Ministers’ anger at Presbyterian church’s same-sex decision

More than 200 ministers and elders in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) have signed a letter expressing their “hurt, dismay and anger” over decisions made at its General Assembly last month.

The PCI adopted a new policy that means anyone in a same-sex relationship cannot be a full member of the Church.

It also means their children cannot be baptised.

The statement is called ‘A Cry From The Heart’.

A spokesperson for the Presbyterian Church spokesperson said it recognised that many of its members “will hold different views”.

It is signed by members including Rev David Latimer of First Derry Presbyterian Church, former moderator Rev Ken Newell, the former clerk of the general assembly Dr Donald Watts and the church’s first female minister, Rev Ruth Patterson.

The signatories said they shared “the profound sense of hurt, dismay and anger currently being expressed in the wake of decisions taken at our 2018 General Assembly”.

“This level of feeling is unprecedented in our pastoral experience,” the letter added.

“We are committed to doing all we can to ensure that the decisions which have prompted such a level of concern will be subject to the urgent attention they deserve, and for which many in the Church are calling.

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

“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.”

‘Different views’

A Presbyterian Church spokesperson said it recognised that “in a church with over 6,400 ministers and elders, we recognise that many will hold different views and some will choose to express them publicly in this and other ways”.

“It is worth positively noting that the 200-plus ministers and elders who were signatories, state that they were making their statement ‘as a prayerful expression of appropriate loyalty to the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’,” the spokesperson said.

The statement from the ministers and elders follows a letter from the clerk of the PCI last month to ministers warning them against engaging in “public comments” that might bring the church “into disrepute”.

Trevor Gribben denied that ministers were being silenced and said “people are free to debate in public, it is the nature of that discourse that is important”.

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