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Inter-Church Relations: Developments …

22 May, 2012

This book celebrates the commitment and enthusiasm that Bishop Anthony Farquhar has brought to inter-Church relations over the twenty-five years of his episcopate. It documents the ‘new spirit of cooperation and understanding’ among Church communities as seen in the “Developments” outlined in chapters 4-10 as well as the aspirations and hopes in the section on “Perspectives”, chapters 11-19.

Rev Brendan Leahy is a priest of Dublin diocese and professor of Dogmatic Theology at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth.


Contributors’ Profiles

Foreword – Cardinal Sean Brady
Introduction – Rev. Prof. Brendan Leahy
1. Bishop Anthony Farquhar and the International Reformed-Catholic Dialogue – Cardinal Walter Kasper
2. A Personal Testimony – Rev. Ray Davey
3. Living the Ecumenical Dream – Bishop Gerard Clifford

4. Renewing the Church through Dialogue – Archbishop Mario Conti
5. New Churches in Ireland – Adrian Cristea
6. Methodist/Roman Catholics Relations – Gillian Kingston
7. The Community of Prorestant Churches in Europe – Rev. Prof. Cecil McCullough
8. The Orthodox Church in Ireland 2008 – Rev. Godfrey O’Donnell
9. The Global Christian Forum: The Framework of an Ecumenical Breakthrough – Mgr John A. Radano
10. The Promise of ‘Growing Together in Unity and Mission’ for the Development of Anglican Roman Catholic Relations – Dame Mary Tanner

11. Inter-Church Relations in a New Ireland _ Rev. Tony Davidson
12. Upside-Down and Outside-In – Michael Earle
13. Ecumenism as an ‘Exchange of Gifts’ – Susan Gately
14. Practical Ecumenism – Bishop Crispian Hollis
15. Bringing Martin Luther and Therese of Lisieux into Conversation – Rev. Prof. Tom Norris
16. A Brief Overview of Quaker Relief and Peace-Making in Ireland – David Poole
17. Journey Towards Shalom – Bishop Samuel Poyntz
18. The Servant as Subversive: Secular Literature and the Christian Tradition – Prof. Eda Sagarra
19. In the World but Not of It – Dr David Stevens

Glossary of Abbreviations

203 pp. To purchase this book online, go to www.veritas.ie




Rev. Prof. Brendan Leahy

Why are there divisions among Christians? To this question many answers could be offered, but in his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, Pope John Paul II pointed us in an important direction. He wrote that perhaps such divisions have been permitted by God as ‘a path continually leading the Church to discover the untold wealth contained in Christ’s Gospel’. Indeed, maybe ‘all this wealth would not have come to light otherwise’ (1).

It is true that the Churches have been thinking and acting in a plurality of ways that have led to different insights, traditions and expressions. This can be a source of contrast and tension but also of mutual enrichment. This book, written in honour of Bishop Anthony Farquhar on the occasion of his twenty-fifth anniversary of Episcopal ordination, strives to be a forum where we can listen to updates, insights and perspectives from different traditions and so be enriched.

The good news of recent times is that ministers and members of different Churches are more comfortable in recognising the wealth in each other’s Church tradition and experience. As we strive together to best prepare for the gift of the ultimate visible unity of the Church, such recognition is important because it’s a sign of the new outlook and new attitude that are always needed for healthy inter-Church relations. It facilitates ‘a real re-reception of the same old truths in an ever-changing context’ that will surely pave the way to greater unity (2). It leads to what Pope Benedict calls ‘concrete gestures that enter hearts and stir consciences,’ inspiring in everyone that ‘inner conversion that is the prerequisite for all ecumenical progress’ (3).

Such re-reception requires that Christians immerse themselves again and again in the always greater gospel that is transmitted in each generation through contemplation and study, as well as through the penetrating understanding of spiritual realities experienced along with the ministerial preaching of our communities (4). The fact is that the words of the gospel are unique, universal and for all times. There’s always more to discover, and we help one another in this discovery as together we exchange our spiritual, ecclesial and doctrinal insights.

To know one another (including our Churches and spiritual traditions) we need to love one another. To love one another we need to know one another. This interaction of knowledge and love in ecumenical dialogue has its requirements: ‘Love is always patient and kind … never boastful or conceited … delights in the truth’ (1 Cor 13:4-6). It is in listening to one another, in attentiveness to the voice of the Spirit for what is truly Christian in one another’s words and insights, that we come to a ‘deeper realisation of the mystery of Christ and the Church’ (5).

