Presbyterian Church ministers not silenced in making public comments

Rev Trevor Gribben (foreground) with Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown in 2008. Picture by Colm O'Reilly
Joanne Sweeney

A CLAIM that Presbyterian Church ministers are being silenced to avoid making public comments and bringing the church “into disrepute” has been denied.

The assembly clerk of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Rev Trevor Gribben, has rebuffed concerns that ministers have been warned against speaking out in a letter he sent out last week.

His letter followed a special meeting of the General Council on June 14 which adopted a new policy that means parishioners who are in a same-sex relationship cannot be full members of the church.

One section of the letter says, "Ministers and elders of the Church should ensure that by their public comments they do not bring the church and its agencies into disrepute.”

Former Alliance Party leader and lifelong Presbyterian, Lord John Alderice, announced that he would be resigning from the church as the new policy made it impossible for him to defend his church.

While some ex-ministers and church members have spoken out against the decision, Mr Gribben suggested that such matters would be better spoken of within the church.

“People are free to debate in public, it is the nature of that discourse that is important," he told BBC Radio Ulster's Sunday Sequence.

"Sometimes when we pick up the wrong end of the stick, or perhaps even for some out with the church, maybe even some within the church, who want to misrepresent or over emphasise particular aspects of the church's view, that can be incredibly harmful.

"There are proper processes and ways to discuss this in the church."

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