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Ministers 'hurt' over Presbyterian Church in Ireland's hardline stance on same-sex couples

Over 200 ministers and elders of the Church signed a letter outlining their feelings over decisions made at its 2018 General Assembly.

File photo of a church in Belfast
File photo of a church in Belfast
Image: Mick Harper via Shutterstock

OVER 200 MINISTERS and elders of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) have signed a letter outlining their “hurt, dismay and anger” over decisions made at its 2018 General Assembly last month.

The PCI last month adopted a policy that prevents anyone in same-sex relationships from being a full member of the church. The policy also prevents children of same-sex couples from being baptised in the church.

The policy is contained in a report by the Church’s doctrine committee, and states that the lifestyles of people in same-sex relationships are “at variance with a life of obedience to Christ”.

The signatories of the letter, called “A Cry from the Heart”, said “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 statement said.

“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 unnecessary narrowing of the range of acceptable theological perspectives within the Presbyterian Church in Ireland will damage our credibility and limit our future.”

Policy implementation

Church members adopted the new policy on 8 June during the final day of its 2018 General Assembly after a lengthy debate. This came after it cut ceremonial ties with the Church of Scotland due to its more liberal attitude to same-sex relationships.

“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,” the policy states.

We believe that their outward conduct and lifestyle is at variance with a life of obedience to Christ.

A number of General Assembly members were opposed to this hardline stance, but a motion to shelve the policy was beaten in a show of hands vote.

The Church follows this policy by saying that in that context it was still important to emphasise that it “welcomes all who wish to sit under the means of grace at public services and to have access to the pastoral care and counsel available within her fellowship”.

The Church has over 220,000 members in Northern Ireland and the Republic.

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