Belfast Telegraph

Church row requires leadership

Editor's Viewpoint

The latest developments at Knocknamuckley are sad for all concerned, and for the Church at large.

These have been unhappy times for this old and previously settled Church of Ireland St Matthias parish.

Instead of reaching a compromise, the church is split, with many of the congregation staying put and the others leaving with the former minister, the Reverend Alan Kilpatrick, to start a new mission group in the Craigavon area.

The causes of the split are complex, not surprisingly, but one of the major issues is thought to be the association with the teachings of the controversial Bethel Church, with its reported claims about trying to raise people from the dead.

The Rev Kilpatrick also touched a raw nerve in the parish when he banned the Royal Black Preceptory from holding a service in the church. This decision was overturned by Bishop Harold Miller, whose attempts at reconciliation in the church came to nothing.

Unhappily, there are no winners in this prolonged dispute, and it is a warning to churches of all denominations.

Nevertheless, it is not always easy to keep peace in some churches, despite the teachings of Christianity.

Those responsible for leadership have the difficult task of balancing the needs of the old and young, and the conservatives and the liberals.

One of the core issues is how to keep everyone happy while at the same time making sure that the church itself is vibrant and attractive.

Many people may sympathise with the parishioners at Knocknamuckley, particularly after an outcome which splits the church, and becomes literally the curate's egg - which can never be an ideal solution.

There are questions also for the Church of Ireland at large. People may well ask why the situation was allowed to go so far, and what really lay behind the issues that so divided a country parish.

It would be helpful, therefore, if Bishop Miller could give more leadership on this subject.

The Church might see it as heartening that the members of the Knocknamuckley congregation cared so deeply about these matters, but the Church of Ireland leadership really cannot leave such troublesome issues hanging in mid-air.

Belfast Telegraph

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