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ireland, irish, ulster, ireland, irish, ulster, Sinn Féin, Irish America

Put on a brave faith ... Christian churches have to fight to save their schools

(John Coulter, Irish Daily Star)

Christian Churches must get out of their pulpits and pews and fight to save faith schools in Ireland or the secular society will have us drowned in a sea of forced integrated education.

While it makes common sense to cut the number of administrative bodies controlling schools, that should not mean we waste millions of much-needed funding on the integrated education sector.

The North requires a single education body which at the same time protects the identity of the Christian ethos.

Listening to the pundits who sing the praises of integrated education, you would think they had magically discovered the cure for eight centuries of conflict in Ireland.

In the North, the regional colleges have been providing integrated education for more than a century.

Affectionately still known as the 'Tech' have had Protestants and Catholics mixing together in the classroom for generations.

Yet Stormont seems hell-bent on slashing funding to such colleges.

Likewise, Unionists should not gloat if Stormont finally decides to chop St Mary's teacher training college in Belfast, which supplies many excellent teachers for the Catholic maintained sector in the North.

If the North loses the battle over St Mary's, mainly Protestant state sector schools will be forced to water down their Christian ethos.

It will only be a matter of time for the trendy liberals of the 'politically correct' brigade are successful in banning Christian morning assembly. Meanwhile, the Christian Churches sit on their asses and do nothing.

Too many churches, especially in mainstream Christianity, are more interested in preserving their image than helping young people cope with the stresses and strains of modern society.

The pluralist and secular society has provided a more attractive alternative to the traditional Sunday School and Bible classes which were all the rage in the Super Seventies.

Instead of pushing integrated education, schools minister John O'Dowd and Alliance Learning Minister Stephen Farry should pump cash into helping existing schools provide sound Christian education classes as part of the school, college and university curriculum.

If the mainstream Catholic and Protestant denominations are not careful, teaching Christian values will be booted out of schools altogether.

In this scenario, it will be left to the growing band of smaller independent Christian denominations, such as the Elim Pentecostalists, to provide Biblical teaching to our children.

Elim is celebrating its Irish centenary this year and has become one of the fastest growing faiths on the island, pulling in converts from across the religious divide on both sides of the border.

While abortion and gay marriage are important subjects for the Christian Churches to take stands on, those churches must not forget that the real battle for the Christian faith will be fought in the schools.

Catholicism is still recovering from the sex abuse scandals while Protestantism is so split its hard to know who really speaks for the faith. Lose the schools battle and the churches might as well shut up shop for good.

Unfortunately, many Christians are too scared about upsetting people. Many clerics need to grow a set of real balls and get into the community and defend Christian values.

Too many toothless twits wearing dog collars are more interested in getting pats on the back from their flocks rather than getting their hands dirty for the faith.

What Christian education urgently requires are pastors with punch! The crisis facing faith schools is not the fault of the politicians; the gutless clergy are to blame for not defending the Christian Gospel effectively.

February 11, 2015
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This article appeared in the February 10, 2015 edition of the Irish Daily Star.

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