This collection of essays seeks to provide an opportunity where one of the first steps in ecumenical dialogue can take place, namely, the effort to allow ourselves and our communities to be drawn into the ‘completely interior spiritual space in which Christ, by the power of the Spirit, leads us all, without exception, to examine ourselves before the Father and to ask ourselves whether we have been faithful to his plan for the Church (6). It seeks something of that dialogue of conversion to which we are all called.

The Ecumenical Glass is Half Full not Half Empty
Despite real differences and difficulties between Churches, the ecumenical glass is half full and not half empty. The commitment to good ecumenical contact is increasing, with stronger relationships being built up at both official and local levels. A myriad of ecumenical events now form part of the annual calendar of the Churches, to the point that they hardly make news any longer – but that is good news.

On an international level, it is important to recall just how revolutionary the statement on justification is in terms of theological and devotional culture, to which Catholics, Lutherans and Methodists have signed up (7). The Seattle Statement, Mary:  Grace and Hope in Christ, proposed by ARCIC (Anglican–Roman Catholic International Commission), is also very significant (8). These texts, detailing some of the central pillars of divisions between Churches, would have been unthinkable until relatively recently.

On this island, in the past year, a few significant steps in inter-Church relations have been noted. In Dublin, for instance, the Catholic Church has become a full member of the Dublin Council of Churches. In a statement on that occasion, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin noted that ‘at a time in which many claim that ecumenical dialogue has encountered a slowdown, this decision of all the Member Churches of the Dublin Council is a sign of the vitality and the warmth of inter-Church relationships at the local level throughout the diocese’.

In the new Adamstown town centre in west Dublin, the Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church and the Methodist Church are to share one place of worship. This is the fruit of many years of solid ecumenical engagement between the Churches in that region.

While the Church of Ireland and the Methodist Church in Ireland continue to work in the light of the Covenant for greater cooperation and potential ultimate unity signed in 2002, the World Methodist Conference added its signature in 2006 to the joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification by the Roman Catholic and World Lutheran Federation.

Improved inter-Church relations are not an optional extra, if for no other reason than, as Andrew Pierce has written, ‘Irish Christianity makes its presence felt ecclesiastically, much more so than philosophically or ideologically’ and that ‘the deeds … of the Churches will invariably impact on the credibility of the Christian witness in Irish society’ (9).

A Time for New Directions
Inter-Church developments in Ireland do not take place in a vacuum. Political events are so often in the background. New impetus for inter-Church relations also comes after the historic progress made in 2007 in Northern Ireland, a year described by President Mary McAleese as one of ‘new directions, a new sense of purpose, new relationships, new friendships’ (10).

A sign of new directions could be seen, for instance, on Holy Thursday 2008, when Queen Elizabeth attended the Royal Maundy Service in St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral, Armagh, distributing the Maundy money. It was the first time that the annual service was held in Northern Ireland. All of the main Churches in Northern Ireland were represented. Cardinal Sean Brady read the second lesson. Just over a month later, President Mary McAleese became the first President of Ireland to attend the Church of Ireland Synod, again with representatives of different Churches present as guests.

Just as the Churches played a very important role in promoting peace and reconciliation during the past forty years by witnessing to greater efforts at inter-Church contact and action, so too they continue to be key players in the search for new directions on this island. Scott Appleby in his book, The Ambivalence of the Sacred, contends that it is precisely when they ‘remain religious actors,’ and not by marginalising their beliefs (11), that religious people continue to play a positive role in the world of human conflicts and contribute to peace. Whatever direction can and needs to be pursued by state agencies and other programmes, John Paul Lederach’s observation holds true that something more than ‘social technology’ is required (12).

What might this ‘something more’ be? Christians believe in an art of living according to the gospel. It is always to be proposed anew. The ‘something more’ that the Churches can offer flows from the heart of a renewed common commitment to koinonia, communion and fellowship in following Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ – the gospel personified. This involves a new attentiveness to what has been called ‘the studied practice of fraternity’ (13).

The demographic developments in the Republic of Ireland also prompt a new common sense of purpose. According to the latest Census results, the Republic of Ireland’s population is now made up of 10% non-nationals. Some claim it is perhaps closer to 15%. Among the fastest growing religious communities in Ireland between 2002 and 2006 were the Apostolic or Pentecostal Churches, with a growth rate of 157%. The other rates of changes were also significant: Orthodox, 99%; Hindu, 96%; Atheist, 85%; Lutheran, 72%; Muslim, 69%.

