Presbyterians reject appeal to send delegates to Scotland over same-sex marriage row
Presbyterians have rejected a personal plea from the leader of the Church of Scotland to attend its General Assembly as the church in Ireland maintains its traditional stance on marriage.
For the third year running the Presbyterian Church here has banned its Moderator from attending the annual gathering because of the Church of Scotland's more liberal stance on same-sex marriage.
Despite the plea in person from Dr Derek Browning, the General Assembly in Belfast voted yesterday by 221 to 139 not to send the incoming Moderator, Dr Noble McNeely, to Edinburgh next May.
The vote came on the same day that the Scottish Episcopal Church decided by a majority of one vote at its Edinburgh General Synod to allow same-sex marriage in Scottish Anglican Churches.
It is the first Church in the worldwide Anglican Communion to do so.
Presbyterians are boycotting the Scottish Assembly because the Church of Scotland seems well down the road to approving same-sex marriage.
However, the outcome may not be clear until the May 2018 General Assembly.
The Scottish Moderator told Presbyterians from across Ireland yesterday: "We hear your concern, upset and pain.
"The Church of Scotland has been wrestling with these difficulties for some years.
"We plead with you to come to be with us next year.
"We are not asking you to agree or disagree, but we are asking you to be with us."
Several senior figures in the Irish Presbyterian Church backed a motion to send the Moderator to Edinburgh.
One former Moderator, Dr Trevor Morrow, said: "The decision of the Scottish Church is against the Word of God, and the Church is in a serious moral error.
"However, I am asking our Assembly to send our own Moderator to Scotland to express personally the anguish and pain we feel at the decision made by the Scottish General Assembly."
However, Rev Nigel McCullough opposed the plea.
He said that "to send our Moderator to Scotland to make a statement on our behalf is to tell them what they already know".
"We made our views plain two years ago.
"But since then the Church of Scotland has been travelling on the same trajectory and by-passing the Word of God."
Despite the decision not to send the Irish Presbyterian Moderator to Edinburgh, the Presbyterian General Assembly passed a raft of resolutions on building closer ties with other churches, including the Church of Scotland and the Free Church of Scotland.