challenges of sectarianism, as well as providing a means for integration of an increasing migrant community • That a sustainable and engaged Protestant community is to be desired as part of the greater good • That the Report is not just concerned with the needs of the Protestant community but with the wellbeing and cohesion of the wider community as a whole. The Report included a DVD, produced by John Peto, in which nine members of Clogher Diocese described their personal experiences during the Troubles. These included some very traumatic experiences of bereavement and loss. In many ways, the Whatever You Say, Say Nothing Report embodied one of the fundamental aims of the Hard Gospel Project – to enable the public discussion of very painful and contentious issues in a way that would ultimately contribute to healing in our community. The response to the Report was remarkable. Some 3,000 copies were produced and almost all have been distributed. It has led to much discussion within and between communities on this painful era during the Troubles. The aim is not to complete a process with this Report, but rather to begin one.
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Lessons from the Hard Gospel
Earl StorEy rEflEctS on SomE of thE lESSonS that havE bEEn lEarnt from thE hard GoSpEl projEct
400-year-old conflict that has often seen the mix of religion and politics. A recent conflict that saw very significant loss of life and injury. Add to this a body that has the message of reconciliation at the very core of its teaching and values. As outlined at the beginning of this paper, Drumcree proved to be a catalyst for the Church of Ireland. It forced it to address the most fundamental of challenges – what should it do to contribute to healing in a divided community? More than that, it was the challenge to look in a mirror and ask of itself: Is there anything we do or say that has contributed to the divisions in our community? Perhaps the most important aspect of the Hard Gospel Project was that the Church of Ireland actually did it. Not only was it important that the Church of Ireland did it, but that key people who brought the project into being were absolutely serious about what it represented. The fact that the project was established by the Standing Committee of the General Synod and had two successive Archbishops of Armagh as President of the Project sent out a symbolic message that the challenge to live constructively with difference was to
‘... Drumcree proved to be a catalyst for the Church of Ireland ... what should it do to contribute to healing in a divided community?’
be seen as key to the life of the Church of Ireland. The official sanction given to the Hard Gospel Project encouraged an atmosphere in which it was not only safe, but expected, that Churches address issues of division in our community.
If there was one thing more than any other that often stopped members of the Church of Ireland from addressing the issues of division in our community, it has been fear. It has been the fear of speaking into an emotive and volatile situation. One of the hopes for the Hard Gospel Project was that it would encourage an atmosphere in the Church of Ireland where it was safe to address fundamental issues of division. The Hard Gospel Project took a strategic decision at the start of its work. Not only would it engage in work where difficult and contentious issues were addressed, it would also communicate openly that this was taking place. Whether it was in the holding of seminars addressing the legacy of the past, aspects of sectarianism in the Republic or whatever the initiative might have been, there was an active commitment to communicating that this was happening. The purpose was simple. It was to chip away further at a culture where Church members were often fearful of addressing difficult issues by showing that it was possible to do so constructively. One of the mottos of the Hard Gospel Project was that if it wasn’t happening in a parish somewhere … it wasn’t happening. With a time limit of three years and a staff of three, it was always going to be necessary not only to have realistic expectations, but, more importantly, to think strategically. The key question was – what can we do that will make the most difference? The experience of the Project was that it took a lot of intensive work in local situations to enable initiatives to take place. There are many pressures on local clergy and parishes. It may have seemed that the Hard Gospel Project was yet one more demand on already busy schedules. It is also the case that three decades of violence and a frustratingly protracted process to reach political agreement have left a sense of fatigue in the population at large. Added to this is the fear of ever going back to the past, coupled with the challenge of knowing how to address the legacy of the past. The sum total is often a desire simply to ‘move on’ – to try and leave the divisions of the past behind. Understandable though all this may be, it is nevertheless a dangerous strategy. By not dealing with the roots of what
caused our divisions in the first place, there is the danger of leaving the seeds of conflict for a future generation. The struggle for the Hard Gospel Project was also to show its relevance for the Republic of Ireland. There is a prevalent attitude that the difficulty of living constructively with difference was exclusively a northern issue. Various Hard Gospel initiatives, such as seminars on ‘Is there Sectarianism in the Republic’ and reflections on the experience of Protestants during the
‘By not dealing with the roots of what caused our divisions in the first place, there is the danger of leaving the seeds of conflict for a future generation’
1920s in Cork, illustrated that there were issues that were just as ‘sensitive’ to address as any north of the border. The unprecedented level of immigration in the Republic also highlighted the challenge of living constructively with a wholly new set of ‘neighbours’. The challenge for the Church of Ireland to live constructively with difference does not relate exclusively to the challenge of living with ancient neigbours or the new ones brought by a wave of immigration. There is also the challenge of living in a denomination where the northern and southern provinces often differ in terms of churchmanship, theological viewpoint and approach to some of the major issues that face the worldwide Anglican Church, such as approaches to homosexuality. ConClusion The motivation for the Hard Gospel Project has been an honest desire to do something constructive on an island where there are ancient divisions and
