Wednesday 1 December 2010

A voice from beyond the grave: Steve MacDonogh

Interesting article in today's Irish Times Ancestry supplement - It is by the late Steve MacDonogh who died only a couple of weeks ago - he ends with what I think is one of the most fascinating points that his last book illuminated so well. He may be dead but his work lives on and is well worth a read - For those who are cynical about the Obama / Moneygal story it is only a footnote in this beautifully told social history of the origins of Irish America. Click HERE to read it

Friday 19 November 2010

Begorrah Begorrah

Check out this wonderful new website which brings a fresh angle on all things Irish: Begorrah Begorrah

Below is a recent article from the website:
Bono may be willing to Save Ireland
Bono's House -Nov 19th- International saviour of nations ,Mr Bono adressed the thousands of people gathered outside his Killiney home last night and brought some hope to a desperate nation. Standing on his balcony he spoke for seven hours to the helpless people. Wearing his trademark Sunglasses and disguising the pain from his back trouble he told his disciples "if they give you cheese then imagine it's caviar". Bono, famous for eliminating the debt of other nations said "It is a big ask for me to save you but i'll get on the blower to Nelson Mandela straight away and ask him to organise a big concert in Africa,how does PaddyAid sound". This was greeted with uproarious cheers. Bono then descended from the balcony and agreed to allow some ordinary people touch him.

Sunday 7 November 2010

Thursday 30 September 2010

Our son gigging with his mates

Aaron & I headed into Limerick tonight to visit our friends the Corrigan Bros, Pete Creighton and families. It wasn't long till the guitars came out :) Aaron enjoyed a rendition of his favourite song with the lads...

Monday 20 September 2010

PJ Sheehan - Another nail in the coffin of Irish politics

Below is a letter I have submitted to the papers tomorrow in response to the PJ Sheehan incident - We are sadly getting used to low standards in high places but this descends to new depths. If you are not familiar with the incident click HERE

Letter to Editor re PJ Sheehan TD
A Chara,
I am one of those notorious twitterers who are so despised by those who would like to control the flow of information and opinion on this island. On Sunday when the PJ Sheehan story broke I was surprised how little attention it was getting in the mainstream media. On Twitter however it quickly became the single most talked about issue after the All Ireland Final. Most of those who posted, including myself, realised that this was a far more serious issue than the Taoiseach’s Morning Ireland interview or the Minister for Science’s dalliance with Evolution denial. This involved a politician threatening the future career of a Garda and in so doing making a mockery of the Separation of Powers, a fundamental principle of our democracy. There have rightly been calls for PJ Sheehan’s resignation and this letter if published may well be overtaken by events, but regardless of how this story ends the damage is done.

We are told that an elected politician attempted to drive onto the streets of Dublin while so intoxicated that a Garda Sergeant had to later assist him to stand up; that he verbally abused and threatened a junior Garda who was doing her job in preventing him from adding to the tally of road fatalities; that his wife apologised on the night for his behaviour but he, as of Sunday, had yet to apologize to the young officer who he abused in the Dail car park and who for all we know saved him from killing himself, his wife and/or an innocent pedestrian or fellow motorist.

Confidence in politics and politicians is at an all time low, not least because of the perception that some politicians act as if they are above the law and above standards of morality that the rest of us are expected to adhere to. By his actions PJ Sheehan did huge damage to both politics and the law. Equally worrying is that his party leader, Enda Kenny, when informed by the gardai told them to "ignore what Mr Sheehan had said". Is this an adequate response to such a serious incident from a man who aspires to lead a future government? For the record I normally vote Fine Gael at General Elections so my comments are in no way partisan and are in fact tinged with regret and disappointment.

Some have pleaded in mitigation that PJ Sheehan at 77 is an elderly man and close to retirement. Surely if he is fit for the grueling schedule of politics he is accountable for his own actions. His age is no excuse for his behaviour and would have attracted little sympathy if he had been allowed to drive that night and subsequently killed or maimed a fellow citizen.

If you or I got into a car with the intention of driving while over the limit and then abused and threatened a Garda who tried to prevent us proceeding we would justifiably face serious charges. In Irish politics it seems the rules are different! When the Minister for Science can deny Evolution it is hardly surprising that even opposition TDs can deny the Law of Cause and Effect! Their actions it seems do not have consequences unless of course they are unlucky enough to be caught, and even then the consequences bear no relation to the original transgression.

This issue is bigger than PJ Sheehan or Fine Gael or even Dail Eireann. This is about another serious blow to the once noble profession of politics and a threat to the impartial exercise of the law. It comes at a time when the people are being asked by politicians to bear the most savage financial cuts in living memory. Sadly despite the terrible injustice of it all, there seems to be no alternative to these cuts. Only strong leadership can get us through such a difficult time, but we cannot have strong leadership without high standards in high places. Public office brings both privilege and responsibility. For too long the former has been stressed at the expense of the latter. Anything less than PJ Sheehan’s resignation or dismissal from the Dail will further undermine the stability of our democracy and thus put in serious jeopardy our financial recovery.
This is so much more serious than a hangover!

Is mise
@paddyanglican aka Rev Canon Stephen Neill

Sunday 19 September 2010

U2 in Paris - A few shots the brother took

My brother Peter is a freelance photographer but works part-time as a staff photographer for U2's Dublin based production company. Last night they sent him to cover the Paris gig. Check out the slideshow below or see the pics HERE

See more of his work HERE

Sunday 12 September 2010

'All Ireland Final Day' Corrigan Brothers and Shay Healy

In advance of the forthcoming All Ireland Football final The Corrigan Brothers have teamed up with the legendary Shay Healy. The fruit of this liason is a wonderful sporting anthem - a fitting tribute to one of the sporting highlights of the year:

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Tipperary Home of Hurling - Erin’s Own

 Had to share this great song by a great band to mark a historic occasion. I got to know the lads in Erin's Own through my friendship with the Corrigan Brothers, some of whom also play with Erin's Own. Anyway, enough of introductions - sit back and enjoy:

Tipperary Home of Hurling performed and written  by Erin’s Own- who comprise of Tipp Men, Brian Corrigan, Willie Dunne, Dave Lawlor and Ger Hogan
Released to celebrate Tipperary’s challenge for the All Ireland Title and to inspire the county to triumph over Kilkenny’s five in a row challenge the song tells the story of Hurling in Tipperary. Tom Semple, Jimmy Doyle and man of the other Tipperary Legends are acknowledged in the song.
Erin’s Own are just back from an extensive tour of the USA. 

Tipperary, The Home of Hurling  
Words and Arrangement Erin’s Own


Tipperary, the premier county. We're on the way back up.
Tipperary, the home of hurling, we'll bring back the McCarthy cup


Well I often heard my father speak of the hurling men of old,
Their legend lives to this very today, and they wore the blue and gold.

He told me of Tubberadora, that glorious golden mile,
Where 89 All Ireland Medals were won with bravery and style.



He'd talk of Thomas Semple, a great hurler of renown,
Who lent his name to that Hallowed sod in dear old Thurles town.

Of Hell's Kitchens Storied back line, men of Iron born to spoil,
And of our counties greatest hurler, the brilliant Jimmy Doyle.



I remember that half forward line of Cleary, Leahy, Ryan,
And Nicky's haul on All Ireland day, still the greatest of all time.

