Sunday Life

| 13°C Belfast

Pastor James McConnell: ‘I fought with Ian Paisley and tried to save Gerry Adams’

Close

Pastor James McConnell. Picture Stephen Hamilton/Presseye.com

Pastor James McConnell. Picture Stephen Hamilton/Presseye.com

Dr Ian Paisley

Dr Ian Paisley

Gerry Adams

Gerry Adams

/

Pastor James McConnell. Picture Stephen Hamilton/Presseye.com

In his biography the late Pastor James McConnell recalled how he turned down offers to become a professional footballer, fought with Dr Ian Paisley and tried to ‘save’ Gerry Adams.

Pastor McConnell said he turned down an approach from legendary Newcastle United striker Jackie Milburn to sign for Linfield because he wished to be true to his calling as a preacher.

“There was another day I was chosen to play in a match at Ormeau Park and this man came over to me. I was goalkeeper; we used to just throw two coats down to act as makeshift goalposts. He asked me if I played for anyone. I said I didn’t and he couldn’t understand why I hadn’t been snapped up. His name was Bob Bishop the football scout who discovered George Best.

“He said to me: ‘What are you doing?’ I said: “I came out for a time of prayer.” He looked at me as if I was mad. He asked me would I sign up, but I said no, because I was pastoring a church and didn’t have the time. He made it clear that he thought I was crazy. He obviously thought I had potential, but I wasn’t interested then: I just wanted to follow Christ.”

He also recalled how his proposed gospel mission to west Belfast was opposed by a local priest and led to a meeting with Gerry Adams.

“Even Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams phoned me and requested me to meet him in Stormont.

“At that time, I was Peter Robinson’s chaplain. During our meeting, Gerry looked at me intently and asked me: ‘What are you going to Andersonstown for?” I said: ‘To get you saved and to get people saved.’ And he asked: ‘Is that to make them Protestant?’ I said: ‘No, it’s to make people children of God’.

Close

A young James McConnell

A young James McConnell

A young James McConnell

He also recounted his meetings with Ian Paisley in his book The Good, the Bad and Jesus Christ published by Maurice Wylie Media,

“I first encountered the late Rev Paisley, as a boy. I used to sing and one night in the Ulster Hall he made me get up in front of everybody and sing without music and accompaniment.”

Years later he met Dr Paisley at Heathrow Airport.

“As Rev Paisley and I waited to board the flight back to Belfast, fog started to develop, which meant we couldn’t return home that night. We ended up sleeping in the same room.

“I laugh when I look back now, because we fought all night. Scriptural combat is what it is called. He saw Scripture one way; I saw it another.”

He added they always had the utmost respect for each other.

James McConnell was born in east Belfast on May 15, 1937. His father, Edward, was a driller in Harland & Wolff and his mother, Jean, was a housewife. After leaving Park Parade school aged 14, James’ first job was in the drawing office at Harland & Wolff. He began his ministry at 17. He first pastored a church in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, but at 19 returned home to begin his Whitewell Road ministry in North Belfast.


Top Videos



Privacy