'Screaming fundamentalists' have taken over some church parishes, warns Waterford Dean

As Church of Ireland reverend steps down, she calls for bigotry, homophobia and supremacism to be 'named and challenged'
'Screaming fundamentalists' have taken over some church parishes, warns Waterford Dean

Church of Ireland's Dean of Waterford Maria Jansson is stepping down from her role. 

The Church of Ireland's Dean of Waterford has announced she will be stepping down in the coming months, vowing to be an “enormous thorn” in the side of the country’s religious leadership in her retirement.

Reverend Maria Jansson said that "screaming fundamentalists" have taken over some parishes in the Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic Church but they will "invariably fail" as followers will inevitably leave.

Bigotry, homophobia and “supremacism” must be “called out and named and challenged”, Rev Jansson said.

“All of that is dysfunctional,” she told local radio station WLR FM, adding:

Every empire falls, every dictator dies. 

Rev Jansson, who is of Irish Swedish extraction, took up the role in December 2011 but will tender her resignation in the next four months.

“[It’s not done] easily and not done glibly. I'm going to be 66 in a few weeks,” she said. 

“There’s a real danger with someone like me, that you rest on your laurels, you stay too long and you kill off the community you love. That you’re there because the community means so much to you emotionally that you stay when maybe it’s time to go.”

 “I promised the community I would see them through the pandemic.” 

She said she will stay on to help organise the succession and “go scouting for functioning clergy” to ensure the “parish is happy and the transition is properly managed and that God willing there will be a queue of people for the job”.

Having been a teacher and academic before her ordination 20 years ago in Galway, Rev Jannson served as Rector of Wexford before coming to Waterford, and said she has served in the faith for 46 years.

Support from McAleese

She shares the views of former president of Ireland Mary McAleese, who has regularly criticised the stances by church leadership on feminism and homosexuality, and who had even discouraged her from leaving the church, telling her: "Don't you dare go."

“Mary's a friend, and we're both warrior women and we both passionately care about the future of faith as a positive in society and we both loathe the way religion can be narrow, conceited and cruel,” she added.

Rev Jansson said that for anyone who is a member of a parish that is being overseen by someone with “fundamentalist” views, including expressing bigotry, they should “church-surf” and go elsewhere.

If your local church has a lunatic, move on, find someone that actually has a heart and brain.

"I don't think Christ ever stood up and humiliated a person on the grounds of their humanity.” 

Rev Jannson added that she would “challenge the scapegoating” and feels that women will “always be a bit unacceptable and dodgy anyway” in the eyes of some religious people.

“I think [religion] has always been politicised, I think fundamentalism will always appeal to people who can't live with ambiguity and a lot of them have psychosexual problems as well.

"You can hide all of the issues of your life behind a religious fanaticism and it's unhealthy, especially when it's organised,” she told WLR, adding: “It doesn't have the staying power of a thinking faith.”

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