The Protestant churches are becoming more anti gay but hoping to conceal it by silence . It won’t work

Late intro . Gladys is an broadminded and sympathetic commentator on church affairs often concentrating on reconciliation and other pastoral efforts which she regularly  shares with Slugger. There are other sides to church affairs. Alf McCreary has contributed a column of church news for the Belfast Telegraph for many years which by and large has taken the orthodox view of the place of Christianity and the  churches  in Northern Ireland without entirely ducking  the many controversies within them. In the …

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Considering Grace: An invitation to listen

Considering Grace: An invitation to listen by Allan LEONARD for Shared Future News 5 November 2019 Considering Grace, by Gladys Ganiel and Jamie Yohanis, is a new book that explores how Presbyterians responded to the Troubles, through a series of narratives from 120 people who tell their stories of how they coped with trauma and tests of their faith. The book was launched with a set of readings and short presentations at Assembly Buildings, Belfast, to an audience of several …

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The Problem With (Earthly) Blind Faith

A quick observation about the devastating, unfolding story around the loss of Wrightbus jobs in Ballymena and the interwoven fortunes of Green Pastures Church. Look carefully at the wider issue and you’ll see one of the significant downsides to a church gathering a vast amount of money, power and influence: it becomes too big for some, even on a subconscious level, to criticise. This means defensive barriers begin to be erected as almost reflex action. Let’s treat Wrightbus and Green …

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The end of Catholic Ireland? @ESRCFestivalNI

The end of Catholic Ireland?  by Allan LEONARD 6 November 2018 In what Alan Meban described the event as a symposium (“but don’t say it was in a bar” [The Dark Horse Inn]), Dr Gladys Ganiel, a sociologist of religion from Queen’s University Belfast, laid out quantitative and qualitative findings about the apparent secularisation process in Ireland. This was discussed by fellow panellists Pádraig Ó Tuama (poet, theologian and leader of Corrymeela) and Professor Margaret O’Callaghan (historian, Queen’s University Belfast). …

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Doctrine and Decline? Irish Churches and the Conservative Turn

This would be a very good time to train as a humanist celebrant in Ireland. Who else is going to marry and bury the queers and the Yes voters and those living in sin? It’s interesting that at a time when many ordinary Catholics and Protestants are developing more nuanced religious beliefs and practices, some in the institutional churches are careering the other way. Denying full membership. Refusing to baptise kids. Hoking around people’s facebook pages to decide if they’re …

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The Opioids of the People

The United States government has launched a new anti-opioid campaign featuring true stories of people so desperate that they inflicted gruesome injuries on themselves to get another prescription. Such stories have already been more effectively told in poetry. The epidemic’s most searing skald is William Brewer, a son of Oceana, West Virginia, a post-industrial town so gripped by addiction that it is nicknamed Oxyana. We were so hungry; Tom’s hand on the table looked like warm bread. I crushed it …

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Presbyterians, Salvation, and God

We cremated my friend James on the freakishly warm Friday before St Patrick’s Day, between the two bouts of even freakier snow. We did this after a celebration of the Supper of the Lord Jesus Christ who was his Saviour and the anchor of his life. The daffodils bobbed in the sunshine as we took his coffin through the traffic from the church in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral to the crematorium in East Finchley, his terminus ad quem …

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Is it too soon to refer to Ireland as “Secular Ireland”?

We’ve often heard Ireland referred to as “Catholic Ireland” or “Conservative Ireland”, is it time those terms were replaced with “Secular Ireland”? The partition of Ireland caused the creation of two states ruled by unaccountable religious fundamentalists of different creeds. The events of the last few days may have ensured the destruction of one of them, but there’s still work to do. A new Ireland is coming. Ireland is still reeling from the result of the most divisive referendum in …

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PM Tess and Good Queen Bess

Theresa May has made much of being a vicar’s daughter in seeking to build her image. Less remarked on is that she is from a particular sub-tradition within the Church of England, and so deeply formed by it that its particular take on English history will shape how she sees the UK’s relationship with mainland Europe. In thinking about Brexit, she must inevitably perceive echoes of the last time England was so bitterly riven about its identity and destiny, in …

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From Mixed Marriage to Same Sex Marriage

When will our Church leaders learn from their past mistakes? I was a teenager in the early 1980s when the fear of the Church leaders was of mixed marriage. As a young Catholic in 1989 in Belfast I fell in love with a Protestant. I knew not to expect support from either my parents or the Churches. The Churches still treated mixed marriage as second class. This was fuelled by the Catholic Bishops’ hard line teaching deriving from the Pope’s …