And Tommy Dunne in zero one, he led a mighty team,
Each time O'Leary got that ball, he shattered Galway's team.



From Cashel's holy towers, to the slopes of Sliabh na mBán,
From the sandy shores of old Lough Derg, to the homes around Kilruane.

From Kickham's fabled Knocknagow, to the Galtee mountain's might,
Our Hurlers have come willing and are ready now to fight.



So now it's time to rise again and take McCarthy back,
With 15 fearless warriors, to lead a fierce attack.

Liam Sheedy and his band of men will keep our dream alive,
We'll send Kilkenny packing and we'll halt their drive for five.

Oh Tipperary the premier county, we're on the way back up,
Tipperary the home of hurling, we'll bring back the McCarthy Cup.

Tipperary the premier county, with that sacred sod and clay,
Tipperary the home of hurling, home to the GAA.

Oh Tipperary the premier county, we're on the way back up,
Tipperary the home of hurling, we'll bring back the McCarthy Cup

Sunday 22 August 2010

Sunday 15 August 2010

President Josiah Bartlet is coming to Borrisokane

After years of rumours it is finally confirmed. Not only does our parish look forward to a visit from President Barack Obama, now we can also look forward to that other great president of the 21st Century paying us a visit and making a movie in Borrisokane this October. Not his first visit mind you, Martin Sheen whose mother hails from these parts is a regular visitor. As a recent convert to the West Wing I am looking forward to an opportunity to maybe meet this great actor. What is it about this parish? - Next we will discover we have Bush connections! Actually that is a nightmare and if it came true I would be burning all the records I could find ;)

This from today's London Sunday Times

Low-budget movie brings a Hollywood Sheen to Borrisokane

West Wing star to play a priest who questions his vocation as he attempts to establish a rural cinema despite opposition from the church hierarchy
Eithne Shortall
Published: 15 August 2010

From the West Wing to Borrisokane: actor Martin Sheen is to play an Irish priest in a low-budget production being filmed in the North Tipperary town where his mother was born.

Sheen, best known for his roles in Apocalypse Now and as President Josiah Bartlet in The West Wing, is to play Canon Barry, a priest who questions his vocation as he attempts to establish a rural cinema under opposition from politicians and the Catholic church hierarchy in the 1950s.

Stella Days, which is based on a self-published book by a local bank official, will be directed by Thaddeus O’Sullivan, who made Ordinary Decent Criminal. Stephen Rea, star of The Crying Game, and Atonement’s Romola Garai will also feature.

The movie was due to shoot in 2007 but was postponed due to legal and financial issues. Filming, largely in Borrisokane, has now been confirmed for the end of October.

Sheen, a devout Catholic, has remained committed to the low-budget project for five years. He was first approached about it while visiting the birthplace of his mother, Mary Ann Phelan, in 2005.

“Martin is very interested in Catholicism. The appeal was a combination of playing a priest who was questioning his vocation and the story’s setting,” said O’Sullivan.

The director said the movie’s theme is Barry’s battle with bishops and politicians who have a “de Valerian attitude” to the cinema and think it will lead to foreign influences. Sheen’s character is based on a real-life Canon Cahill, a local priest who was the driving force behind the opening of the Stella cinema.

Michael Doorley, the bank official from Borrisokane, who is now living in Bray, wrote the book as a hobby and published it himself on a modest scale. Maggie Pope, a producer on Stella Days who worked on Into the West, came upon it in a Dublin bookshop.

“If people think we’re in a recession now, Ireland in the 1950s was 10 times worse,” said Doorley. “The Catholic church ruled the roost and it was a very reactionary country. They were almost condemning Hollywood from the pulpit, it was that bad. This is definitely a recession movie.”

The Irish Film Board has provided €600,000 in funding and the production will also avail of Section 481 film tax breaks.

Sheen, 70, has visited Ireland frequently since 1973. He has cousins in Tipperary and studied at NUI Galway in 2006.

Monday 9 August 2010

Leaving Christianity - I know how she feels!

"Twelve years after she converted from atheism, [Anne Rice] author of Interview with the Vampire abandons Christianity over its attitude to birth control, homosexuality and science" (The Guardian) Read More HERE

This has really got me thinking - No I am not about to do likewise but I do know how she feels - So much that is done and said in the name of Christianity leaves me despairing.  Rice does draw the important distinction between Christ and Christianity and declares herself still a follower of Christ but she sees the institution as all too often an obstacle rather than a vehicle of redemption.

Others have said the same before her including Dan Kimball whose bestselling "They like Jesus but not the Church" tells the stories of many people who have found the hypocrisy of the Institution impossible to reconcile with the person of Jesus Christ.

In some ways this is not unrelated to the ongoing Religion vs Spirituality debate which seeks to purify faith of its various material incarnations in a quest for pure Spirituality. Of course such is impossible for us to achieve, as all of our experiences are mediated and thus shaped and interpreted by the medium of that experience. However does this mean they must be so distorted as to render them unrecognisable from that which gave birth to them?

It will be interesting to see where Anne Rice's journey will take her. It is early days and far too soon to judge but I hope that she will continue to challenge 'Christianity' from without as she has from within. Hers is a valid critique and she should not be dismissed just because she has 'left'! It could be argued after all that what she has left is not the totality of Christianity but rather a distorted and pale imitation thereof.

Someone who faced similar issues was Barbara Brown Taylor, an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church of the United States of America (ECUSA / TEC) who though never formally renouncing 'Christianity' did leave parish ministry and in so doing experienced a liberation and a new lease of life while remaining a priest in good standing with her church. I reviewed her book 'Leaving Church'  in an earlier blog post and I found it the singularly most helpful book I have ever read in seeking to understand and deal with the tensions of being an ordained priest/minister. Read the review HERE

To end on an encouraging note a supporter of Anne Rice's has posted this video as a reply to some of the more negative and vitriolic responses to her 'leaving Christianity'

The following is a message from the video's author/creator:
In support of Anne Rice, and a host of other people who haven't stopped loving God but are having trouble fitting in with the church (aka organized religion). This is my official video response to the video "Anne Rice Rejects Christ Goes to HELL" posted by stopgoing2hell.

Regarding the song playing in the background, it is Bride Song by Brian Healey / Dead Artist Syndrome. Here are the lyrics:

Jesus, I love you, but don't understand your wife,
She wears such funny make-up, and she always wants to fight,
Every time I turn my back she's waiting with a knife,
In my world of black and gray she argues shades of white.

Jesus, I love you, but I don't understand your wife,
She wears such funny make-up, and she always wants to fight,
Jesus, I love you, but I don't understand your wife,
She wears such funny make-up, and she always wants to fight.

She loves capital punishment, and nuclear arms,
Then screams about the right to life and the Grand Old Party's charms,
She's always burning bridges, even ones she's standing on,
When I try to tell her, she says, "to you, I don't belong."

Jesus, I love you, but I don't understand your wife,
She wears such funny make-up, and she always wants to fight,
Jesus, I love you, but I don't understand your wife,
She wears such funny make-up, and she always wants to fight.

You're always hearing me complain, and you're listening once more,
I know everything your bride's against, but I don't know what she's for,
So, don't mistake my anger for bitterness and strife,
'cuz on bended knees I'm begging you please "Jesus, talk to your wife!"

(The New Testament refers to the church as the "Bride of Christ" --- thus the song title and content.)

