Knocknamuckley: Angry churchgoers round on bishop
Two female members of the congregation at the troubled Knocknamuckley church rounded on the Bishop of Down and Dromore Harold Millar, following a service for the Royal Black Preceptory (RBP) yesterday.
The women confronted him in the church doorway after his rousing service.
"I'm not here to answer those questions," he responded mildly to one of the irate churchgoers, who was demanding to know what was going to be done about the controversial Scottish-born rector Rev Alan Kilpatrick.
"Well, when are we going to get answers? The church will not survive if our traditional services are not reinstated," one of the women continued to protest in the churchyard.
Another disgruntled woman - also unwilling to be named - agreed.
"But you wouldn't be able to quote what would come out of my mouth about this carry on, dear," she said.
A row erupted recently after the minister initially refused to allow the Royal Black service at the church, which lies between Lurgan and Portadown, only to change his mind after the bishop intervened.
The Belfast Telegraph revealed that some parishioners were also unhappy about the modern style of services he has introduced and his links with the controversial Bethel Church in California, some of whose members reportedly try to raise the dead and experience manifestations of gold dust.
People also complained that he did not wear traditional robes and sported four stud earrings in one ear.
It has been claimed that up to 70 people have quit the church with others trying to influence change from within, leaving a deeply divided congregation.
The RBP service is an annual district event which rotates each year around 11 churches in the local area.
Some 300 members attended yesterday's service, in which the bishop referred to the persecution of Christians as written in the gospel of St Peter.
A spokesman for the Royal Black later said: "As a Christian organisation, the members enjoyed today's service at Knocknamuckley parish church. We were very pleased to see such a good turnout of about 300."
The Bishop also led the 6pm evening service at Knocknamuckley. He announced he would be attending the services last week to foster reconciliation within the congregation.
He stayed on to deliver a good-humoured sermon at Rev Kilpatrick's much more contemporary Pentecostal gathering at 7.30pm, where he sat in the front row and was publicly welcomed by the rector from the altar.
"It's lovely to see Bishop Harold here - we have such a great relationship," Rev Kilpatrick told the three-quarters full congregation.
"Some things have been said in the papers concerning us that are not true.
"We love and respect each other. The bishop is my leader and I submit to him."
In a clear show of support for Rev Kilpatrick, the bishop used his fourth and final sermon of the day within the rector's evening service to acknowledge the recent division in the parish. While noting it had been "exaggerated", he assured those present of his willingness to lend an ear to anyone with concerns.