Belfast Telegraph

US ministers to speak at Presbyterian assembly

By Alf McCreary

Two leading American preachers will give the keynote addresses at the Presbyterian Church's special assembly which is taking place in Coleraine next week.

The Reverend Randy Pope of the Perimeter Church, near Atlanta, will speak to an estimated 600 members of Presbyterian churches from across Ireland on the subject of "How to Get Discipleship Back to the Local Church".

Also, the Reverend Dr Ray Ortlund Jnr of the Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, will speak on the theme of "Gospel Culture".

Local Presbyterians and several other experts will conduct seminars on the main theme of discipleship and the assembly will explore what it means to be a Christian in the 21st century.

The four-day event is being held at the Ulster University campus in Coleraine.

The subject of discipleship was the main theme of the inaugural address by this year's incoming Moderator Reverend Dr Noble McNeely at his installation at the opening night of the general assembly in June.

He said yesterday: "The theme of our special assembly is a recognition of the increasing necessity for Christians to be equipped by the Church to be effective disciple-makers in their various spheres of life.

"Many of us in the Church recognise that perhaps we have concentrated too much on programmes and activities, and have not been as strong on providing the essentials to facilitate making mature decisions.

"The assembly will also help us to understand better how we can be involved in a 21st century reformation of Church and society."

This is the fifth special Presbyterian assembly since 1970, and others have been held at the Ulster University site in 1997, 2004 and 2010.

It is taking place at a time when all of the main Churches are facing the challenge of falling numbers.

The Presbyterians currently have 225,000 members in 539 congregations across Ireland, compared to 375,000 members in 1975.

In 2015, a Church of Ireland survey found that the average attendance at its Sunday services in November 2013 was 58,000, which represented just 15% of Church members.

Church of Ireland Archbishop Richard Clarke said of the figures: "This was by any standards a necessary reality check."

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