Northern Ireland news

Presbyterian Church to debate proposal to refuse baptism to children of same-sex couples

Christian and LGBT activist Colin Flinn

THE Presbyterian Church is to discuss a proposal to prevent same-sex couples having their children baptised when its general assembly meets in Belfast next week.

The 2018 'Blue Book', which contains motions for debate, includes a resolution that Christian and LGBT activist Colin Flinn claims if passed would effectively mean same-sex couples being "excommunicated" from the Irish Church.

The motion states: "In light of our understanding of Scripture and the Church's understanding of a credible profession of faith it is clear that same-sex couples are not eligible for communicant membership nor are they qualified to receive baptism for their children. We believe that their outward conduct and lifestyle is at variance with a life of obedience to Christ."

Mr Flinn said: "Effectively this excommunicates same-sex couples from becoming communicants. It means that ministers and Kirk Session (Church elders) can ask questions of individuals and couples about their private and personal lives. This is a disgrace.

"Secondly, the children of same-sex couples will not be baptised.

"This is probably worse and contradicts an understanding of Christ's belief that his Church should act at all times with gentleness and compassion towards children."

Around 1,000 ministers and elders from the Presbyterian Church's 500-plus congregations in Ireland will gather over three days starting on Monday.

The assembly will include Bible study, debate and decision-making which will will set the direction of the Church for the coming year.

Mr Flinn, a retired solicitor who has in the past worked with Church House in relation to sexual orientation matters, says he has spoken to ministers and members of congregations "who are shocked and dismayed at the retreat of their Church to the dark ages and feel same-sex couples should held safe and included within their church families".

A former chair and current board member of Cara Friend, an LGBT support group, he also warned that any alienation of gay people from the main Churches could have a damaging impact and urged anyone experiencing emotional difficulties to call the charity's helpline.

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