New Presbyterian Moderator Sellar condemns the 'false god of consumerism that breeds a faddish culture'
The new Presbyterian Moderator, the Rt Rev Dr Frank Sellar, has called on the Church to be "a community of global concern" as he criticised modern consumer society for its attitude that everything is disposable.
Speaking after his installation at the opening night of the general assembly in Belfast last night, the Moderator said Presbyterians should recognise "those issues of concern for our stewardship of the world's resources where together we must challenge injustice, poverty and oppression in Jesus' name".
A wide range of church figures and political and community leaders, as well as members of the Presbyterian Church and the public, attended last night's service, which is one of the highlights of the annual Church calendar.
Basing his address on the story of Jonah in the Bible, the new Moderator talked about issues arising from that story including bigotry, selfishness, the environment and people's eternal wellbeing.
Reverend Sellar urged his audience to "acknowledge and confess" their failures "not in order to beat ourselves up, but in order to seek Christ's forgiveness for and the Holy Spirit's empowering us to be a community of global concern".
"In this part of the world we have every reason to feel hurt, because many of us have been," he said.
"In this land of ours there are many good reasons why we may legitimately fear and hold grudges against those who wish us harm, but the Gospel tells us that perfect love casts out fear, and where Jesus is present, fear is driven away."
The Moderator also asked the large congregation if they had heard the charge that the Church is full of hypocrites.
"The Bible is not shy to agree," said Dr Sellar, who is minister of Bloomfield Presbyterian Church is east Belfast. "This may come as a surprise to some, but the church is not for those who think they are good. Church is for those who recognise that they are not good - but that there is one who is good."
Dr Sellar also said that people should show care and concern for the environment. "Contemporary society has so lost perspective and commodified things that almost everything seems to get thrown away," he added.
"If believers buy into this false god of rampant consumerism and disposability, that breeds a culture of the temporary, the faddish and the superficial."
In his final address to the general assembly, the outgoing Moderator, the Rt Rev Dr Ian McNie, minister of Ballymoney Presbyterian Church, talked of the importance of the freedom to disagree in a society of competing ideologies.
"However, we do not believe - as some within our society suggest - that we are required to endorse every opinion as equally correct," he said.
"Just as freedom of speech is a universal right, so freedom to disagree is equally a universal principle that should be respected."
Emphasising traditional Christian teaching, he added: "As a church, we believe that the scriptures point to a strong pro-life position with regard to the beginning and ending of life. Also in respect of marriage we are fully committed to the historic and Christian understanding of marriage - that it is exclusively between one man and one woman."
During this week up to 1,000 clerical and lay delegates will consider a wide range of issues affecting the Church and also discuss important social and political issues concerning society in general.