A woman’s place

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland is the second biggest Protestant denomination on the island and the biggest in Northern Ireland. It is in some ways a coalition of different opinions. Some parts of it are quite liberal and even ecumenical represented by people like Rev. Ken Newell of Fitzroy and previously Rev. John Dunlop of Rosemary. Probably the majority of Presbyterianism is, however, more traditional, theologically conservative and in reality quite fundamentalist, certainly churches in the Coleraine Presbytery (which my church just sneaked into) were and that is probably the case with most of the country congregations.The two wings of the church coexist fairly amicably. The media tend to like to focus more on the liberals than strictly speaking their numbers probably deserve. This, however, suits the traditionalists quite well, as most of their ministers have no great love of the media spotlight. There have been a number of issues which have caused significant division such as the failed attempts by some of the liberals a number of years ago to get the PCI to join the world council of churches.

Recently, however, the issue of women ministers has come to the fore. Normally at Christmas it seems that two of the Armagh Presbyterian churches share their services with everyone going to one church and the other minister preaching. On this occasion, however, it appears that the Reverend Stafford Carson refused to allow Reverend Christina Bradley to preach in his church. Actually my understanding is that the kirk session would have had to agree with him but still she was not allowed to preach. Apparently the two ministers have subsequently met but the outcome has not become clear.

In a separate move one of the potential candidates for moderator of the General Assembly is a woman. The issue of women elders and ministers actually cuts across the liberal / conservative split in the church; I certainly know of otherwise liberals opposed to women elders and ministers and conservatives in favour of them.

The biblical basis for this comes down to the analysis of Paul’s letters and whether or not one takes them as referring to the particular churches to which he was writing or to all churches for all time.

The other more fundamentalist denominations are also not always as clear on this as one might expect. The Brethern have no women leaders and women usually are not permitted to speak in church. The Reformed and Free Presbyterians have no women elders, deacons, ministers etc. The Independent Methodists have no women ministers but do have women members of the committees which run the church, allow women to preach and pray in public and have women teaching adults; all of which some other fundamentalist churches would disagree with.

The outcome for the Presbyterians is a little unclear though I doubt they are about to elect a woman moderator but as one can see above it is a more complex issue than many outsiders appreciate.

  • I saw the spat between the Portadown Presbyterians of Edenderry and Armagh Road back in December. Although I was in Portadown over Christmas, I didn’t manage to get any further than the local paper’s take. One of the problems of bias is that this channel of information is the Portadown News, whose reporter is in the Armagh Road congregation.

    Since I was at St Mark’s for the holiday service, we Anglicans felt terribly superior to all this. None of that, of course, got in the way of blogging my views.

    What is odd, to me, is that the “progressive” Presbyterians were ahead of the field and ordained their first woman Minister, the first woman ordained by any Irish faith, over thirty years ago. Obviously, to quote myself, well-educated (Edinburgh BA and BD, with further qualifications in social work, and an OBE to boot), literate and civilised, Ruth Patterson still represents too much of a novelty for many in the sect.

    It’s not for me to be partisan here, but she looks a very worthy nominee.

  • IJP

    I thought the Church of Ireland was bigger on the island of Ireland?

  • Turgon

    I am not trying to be unpleasant but I refer you to the first sentence in the blog.

  • Sam Graham

    Has anyone ever realised that the essence of Protestantism is that we have freedom of conscience.

    There were no women apostles, priests, worship leaders in the temple, tabernacle or NT churches. Slightly telling fact!!

    Why are the media jumping on this when the largest church in Ireland, the old whore of Rome has NO WOMEN PRIESTS OR POPES!

    However, it shows the mess of pottage that truly is the IPC with a dolly mixture theology and orthopraxy. Best thing for Bible Christians is to leave such as polluted and corrupted union.

  • Fraggle

    Women should stick to more female religions like this


    Only joking but when I was having lunch at a hotel in Derry, this crowd were having an ‘angel awareness day’. It attracted hordes of people, mostly women.

  • Porteydown

    Malcolm Redfellow said .. “One of the problems of bias is that this channel of information is the Portadown News, whose reporter is in the Armagh Road congregation.”

