Same-sex issues on agenda as Presbyterian Assembly meets
The Presbyterian General Assembly will tonight install the Very Reverend Charles McMullen as its 179th Moderator.
Dr McMullen, who is minister of West Church in Bangor, will succeed the Rt Reverend Dr Noble McNeely.
The General Assembly meets until Friday and will consider and vote on a range of important issues.
These include whether the members of same-sex unions should be allowed to take communion.
It will also discuss whether their children are eligible to be baptised in a Presbyterian church.
It would seem unlikely that the Assembly will pass this resolution, given its 'Blue Book', which provides the delegates with detailed background information.
It states: "The position that has been clearly and consistently adopted in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland is that homosexual activity is not consistent with Christian discipleship since it does not accord with the will of God expressed in His moral law. In light of our understanding of Scripture and the Church's understanding of a credible profession of faith, it is clear that same-sex couples are not eligible for communion, nor are they qualified to receive baptism for their children."
The Assembly will also be asked to "strongly oppose any legislation which allows assisted suicide and/or euthanasia".
The resolution also strongly recommends "palliative care, calling on the governments of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to ensure the adequate resourcing of both research and delivery in this important area".
Lay and clerical delegates will also consider a resolution "to express deep concern and frustration about the prolonged absence of an Executive in Northern Ireland, the resulting stagnation in public policy, and the negative effects on the most vulnerable in society".
The Assembly will consider a resolution that notes "with concern the sense of disillusionment and low morale amongst governors, principals and teachers caused by the financial situation in schools and the uncertainty for the future of education in Northern Ireland".
Following another important Assembly debate, the members will be asked to decide either to invite the Scottish Moderator to the Irish General Assembly next year and to mandate the Irish Moderator to visit the Scottish Assembly, or to decide not to do anything.
At present there is the untidy situation of continuing to invite the Scottish Moderator to Belfast, but not sending the Irish Moderator to Edinburgh.
This is because of the Irish Church's opposition to the liberal attitude of the Scottish Church on same-sex issues.