Eames' Dreams Turn to Nightmare

David Virtue DVirtue236 at AOL.COM
Wed May 9 00:35:36 EDT 2001


Reform Ireland

Another crisis in Portadown, the 'capital' of the Northern Ireland
marching parades, is facing Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh
Robin Eames and this time he has less local support than ever.

Parishioners at St.Mark's parish church in the town centre, one of the
biggest and wealthiest in Ireland, are furious with their Archbishop
and his senior clerics over their opposition to the appointment of a
new evangelical rector to lead their parish.

According to reports in the local press, churchgoers at this vibrant
evangelical centre have learned that clergy members of the Diocesan
Board of Nomination, which was to have selected a new rector,
unanimously opposed a candidate favoured by St.Mark's own parochial
nominators.  Further fuel was added to the flames by the fact that
these diocesan nominators consisted of men who had formerly served
their curacies at St.Mark's before it became an evangelical stronghold.

At the recent annual general meeting of St.Mark's, chaired by the
Archdeacon of Armagh, Raymond Hoey, one of those named in the press as
blocking the parish's choice, the rector issue dominated proceedings
despite an attempt by Hoey to stifle discussion.

As a consequence, St.Mark's parishioners have sent a stark warning to
the Archbishop that it would be unwise to abuse his authority and try
to foist on St.Mark's, for the first time in its history, a rector of
his choosing rather than appoint a man for whom the parish has clearly
expressed its preference.

Despite Eames' carefully nurtured public image as a peacemaker in the
disputes which are presently tearing apart worldwide Anglicanism, in
his own backyard the congregation of his largest parish regards him
with distrust. In his public pronouncements, the Archbishop is known as
an advocate of justice and fairness yet in his own Diocese of Armagh
many now feel there is a deliberate attempt to control and manipulate
clergy appointments.

In the case of this flagship parish, the parishioners are worried that
if the Archbishop gets his way, future appointments to St. Mark's could
be used to reward diocesan "good boys" and the witness and growth of
the church would be mortgaged to further diocesan politics and the
clergy careerism which is endemic in the Church of Ireland.

Feelings of mistrust are running so high that the parish took the
highly unusual step of collecting hundreds of signatures at the church
door to back their parochial nominators' choice of a new evangelical

The abuse of episcopal power is at the heart of the present disunity in
the Anglican Communion, especially in the USA where the bishops have
ignored decisions of the 1998 Lambeth Conference and are continuing to
ordain practising homosexuals and are allowing clergy to officiate at
same-sex marriages.

While the issues are very different in the case of St.Mark's,
Portadown, the question of abuse of episcopal power in Armagh Diocese
needs to be answered.

If the situation is not resolved amicably and speedily, the action of
the diocese in blocking the appointment could have serious
repercussions for Eames.

Provoking the laity of St.Mark's to open rebellion seems hardly wise
when the contentious annual Orange Order parade to the neighbouring
parish of Drumcree is looming large.  The unresolved Drumcree stand-off
has been enough to blight the Archbishop's hopes of being a major force
for reconciliation in the peace process in Ireland which he knows would
have guaranteed him revered status in the history books.

A second high-profile failure to reach agreement with one of Ireland's
largest parishes, also in Portadown, would lead to serious questions
being asked about Eames' pastoral effectiveness and whether he is up to
the job at local level while jetsetting around the world in his role as
Primate of the Church of Ireland.

Reform Ireland extends its support to the parish of St.Mark's and calls
on the Archbishop and his clergy diocesan nominators to consider the
words of Christ that, "There is nothing hidden that will not be
disclosed and nothing concealed that will not be brought out into the
open" (Luke 8 v.17).
  - - - - - - 6th May 2001


For further details, please contact Revd. Eddie Coulter (Chairman,
Reform Ireland) 10 Derrylileagh Road Birches Portadown BT62 1TQ

Tel. +44 (0)28 3885 1246 Email: chairman at reform-ireland.org

Reform Ireland website: http://www.reform-ireland.org


1. Reform Ireland is a sister organisation to Reform in the Church of
England, with similar basis of faith and aims.  It seeks to encourage
the Church of Ireland to remain true to its doctrinal and biblical
confession, in order that the Gospel may be preached more effectively
through the Church of Ireland to the island of Ireland.

2. The previous Rector of St.Mark's Portadown retired in January this

3. The parish covers much of the town of Portadown and the church
building is situated in the town centre.

4. Details of this dispute were published in the Portadown Times, 3rd
May 2001

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