Friday 16 July 2010

Becoming Protestant - The story of a reluctant convert

I have always been one of a breed of southern Irish Protestants who are unhappy with the word ‘Protestant’ as a description of our denominational affiliation. To me it was always a negative word which conjured up images of hardened anti-Roman Catholicism. It was I though more descriptive of those who on principle believed the very opposite of what the Roman Catholic Church taught; the kind of Protestants more typical of certain enclaves in Northern Ireland or indeed parts of rural Ireland where the wounds of Ne Temere were yet to heal.

I had always felt that my identity as an Anglican Christian was determined by who and what I believed in rather than that which I stood against. And in any case I didn’t and don’t find myself in conflict with the vast majority of my brothers and sisters in the Roman Catholic Church – I didn’t see a need to protest about their faith (and I still don’t) in order to affirm mine. I believe that God is big enough to encompass our differences and diversities. Indeed I think that our very diversity can be a source of mutual enrichment and support. There are elements of Roman Catholicism which I really value, most especially its broader concept of the Sacraments which I think acknowledges very effectively the sacramental nature of the totality of our lives.

So to me this title of ‘Protestant’ or ‘Protester’ sat uncomfortably and lumped me in with people of other traditions and churches whose antagonism towards Roman Catholicism was and is a constant source of embarrassment. I cringed recently when the representatives of the First Minister of Northern Ireland refused to attend the funeral of Cardinal Daly the former head of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland and I feel genuine pain for a great many priests and religious who find 21st Century Ireland so hostile to their vocation that they are uncomfortable wearing their collars or habits in public. As a Protestant this is not something I want to be associated with.

On the contrary, like many in both our traditions I have long believed that ecumenism is not so much an option as an imperative. I believe it to be a scriptural norm and the thing that Jesus prayed for so earnestly.
I ask…that they may all be one. As you Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:21-21)

I don’t believe though that the unity Jesus envisaged was one of uniformity, but rather one that allowed Christians to be different and distinct and yet share unity in their participation in building the Kingdom of God on Earth. Again and again in his earthly ministry Jesus demonstrates an inclusive concept of God’s love and embrace which allowed men and women, Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free, prostitutes and tax collectors to call themselves disciples – He could not have surrounded himself with a more diverse and in many cases disreputable body of followers but in him and through him in God they became a community of faith. Their Unity is based on their participation in the Divine unity not earthly rules which are to serve that unity for which Jesus prayed, not define it.

So in the light of the Gospel precedent, the differences between Roman Catholicism and my own Anglican tradition seem relatively minor, and such differences as there are, though at times painful, can be tolerated in an atmosphere of mutual love and respect which is typical of inter-church relationships in Ireland today. However something is happening at the highest levels of the Roman Catholic Church which threatens to set us back generations to a time when fear and suspicion characterised the relationships between our churches. It is something that is making me realise that perhaps there is a value in being a ‘protesting Protestant’.

The publication of Dominus Iesus at the turn of the millennium was the beginning of the Ecumenical winter which is blowing colder by the day. In that document (drafted by Pope Benedict, then Cardinal Ratzinger) Pope John Paul II declared that the Protestant churches were not churches in the proper sense but rather ‘ecclesial communities’. The then Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, denounced it as unacceptable and he spoke for millions of Anglicans throughout the world who were gravely offended at this gratuitous insult. There has been no backtracking from this position however and Pope Benedict reaffirmed it emphatically in 2007 saying that:
"It is nevertheless difficult to see how the title of 'Church' could possibly be attributed to [Protestant communities], given that they do not accept the theological notion of the Church in the Catholic sense and that they lack elements considered essential to the Catholic Church."
Those of us committed to ecumenism in both our traditions are increasingly disheartened by this negative and pejorative language being used to belittle the Protestant churches in particular. It is hard to recognize the generous and inclusive expression of God’s love as modeled in the person of Jesus Christ in what has issued from the Vatican in recent years. But bad and all as the situation is, it just got worse, a whole lot worse.

The publication this week of the Vatican Canon law document, ‘NORMAE DE GRAVIORIBUS DELICTIS’ heaped further gratuitous insult on the Protestant churches when the offence of celebrating the Eucharist with members of ‘ecclesial communities’ (Protestants) was given an equivalence to “the taking or retaining for a sacrilegious purpose or the throwing away of the consecrated species.” In other words celebrating the Eucharist with Protestants is the same as chucking the consecrated host in the bin!
I protest! This cannot be defended as ‘ecumenical honesty’ or ‘speaking the truth in love’ – this is quite simply sectarian and hateful language and has no place in any document which claims Christian provenance.
But there is more – As if that were not enough, sharing equal status with the sacramental crime of celebrating the Eucharist with Protestants is the further sacramental crime of attempting to ordain women to the priesthood and the moral crime of Pedophilia! All of these are described as grave delicts.

I protest! I protest again, but this time not just for Protestants, but for all women who are told that their feelings of vocation are a sacramental crime and that those who would ordain them will like them be excommunicated.
I protest for the children whose horrendous suffering is put on a par with either a Eucharistic irregularity or a misguided sense of vocation.
I protest against the subversion of Love to the Law.
I protest against those who would seek to defend the indefensible.
I protest against those who would dress up prejudice in doctrine.
I protest against those who say that this is the will of God.
I protest against those who think that for God to Love them he must hate others.
I am a Protestant and I protest!

It has been pointed out to me from a number of sources that my hang up with the term 'Protestant' is actually unfounded in that its origins are entirely positive.
It was in 1529 at the Diet of Speyer that the word 'protestatio' was used for the first time and it was used positively and not negatively as signifying a positive witness to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and not in terms of anti- anything. This if anything makes me even more comfortable in my Protestant shoes.

I also had a letter on same subject printed in the IRISH TIMES today 20th July

Check out the following blogs who have refrenced this post:
Enlightened Catholic
Nihil Obstat

Tuesday 6 July 2010

Diego Maradona's homecoming song & the Buenos Aires hurling club

DIEGO MARADONA GOT A WARM WELCOME HOME TO ARGENTINA……..Shay Healy and the Corrigan Brothers mark the occasion in Song


The Pocket-Rocket Argentinean superstar, Diego Maradona, received a warm
Welcome home to Buenos Aires, even though his team was vanquished in
the quarter -finals of the World Cup.

Diego was cheered by the news that the anthem composed and recorded
for him by The Corrigan Brothers, Pete Creighton and Shay Healy is
Being played on South African radio station ALGOA FM in Port
Elizabeth and from today we hope it will go into heavy rotation on
Pop radio across Argentina.”

Back in Port Elizabeth, where Argentina played against Nigeria, the
Members of The Old Grey Sports and Social club have formed a Diego
choir. Soren Christiansen and his Irish son-in-law Jim O’Neill, have
taken it upon themselves to preserve the memory of Diego’s visit and
Soren said today “we loved having Diego come to our town and any time
he wants to return, every member of our club will be out to greet him
with open arms.

Ger Corrigan, from the Corrigan Brothers who got 6 million hits on You Tube with his
song, “There’s No One as Irish as Barack Obama, said today “it is a
great pleasure for us to show in this song, the affection that the
Irish have´for Diego. We all love a bit of a devil like Diego and he
has been entertaining us for over twenty years with his antics, on
and off the field.

Eurovision song writing winner, Shay Healy said, “We won’t stop until we are singing “O O O Diego” at the famous Buenos Aires Hurling Club.’