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ership at every level has a responsibility to model something that, had it been present, may have saved much heartache on this island. It needs to tell its own people the truth about the way things are on the ground – specifically as to whether it thinks Church is ‘working’ as we are doing it, and what needs to change. It is possible to make something that is simple in its essence unnecessarily complicated. In doing so, the impact disappears. This danger is prevalent in the challenges that the Hard Gospel Project sought to address. This island has suffered from the competing passions of an ancient quarrel. When all the Commissions have reported, bodies been formed, reports written and audits carried out, there is still a stark challenge facing the communities that share this space – the challenge of reconciliation. The biblical definition of reconciliation is the bring-
CHURCH OF IRELAND GAZETTE
the challenges of welcoming new neighbours to our shores. The project was charged with working at both central and local level. One of the most obvious questions to ask is whether the Church of Ireland is equipped at any of these levels to make the sort of positive contribution it wants to. More specifically, it begs the question: Is Church as we are ‘doing’ church, actually working? The answer at various levels is that sometimes it is not. As one respected commentator describes it: “Church is not working, and it is not working in a time of Protestant need”. If that is the case, then that is serious both for Church and community. Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s, says that one of the key roles of leadership is to tell its own people the truth. This quality has been sadly lacking in many areas of our political life and has had serious consequences for the wellbeing of our community. Church lead-
ing together of parties that have originally been divided. For the Church of Ireland, as with any other Christian Church, the very essence of its message is reconciliation. If it does not have that message, it has none. The Hard Gospel Project took the teachings of Jesus in their most distilled form – love God and love your neighbour. On an island with the passions of unionism and nationalism in all their guises, the challenge to love God more passionately than anything else, including your politics, tribal and national identity, is clear. The implications of Jesus’ teaching that included friend and ancient enemy in his command to love our neighbour are also clear for life in the Ireland of 2009. The challenge for the Christian Church in Ireland is not that Christ’s teaching is too complicated for our various situations. The fear is that in actual fact it is too simple!
The Future of the Hard Gospel
BY TREVOR WILLIAMS
he challenge of dealing with difference is now a universal concern. Through the Hard Gospel Project, the Church of Ireland has led the way in examining itself, its membership and its structures on how we deal with difference. As a Church, we have to thank the Hard Gospel Project team for all they have done. The Project has come to an end. Now, as a Church, we have to decide whether this is the end, or the ‘end of the beginning’. The Revd Doug Baker, speaking at General Synod in 2007, said: “Success (of the Hard Gospel Project) would involve an integration of the themes and priorities of the Hard Gospel into the ongoing work of every board, committee, and agency of central Church structures, and of every group in each parish – so that when the Hard Gospel staff, committee and name fade from memory in the Church of Ireland its essence remains. “Can the Church of Ireland do it? Absolutely. There is high-level support from key leadership and there is plenty of easily identifiable action for every person here to get on with now ...” This was quoted by the author of the Final Evaluation of the Hard Gospel Project, Tony Macaulay, who concluded “that the Church of Ireland should put in place the necessary structures, strategies and resources to continue its Hard Gospel process as a long-term mainstream initiative within the Church that will create both internal change and
practical action in local communities on diversity issues”.
our wish to ‘love our neighbour as ourself’. general synod 2008 resolution At the General Synod 2008, the following resolution was passed: “That a small implementation group be appointed by the Standing Committee, for a period of three years, to identify the priorities from the report, Living with Difference – A Reality Check, and to bring forward specific resolutions to the Standing Committee to implement the recommendations contained in the report.” Full marks to the Standing Committee! The small implementation group will endeavour to do just that. In addition, each of us has a duty to continue the Hard Gospel Process. After all, it was Jesus who gave us the command “to love God... and our neighbour as ourself”. While we do not need ‘thought police’ in the Church of Ireland, in my view, we do need a small group who will remind us of the Hard Gospel values and to tell us if we are making progress to embed those values in all aspects of our Church’s life. In my view, this is a wider task than that given to the current ‘Implementation Group’. The Rt Revd Trevor Williams, Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe, is Chair of the Hard Gospel Implementation Group.
‘Through the Hard Gospel Project, the Church of Ireland has led the way in examining itself, its membership and its structures on how we deal with difference’
is this the ‘end of the beginning’? One of the many pieces of work undertaken was published in a report Living with Difference – A Reality Check. It contained a Theological Reflection on living with difference; a Hard Gospel Diversity Audit of the central structures, committees, decision-making bodies to see how diverse or otherwise they are; and a Hard Gospel Impact Framework which provides a means whereby statements, policies and activities of the Church of Ireland can be critically assessed against