Following a letter I wrote to the Church of Ireland Gazette a few weeks ago, which was a shortened version of this, a retired bishop responded in that worthy publication by intimating that as a recent English import I should not presume to express my views because I do not know what he called ‘our ways’.
Since then, that same publication printed a story in which the Church of Ireland rejected President Obama’s description of education in Northern Ireland as ‘segregated’, particularly since that word had resonances with apartheid in South Africa. Indeed it does.
It’s people’s perceptions that we have to deal with, and until we do, facts are almost irrelevant. If President Obama perceives education in NI as segregated, then presumably others do too, and simply denying those perceptions is not a realistic strategy. (If the Laois Nationalist is to be believed, funeral care in this town might soon be segregated too.)
If I want a fresh opinion, I will seek it from a critical friend – someone who is not part of the club. Is it really the case that the Church of Ireland is so insecure that it responds to such critical friends by belittling them? The parable of the good Samaritan tells us, amongst other things, that we do well to accept all help, no matter whence it cometh.
Perhaps I am indeed as yet unfit to serve in the Church of Ireland. How long will it be before I have absorbed enough of what the retired bishop, of whom I yield to no-one in my admiration, refers to as ‘our ways’ to be allowed to express my views? Until then I shall remain silent. On the other hand, when I see in the news what ‘our ways’ have been responsible for, perhaps I shan’t.