The cancerous apostasy that is gnawing at the very roots of the Church of Ireland has been exposed in an article published on the Internet site "Reform Ireland". The paper, the full text of which is accessible at http://www.reform-ireland.org.uk/college.htm, is entitled "The Gospel and the Church of Ireland Theological College" (CITC). It is a damning indictment of both the College and the Church for which it is supposed to be training ministers of the Gospel.
The writers deal in three parts respectively with the history of the theological education of the clergy for the Church of Ireland, with the battle to establish Evangelical teaching in the training of students, and with suggestions to promote a more Evangelical ministry.
An outline of the historical background to the College – which evolved from the original College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, known simply as Trinity College, Dublin (TCD) – recalls its original significance as "that missing key to the success of the Reformation in Ireland, a centre for training godly and reformed clergy". This it remained in the 41 years after its foundation in 1592, when it bore "a strongly Calvinistic and Puritan stamp" and students received "a thorough grounding in the Scriptures". Mention is made of the "depth of Biblical scholarship" of James Ussher, the first student of the College and later its Professor of Divinity (1607-1621); of the steps taken by Provost Bedell (1627-1629) to familiarise native students with the Prayer Book and New Testament in the Irish tongue; of the anglicising policy of its Chancellor Archbishop Laud (1633) and Provost William Chappell (1634), when the general character of clergy training remained not only deeply Biblical but also profoundly evangelistic in accordance with the aim stated in the foundation document "that true religion and sound learning may for ever flourish".
The paper then outlines how resistance to the promotion of Evangelical or Biblical orthodoxy in the Divinity School soon developed, especially in the latter part of the 19th century and early 20th century under the influence of Tractarianism and so-called Higher Criticism. Eventually, in 1968, the House of Bishops envisaged changes which resulted in major reorganisation of theological training for ordinands between 1978 and 1981, centred in a Theological College (CITC), with Biblical and theological instruction supplied through an inter-denominational Faculty of Theology under a new "non-denominational" Chair from 1981 onwards. The first incumbent was Sean Freyne. In this way course content came to be dictated solely by TCD, not the Church of Ireland Bishops, and the Church of Ireland forfeited its right to appoint its own (Anglican) Professor of Theology.
The original Biblical basis of the institution, say the writers,
"contrasts sharply with the training that ordinands receive today, when the Scriptures are regarded as merely the work of men and no provision is made for imparting skill either in expository preaching or in evangelistic outreach. […] Historically therefore, a college that began specifically to instruct godly Protestant ministers to promote the Gospel throughout Ireland, has evolved into a theological department that has no commitment to promoting orthodox Christian doctrine and Gospel truth. Indeed, since Roman Catholics and atheists can be selected as head over the TCD School of Hebrew, Biblical and Theological Studies, the content of theological study for C. of I. Clergy will hardly be concerned with the promotion of the Reformed theology of the Church of Ireland."
The Battle for Evangelical Truth
The paper next outlines in detail how throughout the past century "Evangelicals have battled with both Trinity College and the House of Bishops to maintain Biblical and reformed Theology in the curriculum for ordinands". Though TCD was secularised in 1873, the School of Divinity remained untouched, and Professors of Theology still had to be Protestant Episcopalians; but "the rise of liberal and secularist attitudes raised the prospect that the Board of TCD would be under the control of academics who might be hostile to the Church of Ireland interest", and there then followed a 30-year battle, during which the Church sought greater control over appointments to the Divinity School. This ended in 1911, when a Divinity School Council was created consisting of members of the House of Bishops, representatives from the Board of TCD and teaching staff of the Divinity, and acquired "the power to nominate, subject to the approval of the Board of TCD, to all Professorships and Lectureships and to make recommendations concerning the content of Divinity courses and examinations". In 1980 authority in dictating the content of Biblical and Theological studies reverted to TCD.
