'˜Same-sex issues dominated my time as editor, but Church Gazette has always been a place for all points of view'

The editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette, Canon Ian Ellis, who is stepping down, reflects on his period at the church publication ...

Canon Ian Ellis
Canon Ian Ellis

Following the announcement that I will be stepping down as editor of The Church of Ireland Gazette at the end of next May, I was kindly asked by the News Letter to reflect on my 15 years in the position.

This caused me to ask myself: where do I start?

So much has happened in church life over those years – in the Gazette itself, in the Church of Ireland and on the wider Anglican Communion and ecumenical scene.

Of course, the place to start is the beginning and my appointment to succeed the late Canon Cecil Cooper in 2001.

My decision to accept the appointment was in some ways a difficult one because it was clear that the role entailed being an independent commentator on church affairs and at times differing from the official church line.

I remember after producing the Gazette for the first time realizing with considerable trepidation that I had to start immediately on work for the following week’s paper!

It was never a case of “job done”.

However, as time went on I realised that, with proper organization and delegation of work to others, it was in fact a much more manageable role than it might seem.

I was extremely fortunate in having the Rev Clifford Skillen, then rector of St. Polycarp’s, Finaghy, as assistant editor at the Gazette for most of my time as editor.

A great colleague, Clifford is now retired and was replaced in 2015 by the very able Lynda Neilands, an enthusiastic Methodist journalist who is also involved with the monthly Methodist Newsletter.

On the wider scene, the issue of same-sex relationships has been a dominant one within the Anglican Communion throughout my time as editor.

While maintaining a traditional view of the matter from an editorial perspective, the Gazette has been keen to give space to all points of view and, hopefully, to be a place of both communication and debate within Church circles on what is a very sensitive issue.

I suppose because of the editorial independence of the Gazette, it is not always popular in certain quarters of the church but, then again, I have frequently pointed out that the vast majority of the items that we cover are hugely supportive of the church.

It is just that, at times, difficult matters cannot be avoided if the Gazette is to be truly independent.

Now is a challenging time for all print media but over the years, in terms of production, I’ve been delighted to be able to introduce full colour and then to move from A4 to the larger tabloid size.

It has also been great, along with our online editor, the Rev Robert Ferris of Carrigrohane, Co Cork, to develop our website (https://gazette.ireland.anglican.org), including an audio section, and also to see our weekly e-paper version.

More recently, an online-only Gazette supplement called The Inter-Anglican Review has been launched and it is managed by the Rev Patrick Burke of Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny.

The Review has had contributors from all over then world.

During all of my time as editor, I have also had the great joy of being rector of Newcastle, Co Down, a post which continues for me.

Of course, other clergy also take on responsibilities beyond the confines of their parishes and I do think that to do so is enriching not only for the clergy themselves but also for their parishes.

I’m now looking forward to being able to write from time to time but without a weekly deadline.

It has been a huge privilege to edit the Gazette, founded as long ago as 1856 and entirely self-financing all these years later.

I’m also fortunate in having had such a committed team and, on the business side, such a supportive Board of Directors.

I wish the paper well for the next phase of its life.