Friday 2 July 2010

World Cup Interlude: Ooooh Diego - The original 'Hand of God' works his magic - Shay Healy & The Corrigan Brothers

Press release: Ireland –July 01- 2010

From Hero to nearly Zero and back to Hero again- Diego Maradona

Ireland’s Corrigan Brothers who had the international hit (six million you tube hits too) with “ There’s no one as Irish as Barack Obama” have teamed up with Eurovision song writing winner Shay Healy (What’s another Year) to bring you the NEW song “Oh Oh oh Diego, Diego Maradona”

You tube Link to the Chorus of the song- Complete video in production currently

The Lyrics

Oh oh oh Diego- Diego Maradona

From Boca Juniors
To Napoli
It was Diego
They came to see.
Soon he became,
A superstar
Until he went
A bit too far

That old cocaine
It wrecked his head
So he quit the blow
And he ate instead
He got so fat
We all thought that he
Was heading for

oh oh oh Diego
they said you were a goner
oh oh oh Diego
Diego maradona
oh oh oh Diego
they said you were a goner
oh oh oh Diego
Diego maradona

The pint sized wizard
Argen ten ian
Has been to hell
But he’s back again
He got in shape
Cleaned up his act
You should see the babes
That this man attracts

oh oh oh Diego
they said you were a gonner
oh oh oh Diego
Diego maradona
oh oh oh Diego
they said you were a gonner
oh oh oh Diego
Diego maradona

He’s a comeback King
Like the great Ali
Diego says
Don’t mess with me
I beat the booze
And I beat the coke
They sing my name
Like I’m the Pope

oh oh oh Diego
they said you were a goner
oh oh oh Diego
Diego maradona

oh oh oh Diego
they said you were a goner
oh oh oh Diego
Diego maradona


oh oh oh Diego
they said you were a goner
oh oh oh Diego
Diego maradona

oh oh oh Diego
they said you were a goner
oh oh oh Diego
Diego maradona

Friday 18 June 2010

Winners and Loosers

To be a human being is to be in conflict! It may not be how the Creator intended but again and again we human beings define ourselves by what we are not.  From our very beginnings we have set ourselves up as distinct and above the rest of Creation, a fallacy that is only now beginning to dawn on us as we see the result of our arrogance towards the Environment made manifest in catastrophic global warming and climate change.

And yet despite all this we continue to reinforce our own status by undermining the status of others. Sadly the Christian tradition is no exception and may even be seen as a driving force in this perversion.  This is a culture of ‘winners and losers’ and it cannot conceive of God’s approval of one group without a simultaneous divine condemnation of another. This attitude is typified in the recent response of the Roman Catholic Bishops to the proposed Civil Partnership legislation where the concern is expressed that the extension of rights and protections normally associated with marriage to same sex couples will undermine the institution of marriage. To be fair, the Roman Catholic hierarchy are not alone in putting forward this argument – it is also very prevalent within our own Anglican tradition and symptomatic of the current division in worldwide Anglicanism over human sexuality.

As a married man and a father I really don’t understand this argument. I don’t see the prospect of same sex couples being afforded the right to register their partnerships and seek legal protection for their rights therein as any threat to my marriage! Without getting into the minutiae of biblical interpretation it does seem to paint God into a very narrow corner with little room left for the generosity of Grace.  On the contrary the Bill does not provide legal recognition for same-sex couples who are co-parenting children. Children in these families are seriously disadvantaged by being ignored in the proposed legislation.

I recall the same argument regarding the threat of same sex unions to Christian marriage being used when my good friend Bishop Gene Robinson (an openly gay man in a long term monogamous relationship) was consecrated Bishop of New Hampshire, and he quite validly pointed out that Brittney Spears heterosexual behaviour was far more undermining of the institution of marriage than his own exclusive and committed same sex relationship with his partner of many years.

The bishops and others will argue ‘but what about same sex parents’?
Nobody answers this question better than Spencer Burke, a contemporary American theologian who in his ‘A heretics guide to eternity’ comments: ‘If you’re a child, is it better to live in a home with a single dad-or even two dads-who really love you than with a mum and a dad who abuse you? Really, what’s more important: that your family “fits” or that it functions?’ 

This same winners and loosers mentality was evident in the depressing response of Gregory Campbell, a DUP Westminster MP to the recent Saville report on the Bloody Sunday killings, declaring it a waste of money and creating a hierarchy of victims. The implication of his statement was that the justice finally afforded to the innocent victims of Bloody Sunday undermined and threatened justice for those who had been killed by republican paramilitaries in Derry. In what parallel universe is the recognition of the truth of a grave injustice to one group of people an obstacle to the uncovering of further truths for others?
So where do we go from here? Surely we have to rediscover  a new openness to the truth that will set us free from the tyranny of former ages. Our world does not have to be about winners and loosers! God’s Grace does not conform to our mathematical formulae but rather a Spencer Burke puts it: “God’s Kingdom was made up not of one particular group of people but rather of all peoples who will gladly respond in mercy and compassion to the strangers they meet. Jesus established the the idea that God, not God’s people, determines who is of God and who is not.”

Monday 14 June 2010

Is this the End for Enda?

Yes - hot off the mixing desk the lads have done it again!
Corrigan Brothers & Pete Creighton (There’s no one as Irish as Barack Obama) bring you “you won’t shaft Enda Kenny” – a song for the difficult times in Fine Gael.

Friday 11 June 2010

The biscuit thief

I came across this wonderful story (Source: Brett Blair) while preparing a sermon for Sunday next (2nd after Trinity) - Incidentally I will now not be preaching this Sunday as our son Aaron is participating in the Special Olympics Ireland National Games and my Parish Readers (Lay liturgical leaders) are covering me so that I can be with my wife cheering him on trackside. The Gospel for the day which inspires the story is Luke 7:6-8:3

The Biscuit Thief
A woman at the airport waiting to catch her flight bought herself a packet of biscuits, settled in a chair in the airport lounge and began to read her book. Suddenly she noticed the man beside her helping himself to her biscuits. Not wanting to make a scene, she read on, ate biscuit, and watched the clock. As the daring " biscuit thief" kept on eating the biscuits she got more irritated and said to herself, "If I wasn't so nice, I'd give him a slap!" She wanted to move the biscuits to her other side but she couldn’t bring her self to do it. With each biscuit she took, he took one too. When only one was left, she wondered what he would do. Then with a smile on his face and a nervous laugh, he took the last biscuit and broke it in half.
He offered her half, and he ate the other. She snatched it from him and thought, " this guy has some nerve, and he's also so rude, why, he didn't even show any gratitude!" She sighed with relief when her flight was called. She gathered her belongings and headed for the gate, refusing to look at the ungrateful "thief." She boarded the plane and sank in her seat, reached in her bag to get a book to read and forget about the incident. Next to her book was her bag—of biscuits.
The biscuits they ate in the lounge were his not hers. She had been the thief not him.
The biscuit thief story reminds us, as we see in today's gospel, that it often happens that the one pointing the accusing finger turns out to be the guilty one, that the complainant sometimes turns out to be the offending party. In the biscuit story, the woman believed she was such a wonderful person to put up with the rudeness and ingratitude of the man sitting beside her. In the end she discovered that she was the rude and ungrateful one and the man was wonderfully friendly. In the gospel the Pharisee thinks he is the righteous one who is worthy to be in the company of Jesus and that the woman was the sinful one unworthy to be seen with Jesus. In the end Jesus showed each of them where they really belonged and the woman was seen as the one who was righteous and more deserving of the company of Jesus than the self-righteous Pharisee.