Particularly noteworthy in the battle against the growing apostasy of TCD was the courageous stand of T.C. Hammond against the High Churchmen of the Divinity School. He attacked, for instance, the requirement of students to study Frere's Tractarian-biased revision of Proctor's older textbook on the Book of Common Prayer, asking: "Is it a right or proper thing that a book so manifestly anti-Protestant in its character should be the sole text-book on the Prayer Book?" The writers comment: "His remarks also underline the fact that there was a deliberate policy of Divinity Professors to keep Evangelical teaching off the curriculum." Hammond's own conclusion on the whole debate was that "the teaching in the textbook remains in the student's mind and if the textbook contains (flawed) scholarly arguments, which are destructive to Biblical belief and faith, at the very least, the student's confidence in the Bible and indeed in ministry are going to be seriously undermined."
Especially telling is the indictment quoted from a layman, Captain Wade, during the debate in question, stating that "the output from Trinity College is anti-Evangelical", that "it is almost impossible to obtain the services of a Clergyman from the Divinity School of TCD with Evangelical views", and that "Evangelical teaching is not represented on either the Divinity School booklist or among the staff".
Also quoted are the more worrying remarks by 'liberal' Professor A.D.H. Mayes of TCD in a 1993 edition of Search stressing "the need to resist the growth of 'fundamentalism' in the Church of Ireland today".
Add to this the fact that "C.I.T.C. has become the sole option for those desiring to be trained for the Church of Ireland", and its anti-Protestant, anti-Evangelical and anti-Biblical bias is secured.
A further string of indictments includes "the anti-Evangelical bias of both what is taught and of those who teach it", with the result that the clergy emerging from CITC in the new millennium "are not equipped to preach the Scriptures as the very Word of God, since they have lost all confidence of its being so. In fact, the question needs to be asked whether or not ordinands trained in and convinced of such liberal Biblical theory can with a clear conscience
take ordination vows, which ask them to affirm that they 'unfeignedly' believe the Holy Scriptures". In the Anglican and Liturgical Studies course, "not only are the Formularies of the Church interpreted in a deliberate anti-evangelical fashion", but teaching is actually "little more than an attempt to un-church Anglican Evangelicals". In the area of Pastoral Studies "the various methodologies and theologies presented in the course have one thing in common – they are consistently unbiblical".
Principal J.R. Bartlett is slammed for his "sheer patronising arrogance" and his premise that there is no such thing as Evangelical […] but only good scholarship of bad scholarship".
The Way Ahead
The main conclusion is that it is the College needs "clergy who are informed of modern biblical scholarship" and that it is a matter of some urgency to work to secure "a godly, believing ministry, where the clergy unfeignedly hold to and preach the Word of God as something which in the power of the Holy Spirit brings life to men and glory to God", for "the Church, if it is to survive as a healthy witness to the Gospel, needs to produce men for the ministry, who know Christ as their own Saviour and are convinced of the need to fulfil Christ's Great Commission to preach the Gospel to all men, that they too may be saved and become disciples of Christ".
The writers of this paper are to be congratulated for their exposure of the depths of corruption and apostasy to which the once Reformation-based Church of Ireland has sunk. What a pity they do not go further and name the agent of that corruption – Vatican-inspired Ecumenism.
For many generations the Church of Ireland was a grand standing bulwark against Popery. Through her faithfulness to the Protestant principles embodied in her Articles she maintained a position of strength against the wiles of Papist intrigue, ritualism and false doctrine. As late as the nineteen-sixties the main text prescribed for her Higher Voluntary Examination in Church Formularies was a book called How we differ from Rome. Where is that spirit today? The Church of Ireland has shamefully and treacherously disowned and abandoned it, and the moment she embraced those very Romish doctrines from which she was reformed, she not only ceased to be a defence against infiltration by them, but became the very means by which Papal Rome can ride to success. When we see the Archbishop of Armagh regularly consorting with the bishops and priests of the Vatican and wearing the smile of the compromiser with apostasy, it becomes evident that the Church of Ireland – the very fortress which was intended as a means to keep the enemy out – has become the most effectual door to let him in.