Immigrants have contributed to religious revival in Ireland, bringing enrichment to Christian denominations. A new development in inter-Church relations regarding immigrants has been a three-year, parish-based integration project, established in the Republic by a committee of the Irish Inter-Church Meeting. It is drawing attention to new models of intercultural integration developing at local parish level across the Churches.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer often spoke of Christus präsens in the community. Jesus died for our sins, but now ‘Christ exists as Community’. The space we inhabit in the experience of God, that we have through faith in Jesus Christ, is a realm filled with the Spirit that Christ poured out through his death and resurrection. We enter the event of Jesus Christ with ‘his commandment,’ as John tells us: ‘that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and that we love one another, just as he told us to’ (1 Jn 3:23). It is by this ‘love that you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples’ (Jn 13:34-35). The more the culture of mutual love grows between Christians, the more there will be a qualitative leap in the visibility of the Risen Christ in each of our communities with new outreach in fraternity, friendship and sense of purpose. This is not only true among individual Christians, but applies also among Churches. The more we love one another as Churches, loving each other’s Church as our own, the more the gospel will impact around us because, again, as John tells us, mutual love enables God’s love to be ‘complete in us’ (1 Jn 4:12).

Bishop Tony Farquhar
Bishop Tony Farquhar has been a significant player in inter-Church relations, particularly in the past twenty-five years. Born in Belfast in 1940, his early surroundings (including the sporting background of his late father), studies and pastoral experience brought him into contact at many levels with members of other Churches at an early stage of his life and fashioned his interest in things ecumenical. His studies for priesthood first in Belfast and then in Rome were at a time when the Catholic Church was entering into the Ecumenical Movement.

After his ordination in 1965, his appointments in parish work, an industrial training school, hospital chaplaincy, teaching for five years in student chaplaincy in Queen’s University, Belfast and eight years as chaplain/lecturer in religious education in the then New University of Ulster, Coleraine, all brought him into lively interaction with brothers and sisters of other Churches. Not least in this regard was his cross-community curricular work for schools.

Particular mention must be made of his friendship with Rev. Ray Davey, founder of the Corrymeela Community. On the occasion of the ceremony of his ordination as Auxiliary Bishop in Down and Connor in May 1983, Bishop Tony pointed out that it was in his company that he had come to ‘an ever-increasing realisation that respect for another’s tradition is in no way dependent upon betrayal of one’s own’.

It was most appropriate, therefore, that shortly after his Episcopal ordination, Bishop Tony was appointed first, member and soon after, chairman of the Commission on Ecumenism of the Irish Episcopal Conference, and likewise of its Advisory Committee on Ecumenism. He soon became a member of the Irish Inter-Church (formerly Ballymascanlon) Committee and Co-Chairman of its Standing Committee on Mixed Marriages. Over the past ten years, he has served both as Catholic Co-Chairman of the Roman Catholic Church’s Dialogue with World Alliance of Reformed Churches and a member of the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission. He served for many years as one of the two Irish Catholic Observers at the Council of Churches for Britain and Ireland and has represented Ireland at three of the European CCEE/CEC (Council of European Bishops’ Conferences/Conference of European Churches) Ecumenical Encounters.

A Realist
When it comes to inter-Church relations, Bishop Tony is a realist. He knows that the legacy of centuries of division, suspicion and mistrust will not disappear overnight. He believes that, in many cases, the starting point of ecumenical work is something akin to ‘pre-evangelising’. He labels it ‘pre-ecumenising’ – the attempt to articulate the laborious task of enabling people to find some sort of common social ground across religious traditions, enabling them to remove the ‘bogeyman’ image of ‘the other’ and find the trust that will make further and deeper dialogue possible.

The kind of pre-ecumenising that Bishop Tony has in mind extends to a wide range of activities: music, drama, dance, language, culture. Quite often, a shared common interest can bring people together in a comfortable manner that later opens into deeper exchange. And, of course, there’s sport. Bishop Tony is a well known Dundee United fan and has certainly forged ecumenical links through his passion for sport and his favourite team.