Monday 7 June 2010

Remembering Patricia Anglican's finest hour

This time last year my alter-ego, Patricia Anglican was at Bewleys of Newlands Cross en route to the Women's Mini Marathon - A year on I am feeling nostalgic and hope you won't mind me giving this a reprise:

More details HERE

Monday 31 May 2010

Reflecting on Resilience - Seminar in Cloughjordan 31st May 2010

Reflecting on Resilience
A Seminar arranged by
Monday 31 May | 20.00 – 21.30 | €Free | St Kieran’s Hall, Cloughjordan
Our resilience can be described as our ability to deal with trauma, tragedy, and all kinds of threats. The more resilient we are the faster we bounce back from difficult experiences. The term ‘resilience’ is also widely used by ecologists and is defined as the ability of ecosystems to maintain themselves in the face of disturbance. Resilience from a community point of view refers to the capacity of a community to cope with stress, overcome adversity and adapt to change positively. The current economic and spiritual difficulties, along with the unprecedented floods and freeze that Ireland endured recently, highlight how unprepared we are to cope with any unexpected incidents and the level of our vulnerability.
Facilitated by Professor Peadar Kirby, this event brings a number of churches and faith groups together in Cloughjordan to explore the importance of nurturing resilience in these challenging times.
Featuring Noirin Ni Riain, theologian, musicologist and internationally acclaimed Irish spiritual singer; Sean McDonagh, Columban missionary priest and author; from Cloughjordan, Rev. Brian Griffin, the minister at the Methodist Church; Fr. Tom Hannon, a priest from the Catholic Church; and the Reverend Stephen Neill, Rector at the Church of Ireland.

Saturday 29 May 2010

Part Time Farmer - Corrigan Brothers and Pete Creighton

You've heard of 'Urban' music - now  an exclusive preview of this 'Rural' hit featuring in the forthcoming issue of the 'Farmers Journal' - Could this be the beginning of a whole new music genre?

A new Musical Genre “Rural”

Corrigan Brothers the Godfathers of Rural

Has Urban had it’s day? Are we tired of Drive by shootings and Gangsters . Well the Irish Band who had the international hit and have over six million you tube hits with “There’s no one as IRISH AS BARACK OBAMA” think so. They are pioneering a new musical Genre called Rural. Instead of gang war and angry homies there will be tractors, cows, sheep, eggs, rural pubs, marts and farmers markets. Lead singer Ger Corrigan explained “RURAL has arrived and we want to sing the praises of the country. We see joy in the smell of cow dung; we see love and vocation in the work of the vet. We love misshapen vegetables and we want to celebrate that in song”

Corrigan Brothers have released what they claim is the first track of the Genre called “Part time Farmer” – adapted from Stevie Wonder’s “Part time lover”- they are currently working with Stevie’s agent in the hope of a potential duet and live performance of the first RURAL super hit.

Corrigan Brothers are currently recording other RURAL tracks including “Turf Wars”- the sad story of EU regulation and the rights of the rural Irish people. Another track “ My carrots aren’t straight enough for the Supermarket” tells the story of the pressure on vegetable farmers to conform to supermarket specifications. While the sad and harrowing “Son please take on the Farm” is the heart rending story of a farming father who pleads with his son to abandon a career in hairdressing and keep the farm in the family name.

“Bittersweet tales and light hearted songs, that’s RURAL” , said Ger Corrigan of Corrigan Brothers- We think it will be big!

You can view Part time Farmer here on this you tube link:

Launch of 'Barack Obama - The Road from Moneygall' by Stephen MacDonogh

Great night in Moneygall - I had the privilege of launching Stephen MacDonogh's new book on Obama's Irish heritage. Below you will find links to reviews in today's Irish Times and Irish Independent as well as my 'few words' at tonight's launch:

Irish Times Review

Irish Independent Review

My Speech:
Ladies and Gentlemen – Many of us have been here on many occasions enjoying Ollie & Magella’s hospitality as yet another chapter of the Obama/Moneygall story unfolded. From the early days when the link was first discovered through primaries, the election campaign,  election night, the Inauguration itself, visits from the Ambassador and from various media crews, we have gathered here to celebrate and share our story, and how that story intersects with that of President Barack Obama.

Stephen MacDonogh has now provided us with the narrative of that story and it is a compelling one. The story is complex and Stephen’s greatest achievement is in drawing all the strands together and giving us what is both a hugely informative and hugely enjoyable read. I am not a historian, no more than I am a genealogist! (I am constantly amused and flattered to have been described as an expert genealogist in media coverage of this link) Stephen’s book is one for a person like me and I suspect most if not everybody present this evening because it doesn’t just present facts and figures, it tells a story and it tells it so well.

Central to that story is Barack Obama and this place in which we are standing, Moneygall, but it is about much more than that – It is a hugely revealing social history which sheds light on both good and bad alike. On the one hand we hear of some landlords who treated the people who worked for them with far less dignity than they deserved, but on the other hand we hear of how the famine relief committees in this area were characterised by Protestant and Catholic clergy and laity working together for the common good, and specifically in Dunkerrin & Moneygall where the Catholic priest and Protestant rector worked in tandem to set up kitchens.

Stephen’s meticulous research shows clearly that in the famine times, which are the backdrop to the later Kearney emigration to America, though there were tensions in the area as indeed throughout the country they were not so much sectarian as class centred. The sectarian element was to come later and bear bitter fruit for all traditions on this island. We can be thankful today that we have largely put the worst of that behind us but I can’t help wondering how different it might have been if the hidden history of better times and early ecumenism which Stephen so skilfully uncovers were better known and celebrated.  Just as Barack Obama’s heritage has proved to be complex and diverse so too Stephen reveals is our own and I certainly have learnt a lot about my own tradition, both good and bad by reading this fascinating book.

Equally interesting is how Stephen deals with the question of Irish identity in the United States as he provides the context for the arrival of the Kearney clan in America. I like many people assumed previously that the Irish American identity was largely if not exclusively a Roman Catholic one and was unaware of the fact that at least as many Protestants of various hues emigrated to the states at various periods, both pre and post famine. Also interesting was how members of my own Church of Ireland largely abandoned Anglicanism and became Baptists or Methodists due to the negative association of Anglicanism with England. In their desire to blend in their Irish identity was often if not disguised certainly not worn as a badge. 
Neither did Barack Obama trade on his Irish identity during the campaign though he did acknowledge it on many occasions. As Stephen observes in the book this did not stop the late Senator Ted Kennedy from giving him the endorsement of Irish America, because he recognised in Obama ‘an ability to deliver on his vision for Americans of all ethnic backgrounds’.

