Very Rev Andrew Furlong has resigned as Rector of the Group of Parishes of Trim and Athboy and as Dean of Clonmacnoise in the Diocese of Meath and Kildare, Ireland


Christianity comes out of a pre-scientific and pre-critical world. As Bishop Richard Clarke has written in his book And is it True? (page 119) "the language of the creeds is that of Greek philosophy. It is not a mode of thought or expression which is understood fully today....If we were to write creeds today, they would be vastly different, both in language and in the concerns addressed." Both Bishop Clarke and I are concerned to re-interpret Christianity for a modern world in which we no longer believe that God 'sends' earthquakes, disease or other disasters. There is an undercurrent around the world which is moving the church, and other religions too, to face up to the fact that faith needs to be expressed in the terms of the twenty-first century, bearing in mind our current understanding of the universe in which we live. It means that theologians are expressing provisional viewpoints as they seek to find ways to say something significant about the God of the twenty-first century universe, and how such a God may be imagined to be connected with such a world as ours.

Theologians, like myself are engaged in a discussion and a debate, and we go on developing and modifying our views and positions.

I had hoped that the Church of Ireland, in recognising that my ministry in the Athboy and Trim Group of Parishes was regarded as untenable by the majority of the members of this parish (none of whom would claim to be theologically literate) would have found alternative work for me, such as the post of Canon Theologian where I could continue my reading, debating, listening, and writing and communicating. As this has not happened, I have decided to resign. But the issue of modernising Christianity will not go away.

I regret that my bishop imposed a five month silence on himself, because right from the beginning I think it would have helped immensely if he had said much more openly in the parishes of this Diocese and in the media that he has long recognised the need for Christianity to be updated; he could have gone on to say that my statements should be viewed like his, as well as those of other theologians, as provisional statements, as we all explored the mystery of being human and belonging to an evolving religious tradition which had always contained diversity of conjecture, speculation, thought and belief. He emphasised to me on my arrival to work in this Diocese five years ago the need for adult education, for more theologically literate laity. He knew for over 25 years that I held what are regarded by many as liberal and radical views.

I regret that Archbishop Empey in stating that he could not see how I could have a leadership role in a Christian community did not appear to be aware that he was excluding, by these remarks, a significant number of members of the Church of Ireland who recognise that the church contains a variety of viewpoints: evangelical, conservative, traditional, liberal and radical. Part of the role of an archbishop is to represent the comprehensiveness and breadth of his or her church.

The people of this parish remain embedded in my heart; I have sought to serve some of them through times of great personal tragedy, I have shared with others times of uncertainty and with others times of joy. I remain conscious that the last five months have been a difficult time, in differing ways, for many of them. I apologise for hurt caused to them for which I am responsible; and wish all of the people well for the future.

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