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Church does allow for freedom of conscience

Published 24/10/2016

In his piece (News, October 19) on our Judicial Commission's finding in relation to David Ford, Alf McCreary stated that the Church didn't allow him the "freedom of conscience" to express his views on same-sex marriage.

This was somewhat unfortunate, as Mr McCreary either failed to read the Church's statement in full, or simply chose to ignore the section that did affirm freedom of conscience.

This important point did not feature in either the printed edition or the Belfast Telegraph's online reporting. If I may, I would like to correct this inaccuracy.

In their finding, the Presbytery Commission noted that, as a Church, we allow certain freedoms of conscience for our office-bearers (elders for example) when they are operating in a different sphere, or communicating the views of a different organisation.

As Mr Ford was articulating the views of his political party in relation to this particular issue, disciplinary proceedings were not brought forward.

As we also said in our statement, this has been a difficult time for all concerned and we commend all involved - Mr Ford, the minister, Kirk Session and the congregation - to the grace and peace of Almighty God.

T JAMES STOTHERS

Deputy clerk, General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland

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