A significant number of people in Northern Ireland have signed a letter to the leaders of the Presbyterian Church in Belfast to protest the church’s position on same-sex marriage. In June 2018, the ruling general assembly of the church voted against performing baptisms for children of same-sex parents. The assembly also recently voted to discontinue their traditional annual moderation exchanges with the Church of Scotland because of their more liberal views on same-sex partnerships.
The letter addressed to Moderator Dr Charles McMullen was signed by members of the Creative Conservative Group (CGC), who argue that the church assembly reached important decisions without “full and proper consideration or debate, and certainly without proper consideration of its public square implications, or more seriously, its pastoral care implications.”
The letter was originally circulated to 80 members of the group, who were invited to ask others to sign it, resulting in the number of signatures multiplying by over 700%.
Although the group has no agreed moral stance or theological position on issues like same-sex marriage, the Creative Conservative Group are calling for “a forum for constructive and respectful debate within the Presbyterian Church in Ireland on issues that divide us.”
The letter was written in reaction to decisions made at the church’s 2018 General Assembly that the group feels were made without “consultation and engagement” with church members.
In a statement defending the actions of the assembly, the Presbyterian Church say that, “there are many opportunities for dialogue and discussion in the Presbyterian Church,” and went on to say, “The annual general assembly, and the other structures of the Church, provide significant dramatic accountability where genuine dialogue can take place, rather than through the pages of newspapers.”
The statement then expressed the church’s disapproval of the letter, saying, “It is very disappointing, therefore, and somewhat discourteous to the Moderator, that the authors also chose to circulate it more widely and to make it available to the media.”
The letter from CCG was signed off by their six committee members, John and Rosemary Hunter, Susie Morrow, Linda Agnew, Heather Hanna and David Mark.
Speaking about the significant number of signatures, John Hunter explained that, “This illustrated to us the strength of feeling in the Church on this issue. As I pointed out at the general assembly, the Presbyterian Church seems to be showing an increased judgmentalism, a lack of grace, and a loss of our inclusivity.”
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