Church agenda should not be set by secular issues – bishop

Church agenda should not be set by secular issues – bishop Bishop Donal McKeown, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Down and Connor

The Church cannot be driven by responses to “secular issues” as this allows its agenda to be set by others and not Christ.

Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry said in a homily at St Eugene’s Cathedral on Sunday that debates about human rights may be interesting subjects, but “Jesus calls us to cross over and to be disturbed by divine priorities”.

“A merely issue-driven Church will never undertake an Exodus because it is preoccupied with human agendas and not with discovering God’s uncomfortable challenges,” Bishop McKeown said.

“A Church culture of identity politics simply sets people against one another, ‘we are good, they are bad’. Issues become black and white in the service of human belonging. They can never lead to the unity that is God’s plan for humanity. Jesus seeks to move people on from an excessive emphasis of victimhood to a dream of grace-led healing.”

He said that a Church “hung-up” in ecclesial politics or “dominated by secular issues” will never follow Jesus.

“If we are human issue-driven, we can never let Christ lead us to cross over with him. We can become too centred on solving problems to suit ‘me’ and my concerns. But the Church is not all about me. It is about Jesus. The apostles had to learn that lesson in the storm-tossed boat,” Dr McKeown said.

There is a temptation to see times of crisis “as something to be avoided by fleeing somewhere that will make us feel more secure”, he continued, “But a crisis arises because God is trying to drag us away from soothing human solutions that ease our fears”.

He added: “Jesus is in the boat with you as you feel tossed about and threatened by powers beyond your control. That applies to us personally and as a Church.”