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The Belfast Telegraph is wrong to become Ms Angry over religion. Stick with decency

Gail Walker’s column in the Belfast Telegraph she edits  gives a  heavily nuanced  welcome to the prospect of the Pope’s visit  to Northern Ireland. For the millennial generation, it also marks a  new  division between all the Churches  and “the so-called progressives,” she stigmatises. What is really surprising is just how much common ground over recent years the Christian Churches in Ireland have found with each other…. Force of circumstance has forged strange alliances in the Christian community in Northern …

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Vatican spin-doctor criticises Catholic keyboard warriors…

Interesting story over at the Catholic news site Crux… “Many of my non-Christian and non-believing friends have remarked to me that we ‘Catholics’ have turned the Internet into a cesspool of hatred, venom and vitriol, all in the name of defending the faith!” he said. “The character assassination on the Internet by those claiming to be Catholic and Christian has turned it into a graveyard of corpses strewn all around,” said Rosica, who assists the Vatican Press Office with English-speaking …

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Paisley: Relic of the Past or Harbinger of the Future?

I recently chanced upon this 1987 review by Charles Townshend in the LRB of Steve Bruce’s God Save Ulster: The Religion and Politics of Paisleyism. It now reads as a fascinating period piece. Just the previous month, Paisley had performed the first of his major protests at the European Parliament, heckling Margaret Thatcher. She was congratulating the EEC on its expansion to Spain and Portugal when he stood up, brandishing an ‘Ulster Says No’ poster, and shouted, “I would like …

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You never know when a story’s over … especially when you’re in it … perhaps most especially when you’re trying to tell it …

Nearly every week, a church story seems to scream out from the front page of the News Letter or the Belfast Telegraph. Religious views are being discussed in the public square. It’s not all wholesome. And it’s not all presented with a great deal of context. But it’s a trend, and circulation figures will prove to the editors whether the stories are selling papers. Gareth Higgins and Brian McLaren are over in Northern Ireland from the US to lead a …

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‘A Defeat for Humanity’

The Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin is reported in the media (Guardian, Irish Independent, Irish Times) today, 27 May, as saying that the ‘Yes’ vote in the recent Irish referendum on equal marriage was ‘a defeat for humanity’. He made this remark to reporters attending a conference in the Vatican. The fuller quote seems to be: This result left me feeling very sad but as the Archbishop of Dublin pointed out, the Church will have to take this …

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The past is another country

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. —LP Hartley A recent post about the ‘Curragh Incident’ (here) surprised me by the number and content of the replies. It was a short piece about a single event, though one that seems to have made the British government realise that they could not impose ‘Home Rule’ on all of Ireland by force. Though often called a ‘Mutiny’, this is technically incorrect. I could have written at much greater …

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Commemorating a pioneering humanitarian, five centuries on

Commenting on Roger Casement’s campaigning work on behalf of the indigenous peoples of the Peruvian Amazon, the author Joseph Conrad said in a letter to the Scottish politician R B Cunninghame-Graham: ‘I have always thought that some particle of Las Casas’s soul had found refuge in [Casement’s] indefatigable body.‘ Casement himself, in his pre-1916 work in South America, makes no mention of Bartolomé de Las Casas in any letters or writings, but it seems hard to believe that he would …

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Cartoon – Spencer on Monday

This is the start of something new. The plan is a regular slot, every Monday morning, with a cartoon taking a look at the main headlines. As some of you know well, for me it all began with Rowel Friers and Ian Knox; But these guys set a legacy hard to match. And so a lot of my work has been hit and miss over the past few years. Over the last 6-9 months I’ve worked attentively on my illustration skills …

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Secularist Ireland (and the broader west) has no time for persecution of Christians or other religions

It’s worth recapping on Tom Kelly’s column from the Irish News on Monday, asking if anyone cares about the fate of Christians and other religious minorities in the middle east… …for all our pretence to be a Christian country (not that our Christian practices always gives witness to that profession) we seem uninterested in the desperate plight of fellow Christians across the world. Western Christians like to huff and puff about their rights being under pressure from increased secularism but …

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McGregor, an ancestor of John Kerry is labelled the Irish Moses, as US monitors persecution of Christians

  It’s amazing what the Economist picks up… the half forgotten and much missed tradition of Presbyterian liberalism, forced to emigrate to the States and often confused there with the Irish Catholic variety. Could they have possibly read Turgon? DOES the Obama administration care about religious liberty round the world? In some ways, it has no choice but to care. American administrations are mandated by law to study the performance of all governments in this sensitive area, and to denounce …

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