There is no other way that I can explain it, other than this – there is a deep sadness, a weeping in my spirit over the past weeks, as events unfold in America and around the world, which have highlighted, yet again, America’s racial legacy. There is the groan of intercession going on, a praying in the spirit!
But, it’s more than that, I am sad at seeing the way the Native America voice is also saying, ”Don’t forget about us!” While here in Britain, the legacy regarding our colonial past, is also being explored – even to the point of toppling the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol – who made his millions of the slave trade. I am aware, coming closer to home, that racism and sectarianism are driven by the same spirit!
Sitting here in the UK, it is relatively easy for us to see the injustice of it all: the unresolved conflict between Native, Black and White Americans; the Northern and Southern States divide in the US since the abolition of slavery and the aggressive way the polarized politics in American is being played out between Republicans and Democrats. Yet, we are not always aware of our own historic complicity in it all.
For me, this has been highlighted, because of a journey God has taken me on for the last 28 years, both here and in the USA. I returned to Ireland in 1992, having ministered in the Netherlands for a number of years, to join the residential community of prayer and reconciliation, at what was then, the Christian Renewal Centre in Rostrevor. While living in the Netherlands, I had broadened my horizons through my connections with the European prayer and reconciliation networks. I saw the need to research our nation’s history and to ask God to show me any ‘cultural blinkers’ I may have had on. That thinking was second nature to me, as I took up the role, at the Centre, as it’s Prayer Coordinator.
Sometime after that, I had a very out of character dream. In it, I saw a beaver dam, which was holding back a large volume of water. A trickle was leaking through it, allowing some vegetation to grow, in what was otherwise a very parched landscape. I saw people, who I knew instinctively, were unsuccessfully trying to dismantle the dam. I was then taken down under the water to see a large log built into the foundations. Written in large letters along it were the words “The Ulster Covenant.” At the same time, I heard a voice, saying to me “If you want to see this water which is the River of the Holy Spirit, flow across the land, then the log in the dam has got to be removed.” With that, I woke up!
It was vivid, I sensed it was God-given and I knew I could not ignore it! I have lived with it ever since as I began a journey of research over many years, not only related specifically to the Ulster Covenant but also back into Irish, UK and European history. And believe it or not, even across the Atlantic to North America to connect into reconciliation issues among the Native Americans. What is happening there today is not unrelated!
I will come back to the Ulster Covenant issue in Part 2. Given the constraints in writing this article, this can only be a synopsis of my research and prayer journey. A fuller read is found in my two books:
“Heal not Lightly.” It deals with the more recent aspects of our history, especially with the issues surrounding 1912 and beyond.“
“A Destiny Denied…A Dignity Restored.” This deals specifically with my journey of reconciliation as it pertains to the Native Americans. Though it has been set into a much broader context of medieval Europe, highlighting the role England and Scotland played in Ireland and America, before and after the Reformation. (Information about obtaining these books is available at the end of Part 2.)
In Ephesians 4:26-27 we read, “‘In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down on your anger while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”’ Paul is addressing a specific sin here – anger – but it could have been any sin. The point he is making is that if any sin was unrepented of, it had the capacity to give Satan a legal point of entry into the relational situation he was addressing. We are in a spiritual battle, Paul tells us that “…its not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians. 6:12.
John Dawson (founder of the International Reconciliation Coalition) wrote this:
“The only authority Satan has is a stolen authority. He initially gains authority when, at some point in history, human beings believe his lie, receives his accusations and are seduced into an alliance to his plan… Whole countries are kept in darkness by satanic lies that have become cornerstones of a particular culture.”
He goes on to say,
“The city is a cluster of overlapping institutions. All institutions have a servant function. They must provide some form of service to survive. The army, the school, the hospital, the national government and the city all represent the division of labour at a corporate level. Satan seeks to rule by influencing these institutions, especially through the church, arts and entertainment and commerce. He seeks… to make them into an extension of his kingdom.”
(Taking Your Cities for God. Pgs. 53, 30)
Fasten your seatbelts
Keeping this in mind, I want to take you on a whirlwind of a trip which has its starting point back in Celtic Ireland, and to the early Church. So fasten your seatbelts! No matter what our tradition may be, we often go back there, to the land of saints and scholars, to Bangor Abbey with its 24-7 prayer, worship and the missionary trips that took them all over Europe. It was not part of the Church of Rome, which became the official church of the Roman Empire after Constantine (313AD) embraced Christianity. In 380AD, his predecessor, Theodosius (380AD), took it a step further when he issued the Edict of Thessalonica, in which he forbade the practice of pagan religions and proclaimed Christianity to be the religion of the Empire. Christendom was born, embracing in the process an unChristian ‘empire spirit.’ A seed was formed which would grow into a mighty tree with a root system that spread throughout the world.
By the early 12th century, the Normans came to Ireland and started to establish non-Celtic Church monasteries. A key year was 1155AD, when Henry II, a Catholic, became the first English King to set foot on Irish soil. He came here with full authority, given to him by the only English Pope in history – Pope Adrian IV. That authority was enshrined in what is called a Papal Bull – the Laudibiliter – it brought Ireland under the control of the English crown and the Roman Catholic Church. In doing so, it also brought about the demise of the Celtic Church in Ireland. The ‘empire spirit’ had arrived in Ireland, a seed was sown!
The Doctrine of Discovery
This issuing of the Papal Bull was part of the very early stages in the development of what became known as the Doctrine of Discovery (DOD) – up to this point it was not a term I or many of my colleagues had ever heard of! I was later to find that the reconciliation movement in North America between White, Native and Black Americans were all too aware of it!
In a nutshell, it is one of the earliest examples of international law. It encapsulates a gradually developing and evolving process over many centuries, which became the accepted legal, political and theological framework, being applied by the Catholic Church, to the “Christian” nations of Europe as they related to each other regarding the control of trade, exploration, and colonisation of non-European countries. It was also used to justify the domination of non-Christian peoples.
Because of England’s early intervention in Ireland, this was never talked about in terms of the DOD, even though the way the Catholic Church continued with its involvement here, is in keeping with the DOD’s development in other countries. By the 1400s, Spain and Portugal were given Papal Bulls, using this Doctrine, as the means of colonising the Americas which included the use of the Conquistadors and the enslavement of Africans. This was understood and respected by England and France – even though they had not been given Papal Bulls, they knew what they could or couldn’t do, ie., they could trade along America’s east coast, but not colonise, knowing that ex-communication awaited them.
In Part 2, I take up the story with the Reformation.