    … and he’s also in the choir. Victor Gordon, journalist with the Portadown Times (not Portdown News) stirred the story several times and his bias was easy to see, resulting in a number of letters being published in the Portadown Times heavily criticising him and the paper for stoking a fire which would have been dealt with quietly between the two churches had he not seen his name in lights. Vic has a ‘history’ with Edenderry Presbyterian and took every opportunity to stir the pit.

  • Rory

    An old Communist Party member looking at the disarray, disagreement and mutual loathing among the multifarious Trotskyite splinter groups must surely share the same feeling with an old Catholic as he looks upon the ever dividing groups of Protestant schismatics and sadly observes to himself, “Look at these “Christians”, how they loathe one another”.

    I would think that any man who tries to look for God within religion sets up a serious obstacle. Better for man to find God within his heart and then to find a ritual of observance that concurs comfortably with that experience. This way one is not threatened by any other’s differing method of observance.

    I appreciate that such a stance might offend Bible Christians among others. But that’s their problem. They can take it up with God. Directly, I am led to believe.

  • Sam Graham @ 07:38 PM is either a fool or a troll.

    There is ample evidence for women being priests and “presbyterae” in the early church. We have their memorial inscriptions for a start. Celsus, writing the earliest known attack on Christianity (about the year 178) ridiculed the Church as a women’s movement. Tertullian (in the early third century) and other writers have to denounce women preaching and in the priesthood, because women were doing just that. That the practice of a female priesthood survived is shown by Pope Gelasius having to issue an epistle (11th March 494) condemning it.

    The phallocrats have been rewriting Church history for most of the Christian period, but have not been able totally to erase all the evidence.

  • The Third Policeman

    Actually Sam we had a Pope Jane, only found out after she gave birth I think. The trampy auld thing.

    And I never got the big deal, indeed weren’t the two first ever priets/ministers/whatever women? You know, them two that found the empty tomb, spreading the word that Jesus is reborn and all that.

  • Porteydown @ 08:18 PM:

    Sorry: “Times” not “News”. Can’t think what provoked that typo/brain-storm.

    Err … I’m not married to you or anything, am I? Of course not, you’re too polite. Because that’s usually where these corrections come from.

  • pauljames

    No analysis necessary turgon.

    1 Corinthians 14:34-35
    Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

  • The Third Policeman @ 08:29 PM:

    The Pope Joan legend appears, for the first time, in the writing of Jean de Mailly. That’s in the 13th century; and would put “Pope Joan” as a successor to, presumably, Urban II in 1099. Curious that it takes a quarter of a millenium for the story to appear in text.

    Then there’s the version by Martinus Polonus (died 1278), which was not published until 1477. This has John of Mainz, allegedly an English woman, becoming Pope in the mid-800s. This was included by Bartolomeo Platina, Vatican librarian, in a “History of the Popes”, published 1479. It then provided the basis for a scandalous 1865 novel, in Greek, by Emmanuel Rhoïdis. This was translated into French by Alfred Jarry, the “absurdist” writer, and into English (1954) by Lawrence Durrell.

    In short, it’s all sensational, totally unhistorical, but (at least in Durrell’s version, the only one I’ve read) good fun.

  • Turgon

    1 Corinthians 11:5
    “But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.”

  • Rory

    …And Jesus wept.

    No wonder adherents of Islam consider themselves progressive.

  • willis

    Why am I bothering with this…..

    Galatians 3:26-8 KJV

    For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

    One of his good days…..

  • Turgon

    You all see my point; it depends on how one analyses Paul’s letters.

  • Dec

    Proverbs 3:5
    “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not.”


  • Dec

    And since, if this thread is anything to go by, the Rapture is almost upon us, what better time to re-introduce a more contemporary take on the Ten Commandments.

  • The Corinthians texts (especially that cited by pauljames @ 09:06 PM) tell us the importance of women in the Christian community of Corinth, and perhaps more generally in the early Church. After all, what’s the point of denouncing something that doesn’t exist?