He tells the story of an occasion a few years ago at Casement Park at an Antrim versus Derry Ulster Football Championship replay. He was seated directly behind President McAleese and her husband. A few minutes before the teams took to the field, a local official came down and whispered something to the President. ‘Oh the Lord be good to him’, she exclaimed quietly. He then turned to Bishop Tony and told him that the ace motorcycling road racer from Armoy, Joey Dunlop, had been killed in a race accident in Europe and that there would be a minute’s silence before the match. It would be difficult to think of two points further apart on the sporting map of Ulster than thousands of Antrim and Derry GAA fans and a road-racing cyclist from Armoy, but the silence was impeccably observed (the memory is even more poignant in the light of the sudden death of Joey’s brother, Robert, in similar circumstances). For Bishop Tony, moments of trust and respect such as that are pre-ecumenising moments that give us hope that anything is possible.

However, ecumenism is not just about pre-ecumenising; it is also about speaking and respectfully proclaiming your conviction. For over twenty years he has been a Catholic religious adviser at Ulster Television, where over the years he has been accompanied by Bishops Ken Good and James Mahaffy and Rev. Drs Edmund Mawhinney and John Dunlop. He believes that some of the most forthright, direct and challenging ecumenical discussions in which he has been involved have taken place over lunch, following upon some of the Religious Advisory Panel meetings at Ulster Television. It is important to offer out of respect and in honesty in dialogue what you consider deepest in your life. Bishop Tony also found great inspiration in the example of close co-operation of the Catholic Archbishop Worlock and the Anglican Bishop Sheppard in Liverpool, along with the prominent Methodist minister, Dr John Newton.

Working on Building up Inter-Church Relations
There are many ways to build up inter-Church relations. Bishop Tony has been quite involved in the Ulster Project Conference, an ecumenical venture where school children from Belfast spend some time over the summer with American families. He was also a member of the United States-Northern Ireland Presbyterian/Roman Catholic committee, which worked on a common project enabling students from Irish universities to travel to the United States for a year.

It has been important to Bishop Tony to encourage local clergy fraternals for all they have contributed in common study, discussion and prayer. He sees the value of building up these contacts between Church ministers. He often witnessed at first hand how, on occasions such as funerals of assassination victims, members of clergy fraternals would go together to give support by their presence and prayers, and this was much appreciated by bereaved families. These fraternals have opened and enlarged themselves in recent years to embrace both lay and clerical membership and they have been particularly effective.

Interestingly, in the pastoral ecumenical context, Bishop Tony has noted that it is often in extra-parochial ministries that ecumenism is strongest. Close to his heart is the Fleming Fulton School, a school for children with physical disabilities that sees good ecumenical involvement. In terms of furthering good inter-Church relations, he values the place of religious communities, student chaplaincy, hospital chaplaincy and, perhaps the most
unusual one of all in the North, prison chaplaincy – particularly when one bears in mind the very circumstances that have led many of the prisoners to have found their way into that situation in the first place.

There is a priority in all of this. While the importance of intellect and social action should not be underestimated, it is nevertheless always necessary to balance these with spirituality. This was at the heart of Vatican II’s proposal for ecumenism, as laid out in Unitatis Redintegratio.

In that sense, Bishop Tony knows that the struggle for Christian unity is not quite the same as work to improve community relations (14). Certainly, ecumenical advances can contribute to an amelioration of civil difficulties, but he has always underlined that the primary task of ecumenists is to try to follow Christ’s prayer, ‘May they all be one’ and not try to use ecumenism as a means to fulfil another end. An increasing current risk is that, after thirty years or so – years when strife and violence were labelled as a Catholic versus Protestant struggle – being Catholic now can be seen as being divisive in a society where everything must be seen to be inclusive and integrated. Building a shared future, however, will always recognise the distinctive contribution of each Church.

Ecumenical ‘Dos’ and ‘Don’ts’
On the basis of Vatican II, Bishop Tony lives by a set of ‘dos’ and `don’ts’ in ecumenism. Among the ‘dos’ he includes: dialogue; collaboration for the common good; prayer (in private and communally); work for reform and renewal; patience; prudence; taking the first steps; focus on inward conversion; openness to being edified by others; living charity; humility and getting to know others. Among the ‘don’ts’ he mentions: expressing the other’s viewpoint wrongly; carelessness in how you speak of others; imprudent excess of zeal; placing obstacles and prejudices in the way of the future.

Earlier this year, he wrote up his ‘ecum-mandments’ in the form of Decalogue, which runs as follows: (15)

1. You shall not confuse ecumenism with community, political or social relations;
2. You shall have a healthy pride in and respect for your own tradition;
3. You shall have pride in and respect for other traditions as for your own;
4. You shall not be smug or self-righteous within your own tradition;
5. You shall not be smug or self-righteous in your relations with other traditions;
6. You shall not claim to represent anyone other than yourself when you have moved outside the official teaching of your own Church;
7. You shall pray for unity in prayer within your own tradition;
8. You shall pray for unity in prayer between your traditions;
9. You shall be thankful for what has already been achieved ecumenically;
10. You shall smile ecumenically and some day the people of God will smile with you.

