Presbyterian protest letter ‘doesn’t help,’ says minister
A Presbyterian minister has said a letter signed by more than 230 elders and ministers expressing their "dismay, hurt and anger" at the Church's controversial decisions linked to same-sex couples "does little to help".
Rev Jonathan Boyd, minister of Hyde Park and Lylehill Church in Templepatrick, wrote in a letter to the Belfast Telegraph that the signatories should talk to the Church about their grievances rather than make statements in the media.
The ongoing dispute comes after the Church's ruling General Assembly voted in June to confirm the Church's teaching not to provide full communion for same-sex partners or to baptise their children.
It also voted to stop the traditional annual moderatorial exchanges with the Church of Scotland because of the Scots' more liberal views on same-sex issues.
Rev Boyd added: "I hope that they will change their minds and enter into conversation with the wider Church to explain their concerns, but also to listen to themselves."
Rev Boyd wrote in his letter: "I would hope that anyone who is aggrieved, concerned or angry about the decisions of our Church would be able to go to their elder, or minister, and find a listening, compassionate ear and warm words that lead people to Christ - and to one another.
"Such face-to-face conversations are the best way to deal with troubles and build bridges, and I hope that the signatories of the letter will be spending more time on such essential conversations within the Church than on public statements to the media.
"The letter itself does little to help such conversations as it contains no detail that would shed light on people's concerns, and does not engage at all with the great deal that has been written and said already in our subordinate standards, the Code, existing pastoral guidelines, council reports and discussions at the Assembly."
In a further communication yesterday, he said: "It is simplistic to say that there are two sides. The situation is more complex, with a range of views and much held in common.
"Everyone, including the Press, should be careful about reducing anyone to a stereotype or caricature, or being unduly divisive. Everyone needs to listen carefully to one another to understand what they believe and why."
Mr Boyd claimed that the 232-signatory letter left some things "vague or unexplained".
"The concern about unnecessary narrowing of acceptable views is something of a truism. Surely no one is in favour of a narrowing that is unnecessary?
"The real question is what constitutes unnecessary narrowing, which the letter doesn't spell out.
"Our beliefs are clear and public, and our ministers and elders know what they are signing up to.
"Hopefully, the signatories will be speaking in more detail when opportunities arise within the church. Many of the 232 people have a history of great involvement in the wider Church, so I'm sure that they will want to continue to engage as opportunities arise. Meanwhile I am confident that ministers and elders across the island will be making their voices heard to the congregations under their care and the communities they live in and love, work in and witness to."