All at see
The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, has ruffled more than a few feathers throughout his diocese, among both clergy and laity. Last week he told them that “through much bitter experience” in his diocese he has come to the conclusion “that exclusionary attitudes, and indeed sectarianism itself, is alive … in the Church of Ireland community,” and he said he experiences this as “a deep and shattering sadness.”
Many of the synod members must have felt like schoolchildren being scolded by a housemaster as they were told to “listen and learn” and to be “a lot less arrogant.” By the end of last week their hurt was given voice by two former archbishops of Dublin, who were “deeply shocked” by his comments. It is unprecedented in the Church of Ireland for former archbishops to criticise openly the views of their successor as “absolute nonsense.” But Archbishops Walton Empey and John Neill have expressed the deep hurt among clergy and laity.
This week, as he sought to clarify his remarks, Dr Jackson piled further hurt onto rectors and parishioners who believe the ethos of their schools, colleges, hospitals and other institutions is under threat. He now seeks to define his use of the word sectarianism in his own terms, without grasping the hurt felt by the people he had warned against a “lazy liberalism” that “cuts no ice”.
Dr Jackson’s style of delivery is densely packed and difficult to unpackage. In an address that lasted over an hour, he used categories that many later admitted they were at a loss to understand as he spoke of “the diversity of who we are” and a “diversity of similarity” in an address of almost 6,500 words. By failing to identify this week where he heard the term “polyester Protestant”, the archbishop has cast a dark shadow over each and every school, college and hospital in south Dublin that has a link with the Church of Ireland.
On the surface, Dr Jackson appears brave and outspoken. Yet, this is the same archbishop who Bishop Harold Miller supported resolutions at the General Synod in Dublin last year that have closed the door on a tolerant and listening Church of Ireland when diversity and tolerance in sexuality is being discussed.