Archbishop 'horrified' by dean's viewpoint on nature of Christ
The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Rev Walton Empey has said he cannot see how it is possible for the Dean of Clonmacnoise to minister in a Christian community.
Dean Andrew Furlong, who is also rector of Trim, had his episcopal authority withdrawn by the Bishop of Meath and Kildare, the Right Rev Richard Clarke, for three months early in December.
It followed publication by the dean of his views on a parish website that Christ was not the Son of God.
The dean has since expanded on those views.
Archbishop Empey, within whose province as primate of Ireland the diocese of Meath and Kildare also falls, said in a statement he was horrified to learn that the dean had held his views for 30 years "without making them known to those who had appointed him to various positions within the church".
That revelation was quite shocking, the archbishop said, and he found it difficult to understand how the dean could have preached the Word, celebrated the sacraments and conducted Christian worship over such a long period while holding these beliefs.
Affirming Christ as "the centre and heartbeat of the Church of Ireland" Archbishop Empey said the dean had been asked to take time to reflect quietly because of his publicly stated doctrinal position.
But "far from being quiet he sought every opportunity to propagate his views through the media".
The archbishop pointed out that within the Anglican communion there was wide scope for theological exploration and debate.
He referred to "occasions when the strictly orthodox members of the church have been jolted by such debates".
He mentioned in particularly controversies following the "ruminations on the Resurrection" by Bishop Jenkins of Durham and John Robinson's book, Honest to God.
"But these and others like them could always subscribe to the belief that Jesus is Lord, which is the final litmus test of all who believe in Christianity," he said.
"The dean cannot and does not subscribe to this central tenet of the faith, and therefore it is very difficult to see how it would be possible for him to minister in a Christian community.
"Belief in Christ is absolutely central to our faith," he said.
Archbishop Empey said he was making the statement because the obligations of the Bishop of Meath and Kildare to the parish in Trim and to Dean Furlong precluded him from commenting on the matter.