The Church of Ireland General Synod 2019 has opened in the Millennium Forum in Derry-Londonderry. This is the first year in its history that the Church of Ireland’s supreme decision-making body has met in the city.
Opening the Synod, the Primate of All Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd Richard Clarke, commended the people of Derry-Londonderry for showing that there was “a wholesome way forward following decades of division and violence”.
In his Presidential Address, the Archbishop paid tribute to Rt Rev Ken Good, who retires at the end of this month after almost 17 years as Bishop of Derry and Raphoe. “We thank him for his faithful and truly outstanding service to the ordained ministry,” Dr Clarke said, “over 40 years in all, in different areas of the Church on this whole island, and in many different capacities. We now wish him and Mary a productive and happy retirement in the years ahead.”
The Primate referred to the ongoing fourth industrial revolution which, he said, raised questions around the value of human beings as more automation took place in society and the economy. And he warned about the dangers of growing populism in Europe and beyond which he said was “imperilling the very roots of democracy”.
“As we look back, as a Church tradition, at our own history, our own story,” the Archbishop said, “we also have to be very careful not to view the past with any deluded utopian myopia. We must also live in the world of today as responsible Christian citizens – which means in practice being both thinking and active citizens (and, I would add, voting citizens) – very aware of the massive dangers that a political vacuum inevitably poses to the well-being of all our people, particularly the most vulnerable.”
Dr Clarke said anger had too often replaced decency in the public square, and a binary “black and white” polarisation had replaced any supple, generous and complex discourse. “We need to be conscious also of how we all – wherever we may live on this island – can too easily be carried along mindlessly on a wave of popular and populist emotion, where mantras and knee-jerk soundbites are replacing reasoned, respectful and nuanced discussion.”
Archbishop Clarke said Christian disciples couldn’t opt out of what was happening around them, privatising their religion so that it had no function other than ensuring their individual salvation.