    Can anyone join the game?
    Proverbs 31:26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue…
    Proverbs 31:31 Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

    Which brings me back to Ruth Patterson, even if the majority of NI Presbyterianism is, as Turgon noted,

    however, more traditional, theologically conservative and in reality quite fundamentalist … that is probably the case with most of the country congregations.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Turgon — the Presbyterian Church is a supposedly Christian organisation. The giveaway in that term is the word ‘Christ.’
    What did Christ have to say about women being second class citizens? About women being incapable of preaching the gospel?
    Well not a lot as it turns out. How inconvenient.

    So if we want to keep those blasted women in their place, we have to turn to Paul. Perhaps Christ just wasn’t sexist enough.

    Face it folks, a lot of religious dogma is really just men cherry-picking the scriptures to reinforce their prejudices.
    Plenty of previously unarguable biblical decrees such as those on witchcraft and slavery have been quietly shelved in recent times. Isn’t it about time we had some common sense applied to this non-issue as well?

  • pauljames

    Dear Turgon and Malcolm

    Thanks for pointing out that the bible is full of contradictions but then I don’t follow its vile misogyny. Perhaps you should be addressing Mr Carson and his ilk who after all are only following their consciences.

  • joeCanuck

    Yes but when I pointed out to some of my priestly advisors that I couldn’t accept a lot of the nonsense and that was because I was following my conscience, the reply was “Ah, you’ve got to be especially on your guard against a false conscience, and you, dear Joe, obviously have such a devilish beast”.

  • USA

    Get over yourselves. This is bible thumping garbage. Load of shite the lot of it.

  • darth rumsfeld

    For those who are interested , there is an excellent new book on Presbyterians in Ireland- a 21st century perspective, by Sandra Bailie that I saw in the University bookshop on Saturday, which deals with the diverse attitudes in the church

  • It is total nonsense to suggest that the ecumenists in the PCI represent a small minority . As Turgon knows fine well they are firm control of at least 11 presbyteries and have ensured for themselves the moderator’s chair at least every other year .
    They also control Union Theological College and are grooming the majority of students to take on the ecumenical mantle .
    Moreover if consrvatives control the PCI why has that church been to the forefront of every major
    ecumenical effort for the past 60 years . Also if conservatives are in control why did they elect a moderator Mr Finlay who has had joint prayer meetings with RC priests . Not to mention Dunlop , Newell , Morrow , Clarke et al .
    The truth of the situation is that the PCI is a thoroughly ecumenical denomination which has a conservative minority . This minority try to justify thier remaining in an ecumenical church by claiming they are growing in strength and will in time reform their church . This is an atrocious lie – ecumenism is dominant and rampant in the PCI – “evangelical” ministers remain because they dont want to lose their 6 bedroom manse , big wage , and super pension .
    Turgon can live in his fantasy world of an overwhelmingly conservative PCI but the rest of us know better .


  • Gréagóir O’ Frainclín

    “Face it folks, a lot of religious dogma is really just men cherry-picking the scriptures to reinforce their prejudices.
    Plenty of previously unarguable biblical decrees such as those on witchcraft and slavery have been quietly shelved in recent times. Isn’t it about time we had some common sense applied to this non-issue as well?”

    Well said, and very, very true, Gerry Loves Castro.

  • Ian H, you might wish to ponder on this 1953 commentary:

    W.P. Nicholson, the famous Ulster evangelist, wrote at this time:
    “So they have chosen Davey for Moderator. That’s the last straw on the camel’s back, as they say. I can’t see how any minister or member can remain any longer in the denomination, especially when they have a real Presbyterian Church to go to. Tell Mr. Paisley to preach on Revelation 18:4 ‘And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.'”

    Do you consider the Chuckle Brothers to be an ecumenical duo?

  • Rory

    Verily I say unto you, for it is written, “Bogtrotters are indeed a backward bunch”.

    From The Thoughts of Rory on disputatious religious reactionaries.

