Presbyterian clergy 'worse than children' at Church's General Assembly
Some Presbyterian ministers present at a controversial vote not to allow those in same-sex relationships to be full members acted worse than primary school children at morning assembly, it has been claimed.
A letter writer to the church's Presbyterian Herald magazine also claimed the Moderator was "jeered and heckled" at the General Assembly in Belfast in June, at which the Church also decided not to baptise the children of gay couples.
The annual meeting of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland's ruling body also voted not to send the Moderator to future general assemblies of its mother church, the Church of Scotland, nor accept Scotland's Moderator at its own. The Scottish church has a more liberal attitude towards the LGBT community.
In a letter published in the Presbyterian Herald and signed Al Armten from Newtownards, the writer said: "I wish to express my disgust at the appalling behaviour of a number of ministers at the General Assembly who sat in the corner of the room during the important debate about transgenders and the Church of Scotland and jeered and heckled the Moderator and those who sought to contribute to the debate. It was clear that they were out to oppose anyone who was to make a stand for retaining relationship with the Church of Scotland. I have seen better-behaved children at a primary school assembly. It is supremely disappointing to see such disrespectful behaviour from those who claim to be ministers and elders of the Church."
Last week, more than 200 ministers and elders signed a letter expressing their "profound sense of hurt, dismay and anger currently being expressed in the wake of decisions taken at the 2018 General Assembly. This level of feeling is unprecedented in our pastoral experience".
A Presbyterian Church spokesperson said: "In a church with over 6,400 ministers and elders, we recognise that many will hold different views and some will choose to express them publicly in this and other ways."
Another letter writer, Stephen J Graham from Belfast, said that the decision not to allow communion to those in same-sex relationships "smacks of haughty, hypocritical disdain, fails to appreciate the nature of sin and sanctification, and dehumanises homosexuals. We must stop dehumanising people by viewing their sexuality as the defining characteristic of their lives. To write off an entire group of people as unable to make 'a credible profession of faith' is, frankly, obscene".
The Rev David Montgomery, director of Christian Unions Ireland, wrote that he was "frustrated by our short-sightedness in thinking orthodoxy is best served by passing resolutions and creating legislation and thinking that a vote secures 'soundness'.
"It doesn't. Soundness is as much about our actions as our words... I just wish that the PCI had had the wisdom to deal with this issue internally," he added.
However, Ronnie Crawford, from Dromore, wrote: "One of the abiding characteristics of our Church is her democracy and it is a great pity a small minority are not only incapable of accepting decisions they don't like, but go to the extent of seeking to inflict harm and financial damage upon her. That cannot be accepted in any organisation."