On a lighter note I also discovered something about my good friend Henry Healy from reading this book. Henry is as you know a cousin of President Obama’s. If you are at all sceptical about this the definitive proof of this came on the morning of the Inauguration when Henry and I, the Corrigan Brothers and other assorted chancers were on the very overcrowded Metro in Washington DC heading in to view the event of a lifetime.  The atmosphere on that train was electric – everybody was laughing singing and crying, not tears of sadness but of joy. When we introduced Henry to people on the train as Obama’s Irish cousin some of them were bemused and some were very excited but one African American woman asked by her friend if she could see anything of Obama in Henry said without hesitation: “Oh Yes! He has Obama ears!”  Henry if you don’t know it already it gets better – Stephen MacDonogh exclusively reveals in this book that through your relationship with your cousin Barack you are also a cousin of Wild Bill Hickok & ….. wait for it…. Brad Pitt! If you are ever looking for a pick up line there is plenty to go on there. (Its on page 191 in case you are interested).

Stephen I think all of us owe you a huge debt of gratitude for what you have produced. Not only does it tell the story of the Irish roots of someone who we hope and pray will come to be seen as one of America’s greatest presidents, but it also helps us understand a little bit better who we are. It reminds us that whatever party or tribe we belong to, whatever faith we hold, our stories are complex and intertwined through generations, and that our future is in working together to make this corner of our world a better place. I for one am proud to be associated with this story.
Thank you for writing it.

Sermon for Trinity Sunday 2010

Trinity Sunday is one of those Sundays preachers dread – Why? Because it’s all been said! – It’s a bit like Christmas and Easter only worse – How many takes can one person have on one event?

What’s worse about Trinity Sunday is that there is a very real danger of heaping heavy theological analysis on top of a concept that is already a theological construct in itself. The idea of the Trinity is a human attempt to represent the various ways in which God is experienced by humanity and Creation. Once we start talking about how the different persons of the Trinity are inter-related it gets even more complicated and involved and what began as an attempt to clarify only deepens confusion.

This confusion is nothing new – The doctrine of the Trinity was the battleground of the early Church and real blood was shed because of it. The Creeds as we have them today in which the Trinity is central are products of theological wars both verbal and physical and we must be aware that many of their statements are not simply definitions but arguments over and against other views that were prevalent at the time.
We misunderstand them if we treat them as absolute definitions or descriptions of what God is really like internally. Writing in yesterday’s Irish Times (29th May 2010) the anonymous religious columnist who goes simply by the initials G.L. points to the Athanasian Creed which you will find hidden away on page 771 of your prayerbook. That creed which hardly ever sees the light of day makes it clear that everything we say about God is insufficient and incapable of capturing God’s essence. It speaks of ‘the Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible’ – It is a much more humble document than the other 2 creeds and perhaps the better for it, in that the more we make absolute our own particular understanding of God the more we are inclined to exclude others from his Love. It is a sad but common human frailty that we tend to think that we can only become greater if others become lesser.

I am always nervous when I hear people who claim to ‘have’ the Truth because that is a blasphemous statement. We cannot possess the Truth but rather it that Truth which is indistinguishable from God which possesses us. Every time we make a claim to know the mind of God and claim the authority to impose God’s will on others we are trespassing.

Our concept of Truth is largely to blame – we are operating from a post-Enlightenment idea of objective ‘Truth’ which can be isolated and identified. The Trinity properly understood does not attempt to do this – rather it points to the fact that Truth is only found in relationship with God. I was discussing this recently and one of the participants in the conversation came up with the following statement. It was so good I wrote it down.
"Knowing the Truth" isn't some 'protestant think exercise.' "Knowing the truth" is about how we are in relationship with God the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit, in the Communion of the Holy Church.”

I think it’s a great statement because it says that Truth is found in simultaneous relationship with both God and our fellow human beings. It is not just an exercise of the mind but of our whole being. Truth is about how God is present to us today in the world as he was in the past and will be in the future. The Trinity is one way of expressing that Grace of God in our lives; Pure Love which offers itself to us with no limitation and no conditions. It is not so much in our understanding but in our response that we find Truth, the Presence of God in our lives expressed both directly and through the whole of Creation.

Are we aware of that Presence? – I am not so sure that we are. We live in an increasingly busy and noisy world with more and more communication but less and less conversation. Have you ever looked around a restaurant or a train station or a meeting and observed how many people are not really PRESENT to one another but rather interacting with an anonymous individual on the far side of the world through the screen of a mobile phone, iphone or laptop computer. We are so caught up in the virtual world that we neglect the REAL important presence in front of us. I know this because I am one of those who is sometimes guilty of this kind of behaviour.

In the same way I wonder in our fascination with the trivial do we fail to recognize the REAL PRESENCE of God in our midst. That is what the Holy Trinity is about – the various ways in which God has made made himself available to us and continues to do so and will continue to do so. The Trinity is a reminder that we are not alone and that whatever life throws at us there is a presence offered to us that may not take away all the pain and discomfort but will never lever leave us and will walk alongside us in good times and bad. The Trinity proclaims that God is REAL and that we are always in his PRESENCE. What could be more simple than that?

Thursday 27 May 2010

Another brilliant TED Talk from Ken Robinson

Mary McPartlan, Rick Epping & Aidan Brennan perform in St. Kieran's Cloughjordan

And what a musical treat it let the performance speak for itself - apologies for dodgy video (scroll to bottom of post) but only had iphone with me.
Below is a little info re the current tour which stopped in Cloughjordan last night:
Rural Arts Network Presents Mary McPartlan National Tour 2010:
A gloriously earthy mix of trad, folk and the blues to visit local communities across the country. This inspiring ten-date tour is made possible with financial support from the Arts Council and a special feature of it, are the six voluntary and community groups in Carlow, Waterford, Galway, Tipperary, Westmeath and Wicklow which are hosting concerts as part of the tour.
The Leitrim born singer is joining forces with multi-instrumentalist and singer Rick Epping, guitarist Aidan Brennan and the arts and community development organisation Rural Arts Network for the tour which will include a mix of arts centres and rural/community venues. The imaginative line-up incorporates the best of traditional music and song mixed with American folk and blues. The trio performed at this year's Temple Bar Trad Fest in February where they were acclaimed by Irish Times trad critic Siobhan Long, who stated that "McPartlans belly-deep voice is growing richer with the years, and her reading of Shane MacGowan's Rainy Night In Soho was a pinprick evocation of love and regret" while "Epping's concertina and harmonica-driven swing from Bob Dylan to The Rolling Stones by way of Willie Clancy was a master class in musical magpie-ism, undertaken with verve and delight."
The concerts will also provide a platform for local emerging artists to perform in a supporting role thus contributing to their professional development and promoting local culture and it should all serve to highlight the contribution that voluntary promoters can make in promoting the arts in local communities

Saturday 22 May 2010

Barack Obama - The Road from Moneygall - Stephen MacDonogh

This excellent and diligently researched  book is to be launched on Saturday 29th May in Ollie Hayes Bar, Moneygall and yours truly is delighted to be speaking at the launch. Rumour has it the Taoiseach, another Offaly man may be present. I was interviewed on a couple of occasions by Steve for the book and am delighted in however small a way to be associated with it. It is a cracking read and broadens  our perspectives on the nature of Irish America, previously assumed to be almost exclusively Roman Catholic in origin. In highlighting Obama's maternal ancestral roots in the Anglican church (Church of Ireland) Steve has provided another important example of how this extraordinary politician embodies in his genes a diversity which allows him to bridge many of the bitter divisions that currently afflict our world. Obama himself looked at his complex origins in 'Dreams from my Father' - It has been suggested that this is the natural companion volume: 'Dreams from my Mother' in drawing out his maternal ancestry.

