Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Christianity 'at society's margins'

The new Presbyterian Moderator in Ireland Dr Roy Patton addressed the general assembly in Belfast

Christianity has been pushed to the margins in Northern Ireland, new Presbyterian Moderator Dr Roy Patton has said.

It is no longer central to the community, with significant shifts within society leaving it only one of many voices, the senior cleric said.

The moderator was addressing the Presbyterian general assembly in Belfast.

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland has a total membership of 300,000 people in around 560 congregations and is the largest Protestant denomination in Northern Ireland.

The moderator said: "We can't deny the fact that significant shifts have taken place in our society in the last number of decades, which have pushed the Christian faith more and more to the margins where the church no longer is central to the community in the way it used to be.

"Where once the Christian voice held sway, it is now only one among many voices."

Sinn Fein Lord Mayor Niall O Donnghaile and Belfast Lord Lieutenant Dame Mary Peters were among guests.

Dr Patton said the church needs to rely more on God for its confidence.

"Even when we have a sense that we live in a society that increasingly doesn't do God, with all the challenges that that brings with it - our response is not one of panic for we know that God is still on his throne - that the gospel still remains God's answer to human need, that despite the church's many failings, God is still building his church, that God is working within and outside the church to fulfil his purposes," he said.

Too often the church gave the impression that it was better than others, more moral, superior kind of people, he said.

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