Anyone who has met Bishop Tony knows that joy is a feature of his life and ministry. He genuinely believes that one of the greatest ecumenical contributions is to be cheerful in each other’s company when we come together. He has never accepted that angst-ridden features are amongst the marks of a good ecumenist. Indeed, he would make his own Teresa of Avila’s prayer to be delivered from `santos encapitados’ – gloomy saints dressed in shrouds. Joy is the great gift of the Spirit and it is vital to ecumenism. As Bishop Tony puts it in the last of the `ecum-mandments’ listed above: ‘You shall smile ecumenically and some day the People of God will smile with you’.

Every occasion presents the opportunity to see the humorous side. For instance, Bishop Tony tells the story of one occasion in his university chaplaincy days when a highly intelligent student, on discovering that the Catholic chaplain had golfed the previous day with the Presbyterian chaplain, asked, ‘Would you actually spend your day off with him?’ ‘Of course’, came the reply. ‘That’s brilliant’, the student replied, amazed. Bishop Tony comments wryly and, in his self-effacing way, that was probably one of his more significant moments of ecumenical leadership through the years.

The Contents of this Book
This book has come to life as a tribute to honour Bishop Tony. The contributors eagerly responded to the invitation to contribute. There are many others who could have contributed but the inevitable limitations of trying to keep the length of the book within manageable proportions and balance prevented the net of invitations being cast too wide! Gratitude, therefore, to those who gave generously of time and idea in their contribution. Apologies to anyone who would have liked to be part of this project but was unintentionally excluded. Thanks are also due to Frances Doran of the Down and Connor Diocesan Curia, Bishop Anthony Farquhar’s sister, Anne Farquhar, Catherine Gough and all at Veritas Publications.

The book attempts to open windows to some aspects of contemporary inter-Church relations. It looks at significant recent developments in international dialogue and networking among Churches. It provides updates on current developments on the ecclesial landscape of Ireland. Reflections are offered on a number of points, not least concerning the new directions opening up in Northern Ireland and those emerging in the changing scene in the Republic. No doubt there are many other themes that could also have been addressed, but the array of topics treated is already quite extensive and provides a taste of what is happening in the ecumenical world. It is hoped that, in some modest way, this work will further stimulate continuing engagement with the great cause of inter-Church relations in the light of Jesus’ last will and testament: `May they all be one’ (Jn 17:21).


1. Pope John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope (London: Jonathan Cape, 1994), p. 153.
2. See Cardinal Kasper’s Presidential Opening Speech to the Vatican II Fortieth Anniversary Conference on Unitatis Redintegratio, November 2004, printed in English edition of L’Osservatore Romano (1 December 2004), p. 8.
3. See his first message to the members of the College of Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel the day after his election as Pope, 20 April, 2005. Acta Apostolica Sedis XCVII (2005), pp. 694-699, at p. 697.
4. See Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, n. 8.
5. See Vatican 11’s Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, n. 4.
6. Pope John Paul’s Encyclical Letter on Commitment to Ecumenism, Ut Unum Sint, p. 82.
7. See Rusch, William G. (ed.), Justification and the Future of the Ecumenical Movement : the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical Press, 2003).
8. See text and commentaries in Donald Bolen and Gregory Cameron (eds), Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ (London: Continuum, 2006).
9. See his article ‘Christianity – A Credible Presence?’ in Dermot A. Lane (ed.), New Century, New Society: Christian Perspectives (Dublin: Columba Press, 1999), pp. 11-17, at p. 12.
10. See Keenan, Dan, ‘President praises “remarkable new days of transition” in Northern Ireland’, Irish Times, 30 November, 2007.
11. Appleby, R. Scott, The Ambivalence of the Sacred: Religion, Violence, and Reconciliation (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000), p. 16.
12. See Lederach, John Paul, The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
13. Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, n. 78.
14. See Maria Power’s work on this theme, From Ecumenism to Community Relations: Inter-Church Relationships in Northern Ireland 1980-2005 (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2007).
15. See Anthony Farquhar, ‘Ecum-mandments Revisited’, The Furrow, Vol. 59 (2008), pp. 3-11.

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