Delegates surprised at archbishop’s remarks
Jackson’s ‘stark’ comments described as very brave and thought-provoking
Archbishop Michael Jackson: said “sectarianism itself is alive and well not least in the Church of Ireland community”. He referred also to what he called a “deeply dug-in antagonism to difference on the part of those who trumpet pluralism”. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien
The archbishop, a native of Fermanagh, told the synod in Taney Hall, Dundrum on Tuesday his observations of sectarianism in the diocese had come through “bitter experience”. He said when he arrived in 2011 “my impression would have been of two dioceses which saw themselves as all-tolerant, all-liberal and all-inclusive”.
However he added: “Sectarianism itself is alive and well not least in the Church of Ireland community”. He referred also to what he called a “deeply dug-in antagonism to difference on the part of those who trumpet pluralism”.
Delegates told The Irish Times yesterday they were taken aback by the remarks which have caused a degree of soul- searching. Some, speaking on the basis of anonymity, said they believed locally that sectarianism was “something from up there [Northern Ireland]” but admitted they had to look inwardly. “Of course you only see it in others, never yourself,” said one.
Another said the church “could not continue ‘jollying along’ without getting back to what the roots of the church should really be about. It should be about a relationship with God, spiritual transformation and discipleship. These are the real things it should be about.”
Iva Beranek, who is new to the church and was attending the synod in her capacity as a worker with Ministry of Healing, said the remarks were “very brave”. “I consider the archbishop very wise and very Christian in his attitudes and I don’t think he would have used those words lightly.”
Avril Gillatt said the archbishop’s remarks where thought-provoking. “The church will go nowhere unless it is open, encouraging and offers hope”.
Another delegate representing the Diocesan Council, Philip McKinley, said: “If you look at 500 years of history, it’s polemiscised. Since Irish independence our Christianity has become entrenched on both sides and parallel structures were created to maintain those defences. We are now at a position where culture has moved on, thinking has moved on and we are at that strange crossover period from those structures and they are in need of reform.” He added that the archbishop’s “stark language” had led to much reflection.
The Rev Gillian Wharton, rector of Booterstown and Mount Merrion, admitted many people were “quite taken aback” by Dr Jackson’s remarks”.