Belfast Telegraph

New Presbyterian Moderator calls political standoff at Stormont ‘appalling’

By Alf McCreary

The new Moderator of the Presbyterian Church has called for an end to the “brinkmanship” of politics in Northern Ireland.

Dr Charles McMullen from Bangor described the ongoing political impasse at Stormont as “appalling”.

The stark message came during his inaugural address after been installed during the General Assembly’s opening night, in succession to outgoing Moderator, the Very Rev Noble McNeely.

Dr McMullen said: “It has been simply appalling that attitudes have become so embittered and entrenched, with such adverse effects on our schools, hospitals, businesses, the economy, and the many, many victims and survivors.”

He said that politics should not be played out “on the level of brinkmanship, but of finding consensus on the small piece of land we have to share together”.

“We need to imagine a better future for our children’s children, confronting our prejudices through tireless efforts of imagination,” he said.

“What if our politics were based, to paraphrase the great Methodist Charles Wesley, ‘on doing all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, as long as ever you can.’

“This is not a bad description of what it means to build relationships, which is the theme of my Moderatorial year.”

Dr McMullen said that building relationships in a Christian community was a powerful antidote to the idols of self which drive so much of today’s society.

He continued, saying he was “personally saddened” by the “seismic” vote in the Irish Republic to repeal the Eighth Amendment, which relaxes its strict laws on abortion.

“We can only pray that the Dublin government, as they legislate, will keep their promises to keep abortion rare in Ireland,” he added.

The outgoing Moderator, Dr McNeely, said: “If we are to have a voice in the public square to demonstrate what Christ means to us, if we are to be missional and declare the transforming power of the Gospel, we must be prepared to hear the voice of Jesus instructing us to cast out the net differently.”

Until Friday afternoon the 800 lay and clerical delegates from the Church’s 535 congregations across 19 Presbyteries throughout Ireland will meet to discuss and vote on a wide range of topics including “housekeeping” issues and important social developments.

There will be resolutions and votes on same-sex issues, as well as suicide and euthanasia, climate change and the aftermath of the referendum in the Republic which resulted in a two to one majority in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment.

The General Assembly will hold evening sessions, and also access for additional delegates aged 30 and under.

The Assembly Clerk, the Rev Trevor Gribben, said: “We hope that these changes will enable more people to come and younger voices to be heard.”

Belfast Telegraph

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