  • Helenanne Finlay

    Did anyone hear the Presbyterian Clerk of Assembly on the Crawley show on Sunday? (www.bbc.co.uk/sundaysequence) Donald Watts was just as evasive as the moderator and it left me very frustrated to hear a church leader avoiding simple questions like, “Wouldn’t it be good to have a female leader someday?” I am a Presbyterian but to be honest I debate with myself whether to stay involved in this church because of this kind of sexism from the minister in portadown and from the leaders like Watts and the moderator. They need to join the same century as the rest of us.

  • Turgon

    Ian Hall,

    Thank you fo those comments. I am in no great position to comment except to say there was little liberalism or ecumenism in my home church. We are probably going to leave the Presbyterian Church soon anyway and return to Elenwe’s view of civilisation; the Independent Methodist Church. I hope you will agree that they are not exactly liberal or ecumenical (though they are not Calvinists which slightly disappoints me). They do, however, allow women to pray in public and indeed preach. The variability of the different churches on these issues was indeed the main point of my blog.

    Incidentally I do greatly enjoy your blog site.


  • Dewi

    “Incidentally I do greatly enjoy your blog site.”

    Please say you jest Turgon……

  • I wonder if Adrian Eastwood was offering odds on Tuesday’s night’s Super Pancake Tuesday PCI election?

  • abucs

    50% of the blogging quotes seem to be little different than preaching to me.

    Advertising and media in general as well as simply living your own life could be thought of as preaching.

  • Granni Trixie

    Some years ago I read complaints re the state of play of international peace research (bear with me) – men getting the top jobs (meaning academic posts) leaving women who worked on the ground invisible – and one eminent peace-activist/researcher observed “when something becomes a ‘hot’ subject men tend to take over but when there is nobody to deal with a problem women act” (‘hot’ meaning popular or attracting resources).

    This is a pattern we have already seen in “peacemaking” in NI and I hae no doubt that we will see it emerge when the Protestant churches are in decline. Look at the Catholic church already – women are “allowed” to do this and that nowadays (ie give out communion) not due to the Church adaptating to modern times so much as a necessity in a climate affected by sexual abuse and lack of recruitment of priests.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Spot on Granni — the only reality such organisations respond to is the harsh wind of empty pews and dwindling coffers.

    The scandal of clerical abuse and the nonsense of treating women as inferior are finally causing many to wake up and smell the arrogance and rank hypocrisy of our various supposedly Christian denominations.

    What may have been regarded as normal in biblical times is entirely inappropriate in a 21st century semi-enlightened society, and if the only method of securing change in such misogynist thinking is voting with one’s feet, then so be it.

  • [aside]”a climate affected by sexual abuse”

    Trixie, that’s a sorry tale that keeps coming back into the headlines.

  • eranu

    as far as i remember the bible speaks of men being the spiritual leader of the family. women have a different role, but it is the man who performs leadership roles. i think this goes back to the garden of eden where it was the woman who was deceived by satan to eat the fruit. women being more emotional than men, and emotions being something that satan can use to deceive. you’d need a bible study teacher to explain it properly. thats why bible believing Christians have only male preachers and there is such a fuss against women preachers.
    in the post the phrase ‘women not permitted to speak in church’ means not permitted to teach incase theres any confusion.
    (im no expert so sorry if got any of that wrong)

    basically the problem with men and womens roles is down to a conflict between what the bible teaches and what the secular (non Christian) world view says. the ‘world view’ says we’re all equal and anything a man can do a women can do just as well. the bible says there are different roles for men and women.
    its easy to go with the bible when it says that you shouldnt kill, but the big challenge is can you believe and live by what the bible says when it conflicts with something so dominate in the secular world, in this case a mans role is X and women’s role is Y.
    i think alot of the time people drop the ball a bit when they go with what they ‘feel’ to be right (world view) rather than what the bible teaches.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Eranu — it’s physically impossible to go by everything the bible ‘teaches’, otherwise we’d be stoning adulterers, boycotting Tescos for selling shellfish and getting hysterical over people wearing garments of mixed fibre (amongst many others).

    The uncomfortable fact is that it suits most religionists for women to be put ‘in their place’, when logically their place is exactly the same, if not slightly above men.

