Christian expression is shown no tolerance: new Moderator
Political correctness has stopped Christians expressing themselves, Northern Ireland's new Presbyterian Moderator has claimed.
Any philosophy is tolerated except that centred on Jesus, Dr Ivan Patterson added. He pointed to the example of Christian GP Richard Scott, who has been accused of harassment after discussing his religious beliefs with a patient.
Dr Patterson (62), was installed as Moderator during the opening session of the Presbyterian General Assembly in Belfast. He has been minister in Newcastle Presbyterian Church, Co Down, for 20 years.
The Moderator said: "Society doesn't need people who are a mile wide and an inch deep spiritually."
He cited the controversy over Dr Scott, from Kent, who was warned by the General Medical Council after it received a complaint about his talking about his Christian faith with a non-Christian patient. Dr Patterson said the church needed "sacrificial servants".
"In our society Christians have had their wings clipped in our politically correct world. It would seem that any philosophy is tolerated except that centred on Jesus Christ," he added.
The Moderator, who describes his ministry as "conservatively biblical with a strong evangelical outlook", took over from Dr Norman Hamilton for the one-year term.
They stressed the need to build good relations in the church and civic society and communicate the teaching of the Bible to an increasingly secular society.
Dr Patterson added: "Among us, there is to be a Christian distinctiveness and yet a tolerance and love towards those from whom we differ, for an intolerant spirit defeats the Gospel."
He also emphasised the importance of speaking up for and addressing the needs of others and reiterated his gratefulness for the resolution of the Presbyterian Mutual Society (PMS) crisis.
"In all the complexity surrounding the collapse of the PMS, some have said that the mutuality that lay at its heart got lost in the selfish fear of losing a pound or two," he said.
"I believe selfishness is too much part of church life. There needs to be a greater spirit of sharing. It's been heart warming to see that those who could have left money in the society so that the small savers could get all their money back."
The Kent doctor who was held up as a Christian example by the new Moderator could lose his job. Dr Richard Scott, from Margate, is being investigated for discussing his faith with a patient at the Bethesda Medical Centre. The GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said the guidance is clear: "Doctors should not normally discuss their personal beliefs with patients unless those beliefs are directly relevant to the patient's care."