Northern Ireland

Evangelical group accuse Belfast Marathon of being 'non-inclusive' due to Sunday event

Caleb Foundation chair Wallace Thompson has criticised the holding of the Belfast Marathon on a Sunday.
Caleb Foundation chair Wallace Thompson has criticised the holding of the Belfast Marathon on a Sunday.

Christian evangelicals have described the Belfast Marathon as "no longer an inclusive event" and held a protest at Stormont ahead of the first time the race will be held on a Sunday.

Members of the Free Presbyterian Church's 'Government and Morals Committee' demonstrated yesterday at Parliament Buildings and described the Sunday race as "another watershed moment in modern Ulster's increasing rejection of the Lord's Day".

In a statement citing Christian athlete Eric Liddell, who in the 1924 Olympics refused to take part in a Sunday race, church members complained that evangelical Christians were unable to participate in the race because "their love for the day and the word of god trumps their love of sport".

Their criticism follows the publishing of a leaflet by evangelical lobby group The Caleb Foundation, which warns that Christians feel unable to participate in the event as "obedience to biblical teaching will prevent them from doing so".

Chair of the group, Wallace Thompson said: "Not only are we concerned about the practical impact this could have on church life in the city on the day, but, more importantly, the day change means that those evangelicals who hold to a high view of the Lord’s Day will not feel able to participate. As a result, the Belfast Marathon is no longer an inclusive event."

However, Belfast Marathon chairman David Seaton told the Irish News that organisers liaised with local churches to ensure minimum disruption to services.

"I respect the point of view of the protesters, but a lot of work was done on the ground with churches, and the vast majority have bought into the event. The move to Sunday was was wanted by participants and traders, and agreed by Belfast City Council, and we are looking forward to a great event and a lot of money being raised - much of which goes to causes close to the heart of local churches."