    Seriously, does it make the slightest bit of sense that a deity would create two sexes of a dominant species (necessary for reproduction) and then decree that the one who is least dispensable should somehow be inferior?
    Modern science has rendered the human male virtually redundant in the grand scheme of things.

    When you refer to biblical ‘teaching’, you’re referring to a compendium of largely anonymous writings dating back thousands of years to a time when the earth was considered to be a flat structure with the sun revolving round it, most people’s idea of broadening their horizons was trekking to the next village and women were considered to be little more than property.

    Nowadays we’ve discovered that the earth is actually a spherical planet orbiting the sun, there’s a vast world out there only recently discovered and women are actually equal to men in pretty much everything other than physical strength and peeing up walls.

    If we can accept the first two as being progress through enlightenment and common sense, then exactly what is the problem with accepting the third? The only thing standing in your way Eranu is misogny.

  • Turgon ,
    I am delighted to hear that you are likely to go to the Ind Methodists . True they are not calvinists but they are a heck of a lot better than the PCI . In my experience they have a genuine desire to see people saved which when all is said & done is the main issue .


  • eranu

    your missing the point gerry. its not about some kind of ‘women are men’s servants and should do as their told by their betters!’ fer dear sake !

    the different roles defined for men and women are for the benefit of both. each provides certain things for the other. on the spiritual side, teaching and spiritual leadership are the mans job. (as far as i remember from bible studies)

    im guessing you dont believe the bible and you believe that what society currently thinks is the only possible ‘right’ way to think. is that right? for a long time thats how i thought about things. its a massive leap when you accept that the world view is just the current view of things and not some sort of absolute definition of right and wrong. think about how much the world view changes from century to century.

    its not a case of some kind of sexist prejudice. that would be seeing it through the secular world view and ignoring that the words in the bible are put there by God.
    its simply a definition of different roles for men and women.
    its an issue that shows how some Christians are mired in what the world thinks. they’ll actually disregard what the bible teaches because it just doesnt ‘feel’ right in todays society.

    anyway, im not trying to push what i think. im just throwing in what i remember when it was all explained in a bible study. Id love to see this explained by someone with full biblical knowledge.

  • Paul P

    Eranu—it’s physically impossible to go by everything the bible ‘teaches’, otherwise we’d be stoning adulterers, boycotting Tescos for selling shellfish and getting hysterical over people wearing garments of mixed fibre (amongst many others). Posted by Gerry @3.59pm.

    The bible must be read and interpreted in context. You are quoting from the O.T. without considering the N.T.

    Regarding this particular thread, I grew up in a “fundementalist” enviroment that proclaimed strong views on the role of women. I found that this subtely excused the abuse of women in ways that are unchristlike.

    Many times I heard Paul’s teaching quoted that “a wife should be subject to her husband in all things” but hardly ever heard Paul quoted when he wrote that “a husband must love his wife as Christ loved the church, laying down his life for her”.

    Ian Hall
    Is the main issue getting people “saved”? The Lord Jesus’ final words to His discples were that they should go into all the world teaching what He had taught them and making “disciples” of all nations not making “converts”. In other words teaching people how to live their lives as He would live their lives. I don’t think that would mean going mean being a member of secret organisations with similar rituals and oaths to the masonic order and wanting to march through areas where you are not wanted.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Eranu I appreciate that you’re not by any means a religious zealot, but your comment:

    ‘ignoring that the words in the bible are put there by God’

    is somewhat troublesome.
    I’m no theological expert, but the notion that the bible in it’s entirety is the literal inerrant word of God is a relatively recent idea. Remember that the bible consists of 66 different books by a multitude of authors, compiled long after the event by scholars of whom we know relatively little and who we have to take on absolute trust.
    Much of the bible needs to be viewed as a series of semi-historical documents, placed firmly within their timeframe.

    ”on the spiritual side, teaching and spiritual leadership are the mans job. (as far as i remember from bible studies)”

    Does this supposed role make any sense in the 21st century? Why should the male be any better qualified in this dept? Do enlighten me.

