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Remarks show confusion about Church doctrine

I note with some concern the remarks by your religion correspondent, Alf McCreary (DebateNI, September 24).

In the first place, the public statement by Rev Christina Bradley had to be responded to in public - just as a private statement would have required a response in private.

Secondly, to use such language as "Presbyterian thought police" is grossly offensive and only serves to prove the truth of the often-quoted quip of the distinguished elder TS Mooney: "There is nothing as illiberal as the illiberality of the liberal."

Your religion correspondent appears to be somewhat confused about the nature of the Church of which he is an elder. It is not simply a matter of "dissent and free speech", as he suggests.

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland is a democratic Church in relation to its government and the individual is free to speak and to dissent from any decision of a Church court, but "shall not thereby free himself from obligation loyally to implement the decision so long as it stands unaltered". (Code Par 104 (3))

The Presbyterian Church, however, is also a theocratic Church. The doctrine of the Church does not come from the General Assembly, but from God, who has revealed Himself in scripture.

As the Code States (Par 10): "The Word of God as set forth in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments is the only infallible rule of faith and practice and the supreme standard of the Church."

The Westminster Confession of Faith expresses our understanding of scripture and every minister and elder is required to accept it "as a confession of your faith''.

The Confession states that: "Marriage is between one man and one woman" and the General Assembly of 2014 emphasises this in a resolution which stated that marriage was "exclusively between one man and one woman". No one dissented from that resolution.


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