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Nesbitt 'disappointed' at Moderator's decision to dodge question on gay sex

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Ex-UUP leader Mike Nesbitt

Ex-UUP leader Mike Nesbitt

Ex-UUP leader Mike Nesbitt

The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church has come under fire for refusing to clarify if he believes gay sex is a sin.

In his first major interview since taking up his new role, Dr Charles McMullen described a General Assembly vote to part ways with the Church of Scotland earlier this year as "absolutely heartbreaking".

However he also said it was necessary to "put a marker down" and minimise the risk of "high standards of Christian teaching and behaviour" being diluted.

Reacting on social media, former Dean of St Anne's Cathedral Dr Houston McKelvey agreed with one critic who claimed Dr McMullen was "fully aware of the hurt the gay policy has caused" to members of the LGBT community.

"I'm saddened at the disappearance of the form of Presbyterianism and ministry I experienced in my childhood and teenage years," Dr McKelvey added.

"Clergy who were truly scholarly and the focus of sharing and unity in the community."

The former Territorial Army chaplain also agreed with a critical post which claimed the doctrinal issues underpinning the rift will not be disappearing any time soon and accused the current Presbyterian Church leadership of casting the "primacy of love" aside.

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In yesterday's Belfast Telegraph, Dr McMullen said the outcome of the June vote - which approved a policy to stop same-sex couples becoming full members of the Church and their children being denied baptism - has been subject to misunderstanding and insisted that nobody is being prevented from attending Sunday services or taking Communion.

The married father-of-three acknowledged the hurt caused by the schism as he expressed his desire "to set a gentle tone" and vowed to "reject homophobia" in all forms.

But he also refused to say whether or not he believed gay sex was a sin, saying he would prefer to talk with people on a one-to-one pastoral basis.

Former Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt expressed disappointment over his decision to dodge the question.

"Dr McMullen talks of the need for grace and truth," the Strangford MLA said.

"I agree, but I am disappointed he refused to say whether he thought practising homsexuals are committing a sin.

"It seems to me this is the area where the grace of unconditional love needs balanced by the truth of his views."

Referring to former Moderator Rev Frank Sellar who opposes same-sex marriage, Mr Nesbitt praised him for having the courage to outline his position.

He said: "You do not have to agree with his interpretation, and I do not. But I respect the integrity of his thought process."


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