Synod, suffering and glory

Bishop Michael Jackson

The Bishop of Clogher, the Rt Revd Dr Michael Jackson's Presidential Address to Clogher Diocesan Synod 2008

(Bishop Jackson's talk at last year's MCU conference 'Anglicanism, blessing or curse - the Irish experience' is here.)


Synodical life generally is fundamental to the life of the Church of
Ireland in a way which is consultative, progressive, proactive and courageous.
When, as indeed we experience for ourselves, the synodical principle is used to
good effect, it is a tremendous force for cohesion, friendship, solidarity and
good sense focused on the future. ... But I also have to say this: when,
however, the synodical principle is distorted by any wilful pushing of sectional
agendas, by the opportunistic defiance of the spirit of openness, and the
downright human discourtesy of content, we are, ladies and gentlemen Members of
Synod, in a different world. And we want to stay away from that different
The Statement and Vision [of the Bishops of the Church of Ireland] break down into three parts: - Worship and Spiritual Growth- Unity and Dialogue- Living God’s Kingdom and Serving the World ... The wider stated purpose is one of developing growing – that is, actively changing, not static or resisting – communities of faith where the Kingdom of God is discerned, experienced, shared and made known. Maybe I have missed something, but did Jesus Christ not come, was Jesus Christ not designedly sent by the Father to bring in the Kingdom of God, to give to the human body and soul a healing and an enlivening touch of divine reality?

of John14:6: 'I am the way, the truth and the life'. ... The fundamental
point made by Jesus is that it is not possible to bypass either (a) this way of
suffering or (b) the person of Jesus Christ who is the earthly embodiment in
human form of God.
There are, of course, from earliest days many reasons for disunity and it
is from these early days of the first five centuries that we derive the language
of division and malfunction among Christians. I mean words such as: heretical,
schismatic, heterodoxy over against orthodoxy, and many other technical terms
which had largely passed into the mists of history. Words like these are again
doing the rounds. They are used rather loosely, rather too readily, in my
opinion, and with a degree of superficiality and destructiveness probably not
even recognized by those who give them voice but they corrode the morale, the
trust and the loyalty of church members.
Any of us committed to or involved in this field of church life realize
that unity in Christ is not an ‘add-on’ but is an urgent imperative embedded in
being a Christian. At the same time, we sense that dialogue is essential.
This linking of suffering and glory is not ... something confined to the
pages of Holy Scripture. It is written deep in the hearts of everyone here and
of everyone in the parishes which we represent. Whether it be a fireside chair
once occupied but now no longer; whether it be a place at the kitchen table once
buzzing with eager conversation, but now no longer; whether it be someone with
whom we worked all our lives, no longer now sharing with us a few words in the
evening before we both head for home – in our own individual lives, one by one,
we know both the suffering and the glory. And this is precisely why the human
experience of Jesus Christ, the child of God and the child of Bethlehem, is so
precious and so powerful for us. It connects heaven and earth. It holds together
life and death. It gives voice to both glory and suffering. And it does so
because, under God, it unites cross and resurrection. And this is why we, in our
day, must respond to that call to follow, and in following, to be sent where we
never expected to have to go – in service and in mission to individuals like
ourselves to whom we belong in community.

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