Available on Amazon HERE

You can hear Steve interviewed by Pat Kenny HERE

From the publisher's website:  BRANDON BOOKS
A unique exploration of the president’s Irish ancestral origins.

In his presidential election acceptance speech, Barack Obama evoked a story of great change in America, and an America made up of many strands. In this book it is the strand of his own Irish background and ancestry that tells a story of emigration to escape hunger and of the struggle to build new lives in the land of opportunity.

"Our family’s story is one that spans miles and generations; races and realities," Barack Obama has said. “It’s the story of farmers and soldiers; city workers and single moms. It takes place in small towns and good schools, in Kansas and Kenya, on the shores of Hawaii and the streets of Chicago. It’s a varied and unlikely journey, but one that’s held together by the same simple dream. And that is why it’s American.”

But it is an Irish story, too. Falmouth Kearney, Obama’s great-great-great-grandfather, was born in Moneygall, County Offaly in 1831, lived as a child through the apocalyptic famine years, and left a decimated, devastated country for America in 1850, aged 19. Here we learn for the first time the story of the Kearney family, of the Ireland they came from and the state of County Offaly in the dreadful famine years.

We learn, too, of how two students met in 1960 and married and had a child: Ann Dunham from Wichita, Kansas, a direct descendant of Falmouth Kearney, and Barack Obama, Sr., a Kenyan from Nyang’oma Kogelo, Nyanza Province.
Brandon Books
Brandon Books
Steve MacDonogh, editorial director of Brandon, is the author of seven previous books, including the only book about publishing in Ireland, Open Book: One Publisher’s War.

Friday 21 May 2010

Wayne Rooney is our Hero - Corrigan Brothers & Shay Healy

What do you mean? The Irish have a World Cup Song? But they are not in the World Cup? - This must be a first!
This is the Ireland World cup song for South Africa 2010. It tells the story of an Irish Hero (Wayne Rooney……he has Irish Soul) and his quest to avenge the dastardly actions of Thierry Henry.
Written by Shay Healy (writer of the Eurovision winner “What’s another Year” and Corrigan Brothers (6 million you tube hits for “There’s no one as Irish as Barack Obama “), Corrigan Brothers and Shay Healy are proud to write and perform the first ever World Cup song for a nation that are not actually competing in the Tournament. “Thierry Henry’s hand saw to that” said Ger Corrigan, lead singer who refused to be named. (oops).

Wednesday 19 May 2010

This is how we fix the Anglican Communion - Light not Heat!

Just back from a couple of days in the diocese of Kilmore where I enjoyed the company of fellow clergy in looking at the issues surrounding multi-church rural parishes. The conference was led by Jeremy Martineau (Faith in the Countryside) and was most helpful if challenging.

On a totally different subject the following was in my inbox on my arrival home and I thought it worthy of sharing. It is an address by Bishop Michael Perham to his clergy in Gloucester anticipating the ordination of Canon Mary Glasspool as an Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles in California, an event which has now taken place. Unlike many contributions to this discussion it contributes I think more light than heat which in hindsight I wish were the case with some of my contributions over the years! It is not at all one-sided and does chastise TEC for undue haste in this consecration but it also puts some useful perspective on this
development. Well worth a read and perhaps the kind of thinking that may one day lead to a healing of our sad divisions.

Address to the Clergy of the Diocese of Gloucester
by the Bishop, The Right Reverend Michael Perham,
on 6 May 2010

I want to anticipate some of the inevitable discussion at least in the church media, if not in the pews of the churches of the Diocese of Gloucester, that is likely in the aftermath of the ordination in nine days time of Canon Mary Glasspool as an Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles in California. The interest, of course, will lie in the fact that Mary Glasspool is a lesbian woman, living in a committed relationship over the last 22 years with another woman. The interest will not be in all the spiritual and pastoral qualities that she will bring to the episcopal office.

I think there are some things here we need to explore sensitively together. In doing so I want to acknowledge the honesty and courage of my friend, James Jones, the Bishop of Liverpool, who has publicly told his own story of moving his position on the issue of homosexuality over recent years and urged the Church not to allow this issue to divide us in a way that breaks communion. (See Jim Jones' statement here) And I also need to acknowledge that I have long been in a different place and so have not had to travel as difficult a path as he has to be in the place where I now am. My own understanding has long been that the Church of England’s current stance is not tenable long term, but that, while we engage, struggle, with these issues, it must be task of the bishop to uphold our agreed policy, with all its weaknesses, and to try to hold the Church together while we tackle the things that divide us. I don’t believe I can move away from that position, though I need to share with you some of my discomfort.

It is difficult to know where to begin, but I think the best place is with the categorising of first and second order issues. I am quite clear that the issues on which the creeds make a firm statement  -  God as trinity, the divinity of Christ, the death and the resurrection of the Lord, the role of the Spirit and more  -  are first order issues on which there can be no change in what the Church teaches. They are fundamental to the Christian faith. I am equally clear that there are second order issues, which are important, and where interpretation of the tradition needs to be careful and prayerful, but where nevertheless individual churches and provinces need to be free to define doctrine in the way that seems to them to be in accordance with the mind of Christ.

Second order issues are those where we recognise that Christians can come to different conclusions and Christians can allow their view to be shaped in dialogue with their culture without imperilling the good news of Jesus Christ, setting back the Kingdom of God or breaking the fundamental unity of the Church. Among those many second order issues is, of course, that of the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate. I mean no slight to women to say this, for equally the ordination of men to the priesthood and the episcopate seems to me not to be on the same level as doctrine about the nature of God or the person of Christ. In relation to the historic step of ordaining women to the priesthood, and of recognising that there are compelling arguments for their ordination to the episcopate, this province and this Church of England has grasped the freedom, granted by the Lambeth Conference, inasmuch as it has authority to determine issues across the Anglican Communion, to decide this at provincial or national level. In doing so, we have recognised that there are other Anglican provinces that have not taken that decision, some that would be strongly opposed to it, some that simply recognise that, in their culture, the time is not yet. They respect our decision. We respect their position, even if sometimes some of us are a little impatient.

My own view is that decisions about the admission of partnered gay and lesbian people to holy orders ought to be made in a similar way. I am clear that this ethical question, though not unimportant, is not a first order issue. It is something on which we ought to be able to stay together while recognising that we honestly interpret scripture and tradition in different ways. I know there are those who believe it is a first order issue, because it relates to the authority and interpretation of scripture, but I confess that, while respecting and understanding that view, I remain unconvinced. Any church that has found a way of coming to terms with divorce and remarriage, in a way that our Church has, has put itself firmly in a place that says that ethical behaviour, especially in regard to human relationships, involves a dialogue between the biblical tradition and the cultural realities if the Church is to have any chance of ministering to people in the complexities of contemporary life. A decision about whether Gene Robinson or Mary Glasspool should be bishops is a decision we ought to have been willing to leave to the Episcopal Church and to have believed that they, listening to the Holy Spirit, would have done what they were led to recognise as right.

However the Anglican Communion has not resolved to give that freedom to the Episcopal Church. It has said, in some cases, “This is outrageous and wrong”, and, in other cases, “This is too difficult and premature.” We have simply not reached a point where the Communion has felt able to endorse the American decision. Now I may regret that (and many of you regret that, though others are greatly relieved that there has been no endorsement of that freedom), but the fact is that that is where the Communion is just now. For that reason I cannot rejoice in the ordination that will take place on the 15th of May. I have to share the prevailing view within the Communion that it would be better if it were not happening, though it pains me to say that, for everything I have heard about Canon Mary Glasspool convinces me that, unless you see her sexuality as a bar, she is in every way an excellent choice to be a bishop in the Church of God. But I do regret the American action, because it does fly in the face of the season of restraint that so many of us hoped would come after the Lambeth Conference.

