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Church of Ireland row: call for rector's supporters on vestry to quit

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 30/05/2015

Parishioners enter Knocknamuckley Parish Church in Co Armagh, which is at the centre of an ongoing dispute over a rector’s style of ministry
Parishioners enter Knocknamuckley Parish Church in Co Armagh, which is at the centre of an ongoing dispute over a rector’s style of ministry

The dispute at a Church of Ireland parish shows no sign of ending - despite its rector choosing to leave in order to try to heal the rift.

As it was announced Rev Alan Kilpatrick will leave Knocknamuckley Parish Church in Co Armagh to lead a new congregation based in Craigavon, a protest group is now calling for his supporters on the church's select vestry to "stand down with immediate effect".

A statement from the Knocknamuckley Concerned Parishioners (KCP) group warned "there is, however, unfinished business to be dealt with", just 24 hours after it was announced the controversial minister would formally leave St Matthias on September 30.

A sticking point appears to be the vestige of select vestry support which remains for Rev Kilpatrick, and its continued refusal to allow the women's group to meet in the church hall.

KCP said on its Facebook page it accepted the "removal of Alan Kilpatrick as rector... there is however unfinished business to be dealt with and it's a must that certain members of the vestry who by their actions/deeds sought to blatantly uphold/promote the views of Alan Kilpatrick with complete and utter disregard of their fellow parishioners stand down with immediate effect".

"It was only last week they along with Kilpatrick refused the church halls to our ladies group despite the many heartrending letters submitted to and read at the vestry meeting."

However, a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Down and Dromore last night ruled out any new members being voted to the select vestry until next Easter.

She also confirmed the decision on where to allow the women's group to hold its meetings remains with the select vestry.

A charismatic evangelical style of ministry introduced to the country church by the 47-year-old minister at the expense of the traditional services caused upset and disappointment among some parishioners.

His banning of an annual Royal Black Preceptory service and the women's group meetings, along with his modern causal style of dress, added to the ire of the more conservative parishioners. Rev Kilpatrick managed to gain support from some in the congregation who welcomed his ministry when he and his family arrived in the parish 18 months ago.

Now around 60 parishioners are expected to leave Knocknamuckley and join his new "missional congregation" in Craigavon.

He told the Belfast Telegraph yesterday: "On reflection, I should probably have started a traditional service earlier in my incumbency."

But he declined to give any comment on his association with the spiritualist Bethel Church based in California.

Although Rev Kilpatrick will remain officially as rector until September 30, services will be led by other clergy in the meantime.

The diocese also confirmed Rev Tom Conway will be conducting the services in St Matthias on Sunday.

Belfast Telegraph

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