CIMS Annual Conference on 25 September 2004

The Most Revd. Robert Eames, Archbishop of Armagh, reflecting on the future of the Church of Ireland in today’s very different Ireland and on current events in the worldwide Anglican Communion was addressing members of the Society in Agherton Parish Church, Portstewart.

Ireland he said, both North and South, had changed beyond recognition.  In the South the Celtic Tiger has made some very wealthy indeed but has left so many remaining in the grip of poverty and deprivation.  Sectarianism has truly come of age.  While the South now looks towards Europe the North still looks to Britain.  Thirty years of mayhem and civil strife has left an enduring bitter memory.  The vacuum left by the violence has not so far been filled by normal politics resulting in large areas under paramilitary control, extortion, racketeering, drugs and prostitution.  There are parishes in peaceful, satisfied and well to do areas but there are many others blighted with poverty and crime.

Turning to Ministry, the Archbishop remarked that in the years immediately following the Second World War, many men put themselves forward for ordination and so meeting the Ministry needs of parishes throughout Ireland.  Today these men have reached the age of retirement and the Church has not foreseen or planned for this eventuality. 

Attempts to catch up have compelled an examination of Ministry with emphasis now on the Ministry of the Laity, the Ministry of the People.  However, in rural Ireland, North and South, there is an acute shortage of ordained clergy and a need to amalgamate churches into single parishes often against local opposition.  But Laymen and Laywomen, taking more responsibility for their church, often have a better entry into aspects of civic life than ordained clergy.

Finally, the Archbishop addressed the situation in the world-wide Anglican Communion and particularly his involvement in the Commission appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to recommend a way forward on issues of concern raised by actions taken by the churches in America and Canada.  The Archbishop Chairs the Commission, the members of which represent all aspects of an incredibly diverse communion. The Archbishop was able to tell members of the Society that he will present the report on October 18th and that the report has been unanimously endorsed by every member of his Committee.  He then added that it will be a hard-hitting report.

The Archbishop concluded his address by speaking of dealing with diversity and difference.  He said that the bonds in Anglicism reach beyond diversity.  They transcend incredible differences.  He then added this interest fact, “The Centre of the Anglican Communion now resides south of the Sahara”.  The Centre which once resided in Europe is now only a legacy of history.

In his final remarks the Archbishop said, “The Church exists for Christ.  The Church exists on how to teach people to know the will of God and in that task Holy Scripture is Central”.


Canon Patrick Rourke, rector of Agherton, with his wife Allison, and the Primate