And I am critical of the Episcopal Church, (humbly critical, for there are some issues on which they have every reason to criticise us and I will return to one of those), for pressing ahead with this ordination. For you cannot, in a worldwide Communion, move at the speed of the fastest. You need to give people space and time to understand what the issues are that compel them to act in a particular way, to listen to their doubts and anxieties. In England, though we may not agree with the decision of the Episcopal Church, because our culture is not so very different from theirs many of us can understand why both mission and pastoral care have led them to the policy they have adopted in relation to the rights of gay people.  But, in many parts of the Communion, and in Africa in particular, people cannot begin to understand. Their society is so different,  their attitudes to homosexuality so different, and the laws around marriage and sexual relationships so different, that they cannot begin to comprehend how the American action can be reconciled with the gospel. And, frankly, we need patient talking, time for conversation and gracious restraint to move from that total failure and unwillingness to understand one another’s context or one another’s interpretation of scripture.

I know that not everybody reckons the comprehensiveness of the Church of England to be its strength, but I am one who does reckon just that. I am glad that within our Church are people of varying believes and that through our history we have learned to respect one another and to lean over backwards to accept those who love the Lord but understand Christian truth in a way quite different from our own. I hope I never sound as if I believe that anything goes. I am passionate for the truth of the gospel and I have a clear view what that gospel is. But I recognise authentic following of Christ and listening to the Spirit in people who have come to a different view of that truth from me and I honour them. I want a Church of England that rejoices in that comprehensiveness and models it for the Anglican Communion. I don’t want to show anybody the door.

At this point I want to talk about our own diocesan triangular partnership with Western Tanganyika and El Camino Real. It was set up eighteen months ago, as you know, in order to facilitate just the kind of conversations that we need in the Communion and we have made a very good start. And behind the conversations, of course, the creating of relationships of trust and affection in which some honest talking can take place. In five weeks time Bishop Gerard, and his successor-presumptive, Bishop Sadock, and Bishop Mary will all be here for further exploration together of what it means to belong to a world-wide Communion and to find ways of staying together when there are pressures to draw apart. You can, perhaps, imagine, the email correspondence among the bishops over the election of Canon Mary Glasspool and our fear of what that ordination might mean for the Communion, but also for our partnership, given that some in all three dioceses will find that ordination difficult to live with.

I have to tell you that Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves has made what I think is a courageous, and I know a painful, decision, partly in response to representations from Bishop Gerard and myself, not to take part in next week’s ordination. Mary Glasspool is the first woman to be ordained bishop in the Episcopal Church since Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves herself two and a half years ago. Los Angeles is the neighbouring diocese to El Camino Real. The absence at the ordination of our Bishop Mary, if I may call her that, is a considerable personal sacrifice for the sake of our unity and out of respect for our position. And I want to pay tribute to that, to recognise the cost, to note, of course, that not all of you will rejoice at her decision, though many will be grateful. In reality I don’t think anyone should rejoice. Whatever our position, we need to recognise a lot of pain in ourselves and in those who disagree with us. But my hope is that Bishop Mary’s decision will mean that our partnership can move forward unaffected by the strident voices that will be heard internationally and we can go on working away at maintaining and enhancing the unity of our Communion. Certainly that is how I believe our Tanzanian partners have responded to her decision. I ought to add that I have written a personal letter to Mary Glasspool, who is caught in the middle of a controversy that is not of her making and, whatever you think of the ordination on 15 May, she is in need of our prayers.

I want to say something more about what could happen in relation to the Episcopal Church and its place in the Communion in the coming years. I welcome the proposed Anglican Covenant as an honest attempt to give us a framework for handling disputes and I suppose we do have to countenance the possibility of a kind of two-tier Communion, where those who cannot buy in to some agreed policies or restraints, are put at some distance from others. I recognise we do have to countenance that possibility, but I very much hope and fervently pray that we shall not find ourselves going down that path. And in relation to the Episcopal Church I want to say why. This was something that came to me very strongly during my two visits to the United States in the last year. It is this  -  that the Episcopal Church is so thoroughly Anglican that to describe it as something less than Anglican seems to be sheer foolishness and immensely hurtful.

You will have heard already this morning that I am not uncritical of the American Church, but I need to say that what I encountered, from Boston across to Seattle and down to San José, was deeply Anglican. Indeed the Episcopal Church talks about its Anglican roots, its Anglican ethos, its Anglican distinctiveness a good deal more than many members of the Church of England who hardly have the rest of the Communion on their radar. The American Church has a vibrant sacramental theology, a deep liturgical tradition, real attention to the Bible, a concern for church polity and order, and an approach to decision making that honours scripture, tradition and reason. If that isn’t Anglican, I don’t know what is! We must do everything to stay with them and they with us. These are our spiritual sisters and brothers as much as any in the world. It would be heart-breaking if our communion with them were impaired.

Just before I finish I want to put down a marker about something, which I think the Church of England needs to attend to and it may be that the Diocese of Gloucester needs to press this nationally. I discovered only recently that, although the Church of England has made a decision in principle that it is for the good of the Church that women should be ordained to the episcopate and although we recognise that in some Anglican provinces, not just in America, women have been duly and canonically ordained to the episcopate, men and women clergy from abroad, if ordained by a woman, are not permitted to minister as priests in the Church of England. In other words any priest, male or female, canonically ordained by the Bishop of El Camino Real, might need to undergo re-ordination if they were to serve in this diocese. That seems to me to be, at the very least, discourteous, and, at worst, insulting, and I believe that, without waiting for the outcome of our own tortuous process towards the ordination of women to the episcopate, we ought in the Church of England to put that right. Of course it will remain true that no bishop or parish need accept the ministry of a priest that they do not wish to accept, but, for those of us who would welcome such ministry, it seems unjust that there are legal impediments. This needs to be changed.

Time will not permit me to speak about the related subject of the report of the Legislative Committee on the ordination of women to the episcopate. The proposals, due to be published in a few days’ time, will have my support as being the best we can achieve in moving forward on this issue that is crucial in terms of our mission, quite apart from the case in terms of theology, ecclesiology and justice, while making it possible for most of those who see this as an inopportune development to remain among us. If the General Synod gives its approval in July, the matter will be referred to the Diocesan Synod and that will be the time to explore in more detail what the proposals will mean for us here, both for those committed to this development and those opposed to it. The fact that 30% of the clergy of this diocese are women will inevitably and rightly shape our diocesan response.

Nothing that I have said this morning should be heard as a desire to marginalize those who, either on the ordination of gay people or of women to the episcopate, have a view at variance with what I have said. Now (since Tuesday) in the seventh year of my episcopate, I hope everyone will recognise my deep desire to be a bishop for all the clergy and all the parishes and to honour the variety of views that are held here. But I am pleading for patient conversation, for unity, for staying together and for trying to move on from the stalemate that afflicts the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. It diverts us from the joyful task of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ to everyone in our society and it is not good for our souls.

+Michael Gloucester: