But isn't it this very attitude of 'father knows best' that has turned people away from the Church? We are hearing all the time that church-going is on the decline in all our churches, Catholic and Protestant. We are hearing that religion is no longer a part of our everyday life, and that Ireland is the poorer for it.
And yet nothing seems to change. It feels as if we are all waiting, in a state of numbness or apathy, for the people at the top to do something. And of course, they can't. Much of the problem is that the sort of Christianity we are expected to go along with no longer fits what we know of the world and of human life.
Some Christian doctrine needs to be let go. A lot of the rest of it needs to be expressed in new ways that make sense to our heads and our hearts.
And new ways need to be found for 'being church' together, ways that are not authoritarian or hierarchical.
A small number of us who are wrestling with this situation have been meeting over the past few months. We come from most of the mainstream churches in Ireland, North and South, and include clergy as well as people on the margins of Christianity. We have a lot of different views, but what we have in common is a desire for openness in the Christian church, for spaces where beliefs and doubts and new approaches to faith can be discussed, and for acceptance of people of varied beliefs, lifestyles and practices.
We don't want to become a new church, but we do want our churches to recognise this way of living and believing as an authentic Christian position.
We would be glad to hear from any others who share our concerns.
The Open Christianity Network