Northern Ireland news

Senior Presbyterians criticise General Assembly amid same-sex marriage row

IN an echo of the Church's dissenting tradition, more than 230 senior Presbyterians have joined to criticise the denomination's General Assembly for decisions which have led to a "profound sense of hurt, dismay and anger".

The statement, entitled 'A Cry from the Heart', does not refer directly to specific issues but comes as tensions are high within the Church over its attitude to same-sex relationships.

It has been signed by teaching and ruling elders from across Ireland, who say that "this level of feeling is unprecedented in our pastoral experience".

They commit themselves to ensuring that the decisions "will be subject to the urgent attention they deserve, and for which many in the Church are calling".

Signatories include former moderator Dr Ken Newell, the former Clerk of the General Assembly, Dr Donald Watts, and retired north Belfast minister the Rev Liz Hughes.

When it met in Belfast last month, the General Assembly - an annual gathering of lay people and clergy drawn from each of its 500-plus congregations in Ireland - backed a proposal to finally end its historic public links with the Church of Scotland because of its support for gay marriage.

Differing approaches to Biblical authority and marriage have meant that in recent years the Presbyterian Church in Ireland has refused to send its Moderator to attend the Scottish General Assembly.

The June vote formalised the boycott and brought an end to the practice of inviting the Church of Scotland Moderator to attend the Irish General Assembly.

That decision sits a little uneasily - or incoherently, perhaps - with the assembly also resolving to continue its collaborations with the Church of Scotland on matters of "mutual benefit" - a case of pursuing the private but not the public.

As well as tearing the tartan, the assembly also affirmed that same-sex couples could not be communicant members of the Church, nor their children be baptised.

The votes followed reports from the Church's doctrine committee which restated the traditional Biblical view of marriage.

A thread running through the debates on both issues was a concern that the Presbyterian Church's witness could be damaged if it adopted too harsh a tone.

"We gladly acknowledge that we ourselves have been constantly enriched and challenged by the diversity of views found in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland," says the statement.

"Therefore, as we participate in this work of critical engagement and discernment, we hold that any unnecessary narrowing of the range of acceptable theological perspectives within the Presbyterian Church in Ireland will damage our credibility and limit our future."

The signatories described the statement as "a prayerful expression of appropriate loyalty to the Presbyterian Church in Ireland at this moment in our history".

Signatories to 'A Cry from the Heart', a statement in response to decisions of the 2018 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church

