Belfast Telegraph

Ex-cleric slams 'barbarians within the gates' of Church

By Mark Bain

A retired Presbyterian minister has suggested the Church should "let itself be crucified in the hope for a resurrection in a more enlightened form".

And Roy Simpson has welcomed Queen's University giving serious consideration to what he calls "its relationship with the Union Theological College's backward, narrow-minded, male-dominated institution".

In May the Presbyterian General Assembly decided that same-sex partners could not receive communion and their children could not be baptised in the Church.

"I have been following with great sadness and dismay the trials and tribulations of the Presbyterian Church," Mr Simpson, who was minister of Ballyarnett Presbyterian Church in Londonderry and Knowhead Presbyterian Church in Muff, Co Donegal, between 1973 and 1980, said.

"I proposed last month that Queen's University should seriously consider severing its links with Union Theological College and I am pleased that the university now appears to be seriously considering its position." The clerk of the Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Rev Trevor Gribben, last week issued a letter to all Presbyterian ministers warning against bringing the Church "into disrepute" by speaking in public in a way that may cause "scandal injurious to the purity or peace of the Church".

It was also revealed Laurence Kirkpatrick, Professor of Church History at Union, had been suspended, allegedly over comments that he made in the media.

Mr Simpson added: "Whilst I realise that many liberal, forward-thinking Presbyterian ministers are scared to put their heads above the parapet, they need to realise that the barbarians are not outside the gates, they are well and truly within them and confrontation has to be the only approach.

"Hiding or maintaining the status quo is no longer an option, otherwise the agents of destruction of a once broad Church are free to roam and destroy where they will."

Mr Simpson referred to a recent Belfast Telegraph article by columnist Fionola Meredith criticising the Church's attempts to silence internal critics.

He said she "very pertinently described the sanctimonious and unctuous words of the clerk and the principal of the college as they seek to impose censorship on clergy to ensure the purity of the Church".

"These representatives should engage in time travel and go back to an earlier century where their current behaviour would be more appropriate," he said. "These new spokespeople for the Presbyterian Church appear to be the only ones who can interpret the Bible correctly and know the mind of Christ.

"If they knew their own minds they might have a tiny glimmer of recognition as to how arrogant and intolerant they are.

"Of course, many will say that as I left the Church many years ago I do not understand the pressures faced by liberal clergy and Church members, and that it is easy for me to say things from a safe distance.

"Perhaps distance also allows me to compare what was once a Church to be proud to belong to and one that I would certainly now be ashamed to belong to."

Belfast Telegraph

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