Church on Margins of Public Arena, warns Ireland Primate

The Church of Ireland Primate has warned that churches in Ireland can no longer rely on having "a place as of right" to exert influence in the public arena.

|PIC1|Archbishop Alan Harper has told that the changing role of the churches in society means that the weight of numbers is no longer sufficient to ensure the churches' voices will be heeded in public affairs.

Instead, the power and quality of their case's argument, and strength of analysis, would be the litmus test.

The primate was speaking to Rev Earl Storey, Director of the Hard Gospel Project, an initiative founded by the Church of Ireland following the Drumcree crisis in Northern Ireland, seeking to address the issues of sectarianism and community divisions, and to find ways of creating a shared future in Ireland.

Archbishop Harper said: "We (the Churches) can no longer rely on having a place as of right in terms of public affairs, or the influence that the church used to exert simply by being the Churches.

"We have now to command that, as a result of delivery and providing a critique of society that others can take with a degree of respect...persuading people by the power and quality of our argument and the genuine strength of our analysis, rather than merely by weight of numbers."

As well as focussing on living with "historic neighbours", the Primate spoke about the challenge of living with new neighbours resulting from "the social changes of the Celtic Tiger and record inward migration".

He also called for "an honest but generous conversation" within the Church of Ireland about how its institutions are serving both its members and those outside it.