1. Arthur Acheson

2. Martin Agnew

3. Derek Alexander

4. Frank Arnold

5. Liz Arthur

6. Maurice Arthur

7. Olive Bell

8. Ronnie Bell

9. Heather Best

10. Sandra Bickerstaff

11. Christopher Blake

12. Patricia Blake

13. Paul Blease

14. W. D. Boyd

15. Amy Brackenridge

16. John Brackenridge

17. Leonard Brown

18. Anne Buchanan

19. Christina Bradley

20. Hilary Brunt

21. Ronnie Calvert

22. Denis Campbell

23. Purvis Campbell

24. Audrey Carruthers

25. Walter Carruthers

26. Maureen Collins

27. Susan Cooke

28. Joan Cowle

29. Dennis Crawford

30. Jim Dale

31. Ann Davey

32. John Davey

33. Grace Davin

34. Prof John Davis

35. Helen Dawkins

36. Norma Dawson

37. Molly Deatherage

38. George Derby

39. Helen Derby

40. Lucinda Dickey

41. Rae Dickson

42. Roy Dickson

43. Sylvia Dingley

44. David Dodds

45. Alan Dowd

46. Derek Drysdale

47. Barbara Dunlop

48. Bill Dunlop

49. E. H. Dunlop

50. Gordon Dunlop

51. Roberta Dunlop

52. Johnston Dunseath

53. Pamela Elliot

54. Ronnie Elliot

55. John Erskine

56. Hilary Fairman

57. William Ferguson

58. David Flinn

59. Lorraine Foster

60. Jonny Frazer

61. Robin Frazer

62. John Fulton

63. Paul Fry

64. Cecil Graham

65. Gordon Gray

66. Jenny Gray

67. Mark Gray

68. Randal Gray

69. Joan Halliday

70. Rodney Hamill

71. Sylvia Hamill

72. Lesley Hamilton

73. Walter Hamilton

74. Sheila Hammonds

75. Dr Heather Hanna

76. Jill Hannah

77. Elspeth Haren

78. David Harrison

79. Denise Henry

80. Gavin Henry

81. Jon Henry

82. Cecil Hetherington

83. Mary Hewitson

84. Maurice Hobson

85. Gay Hogan

86. Alison Houston

87. Norman Houston

88. James Hudson

89. Brian Hughes

90. Liz Hughes

91. John G Hunter

92. Mary Hunter

93. Rosemary Hunter

94. Sarah Hunter

95. David Irwin

96. Hilary Jess

97. Ian Kelly

98. Alastair Kilgore

99. Heather Kilgore

100. Campbell Killick

101. Billy Kyle

102. Jeremy Kyle

103. Victor Laing

104. David Latimer

105. Dr Derek Lee

106. Dr Malcolm Lees

107. Muriel Lilly

108. R. G. Little

109. Jean Long

110. Janice Lowry

111. Robert Magee

112. Trevor Magowan

113. Dennison Mahood

114. Christopher Maitland

115. Jimmy Mallon

116. Lowry Manson

117. David Mark

118. Ben Matson

119. Kim McAnespie

120. Trish McBride

121. Sally McCahon

122. Chris McCall

123. Mervyn McCall

124. Colin McCandless

125. Derek McClelland

126. Ronald McClintock

127. Colin McClure

128. Bruce McCormack

129. Liz McCormack

130. Ian McCracken

131. Stephen McCracken

132. Sylvia McCracken

133. Fiona McCreedy

134. Margaret McCreedy

135. Richard McCreedy

136. William McCreedy

137. Colin McDowell

138. Mildred McIlwaine

139. Joyce McKee

140. Janis McKnight

141. Dennis McLeod

142. Elizabeth McLeod

143. Derek McMaster

144. Samuel Carson McMullan

145. Gillian McNaugher

146. Alastair McQuoid

147. Louise McWatters

148. Elaine Molyneaux

149. Richard Molyneaux

150. Susan Moore

151. Maud Moorhead

152. Hilary Morrow

153. Johnston Morrow

154. Judith Morrow

155. Mervyn A Morrow

156. Katherine Meyer

157. George Nesbitt

158. Robert Nesbitt

159. Ken Newell

160. Bobby Niblock

161. Elaine Nixon

162. Julie-May Noteman

163. Wilfred Orr

164. Dr Michael Parker

165. Ted Parks

166. George Patterson

167. Robert Patterson

168. Ruth Patterson

169. Winston Patterson

170. Judith Payne

171. Valerie Payne

172. Henry Plester

173. Eddie Poots

174. Kenneth Porter

175. Michael Potter

176. Marina Proseckina

177. Ian Rankin

178. David Purce

179. Roger Purce

180. Arthur Rainey

181. Desmond Rainey

182. Alastair Rankin

183. Margo Rankin

184. Laureen Rolston

185. Barbara Reid

186. Colleen Rimmer

187. John Robinson

188. Susan Rocke

189. Gordon Ruddle

190. Caroline Russell

191. Cecil Russell

192. Jane Savage

193. Ron Savage

194. Anne Scott

195. Joan Scott

196. Malcolm Scott

197. Bill Shaw

198. Ralph Sheppard

199. Lyndsey Shields

200. Ann Simmons

201. Robin Simmons

202. Dot Simpson

203. Allen Sleith

204. Catherine Smith

205. Ruth Smith

206. Steven Smyrl

207. Sadie Somerville

208. Alan Spence

209. Doreen Steenson

210. Ivor Stevenson

211. Heather Taylor

212. Gary Tenant

213. Joy Tennis

214. Audrey Thomas

215. Dave Thompson

216. Marion Thompson

217. Brian Topping

218. Bert Tosh

219. John Vance

220. Ann Walsh

221. David Walsh

222. Michael Warnock

223. Donald J Watts

224. Derek Weir

225. Alastair White

226. Leslie White

227. Merle White

228. Jeffrey Whitford

229. Campbell Wilson

230. W. Richard Wilson

231. David Workman

232. Gilbert Young

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