    ”its an issue that shows how some Christians are mired in what the world thinks. they’ll actually disregard what the bible teaches because it just doesnt ‘feel’ right in todays society.”

    Does slavery ‘feel’ right in today’s society? Does persecuting witches ‘feel’ right? Does the assumption that women are somehow inferior ‘feel’ right? My answer to these three questions would be a firm no.

    ”the world view is just the current view of things and not some sort of absolute definition of right and wrong. think about how much the world view changes from century to century.”

    I accept your point here Eranu, and yes societal views DO change, usually for the better. We only need glance at fundamentalist Islam to see what the world would be like if we refused to move away from the archaic.
    I would however counter that the bible cannot be regarded as some ‘absolute definition of right and wrong.’ Much of it is common sense, much more ranges from tyrannical to nonsensical with a side order of contradiction. Certainly elements of it can be taken into the 21st century, but to stubbornly refuse to move on certain issues whilst ignoring others merely exposes prejudice masquerading as religion.

    To get back to the topic thread, I have met the Rev Ruth Patterson and heard her preach. She is, in my opinion, no better and no worse than most male Presbyterian ministers of my experience.
    In short, as with all women, she deserves the chance to prove herself in the vocation of her choice and should not be prevented from doing so by the misogynistic ramblings of clearly prejudiced males.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Paul P:
    ”The bible must be read and interpreted in context. You are quoting from the O.T. without considering the N.T.”

    Paul I’m interested in the concept of the O.T. being cherry-picked for the use of those with a particular axe to grind (creationists etc), whilst others (anti-gay, anti-female equality) cherry-pick the words of Paul in the N.T. (presumably since Christ had little or nothing to say on these subjects).
    Can you perhaps explain why some of the more archaic diktats of the O.T. are regarded as being no longer relevant, whilst others, which may better suit present-day purposes, are still considered fair game.

    Additionally, I’m interested as to why Paul’s pronouncements on women and homosexuals are put way above Christ’s pronouncements on for instance earthly possessions or pacifism.

    It would appear to me that the bible is used more as a stick to beat people with than a book of comfort. Would you agree?

  • IJP


    You’re quite right – maybe I can’t skim-read after all!

  • abucs


    i agree wholeheartedly about your reluctance to accept the whole bible as being dictated by a deity. In fact i agree with your insistance not to.

    But i think Eranu also has a point about roles.

    I think with the womens liberation movement (much of which has transformed society for the better) we tend to associate priests as executive directors or prime ministers. People are entitled to do that (from their perspective).

    If you are a Catholic then the perspective should be on God and working as a community not as individuals.

    We would say that the one and only of Gods creations that is without sin is a woman. If you accept the apparitions then you also have to accept that they are mostly to women and also that women are the bedrock of the church and have been since the start. For a Catholic this is just as important and deserving of respect than a priest performing his duties of preaching and pastoring to the parish.

    We also have to remember that for most clergy, (but not all of course) it is a role of serving the public, taking orders, being chaste and not making much money.

  • Paul P

    Gerry Lvs Castro,

    The bible is sometimes used as a stick to beat people with, not least by those who identify themselves as Christian. However just because it is used in a wrong way doesn’t make it wrong.

    Some of the more “archaic diktats” of the O.T are regarded as no longer relevent because a “better” covenant has been revealed in and through the person and work of Christ.

    If you cafrefully study some of the O.T rules and regulations you see that they are actually natural shadows or types of spiritual realities to be appreciated in the N.T.

    I think the purpose of the rules and regulations in the O.T was to clearly demonstrate that no man was able to keep God’s standard and therefore the need of Christ’s redepmtive and substitutionary work.

    (There is a book by R.T Kendall called the Christain and the Pharisee that explores these things in a way that is easily inderstood.)

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    The previous two posts (from Abucs and Paul P) are interesting in that they contrast the RC and Protestant views of Christianity.

    Roman Catholicism relies less on the bible, and more on the teachings of the church hierarchy.

    Both attitudes are of course extremely flawed. The recent (mis)handling of clerical sex abuse by the church hierarchy calls into doubt their overall judgement (and I think it’s fair to assume that clerical abuse cover-up dates back well beyond the 20th century). We are therefore asked to trust the theological judgement of a hierarchy unable to act in a moral fashion over child abuse.

    Protestants however place much of their faith in the bible — a book which can logically be regarded as nothing more than a compendium of largely anonymous documents. The oldest biblical book is estimated to predate the newest by some 1000 years. That’s equivalent to binding chunks of Harry Potter and the Magna Carta in the same volume.
    There is the additional problem that Christ, the central figure of Christianity, is not on record as advocating a new testament, or any writings of his life, presumably because he was expecting to return imminently.
    Attempting to literalise such a document for the 21st century is nonsensical. Such use of the Koran led quite logically to the taliban.

    Surely, rather than reliance on a dubious theological hierarchy or a dubious set of ancient books, we should be seeking to propogate a personal relationship with our chosen deity.
    If God really is capable of monitoring the individual, then surely one to one contact is preferable to supposing that others somehow know the codes and rituals required.

  • I would not wish greatly, for the moment, to demur from the generalism propounded by Gerry Lvs Castro @ 11:22 AM:

    Roman Catholicism relies less on the bible, and more on the teachings of the church hierarchy…
    Protestants however place much of their faith in the bible—a book which can logically be regarded as nothing more than a compendium of largely anonymous documents.

    However, in the context of this thread it misses an essential point.

    While both of Gerry Lvs Castro @ 11:22 AM‘s antitheses represent degrees of thought-control (a.k.a. “orthodoxy”), one of the original points of the thread was peculiarly oppressive. The congregation of the Edenderry Presbyterian Church, and by extension large swathes of the Presbyterian Community were denied, or were denying themselves the teaching and exegesis of certain learned theologians.

    This is based on prejudging the quality of the theological interpretation by means of the scholar’s gender.

    In days when, for social reasons, it was almost impossible for a woman to achieve an educated state, that prejudice might, just might, have had some practical basis. Today, when the plurality of university places (not excluding the schools of theology) are taken by women, it is ludicrous, bigoted and unacceptable.

  • Paul P

    Gerry Lvs Castro,
    Why do I believe the Bible as a reliable source about anything? Well its not because I’m a protestant.
    Many original texts of bible have been archaeologically and historically proven to be accurate and certainly have never been scientifically disproved as inaccurate. (The
    inerrancy and reliability of some English translations is another matter including or amybe even especially the KJV)

    Then there is the Bible’s unity of teaching.
    For me one of the clearest evidences that the Bible is actually accurate and trustworthy is its unity of teaching and what is called “internal coherence” .

    Better described as a library of books than one single book, these books actually agree with each other. With honest study we can see how the books and teachings of the Bible actually compliment each other and not contradict each other.

  • Paul P

    According to Canon Liddon there are “332 distinct prophecies in the Old Testament that have been literally fulfilled in Jesus Christ” from The Basis of the Christian Faith.

    The mathematical probability of just eight of these prophesies in some cases dating back hundreds of years pre Jesus being fulfilled by one person is staggering, the probability of all being fulfilled is astronomical.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Paul with all due respect, the number of contradictions in the gospels alone is quite staggering.

    Below is a link to a mere 396 biblical contradictions:


    The bible is a very long way from being an infallible document, which is perhaps surprising given it’s relatively shadowy beginnings and opportunity for shall we say ‘selective revision.’

    The Canon Liddon whom you mention is obviously an optimist, but the unfortunate fact is that much of the bible is incredibly vague and widely open to free interpretation. At times we have seemingly endless and largely pointless genealogies, whilst at others we have potentially earth-shattering events skimmed over in a few verses (dead bodies walking the streets at the exact point of Jesus death anyone?)

    From a purely historical viewpoint, the gospels alone present a huge problem. Many of the events and characters portrayed in the gospels simply do not coincide with documented events by chroniclers of the time.

    To put one’s faith in this compendium as being infallible literal truth is not only illogical, it flies in the face of what the biblical writers intended. It is patently obvious that the bible was written by fallible men — there is nothing in the bible to suggest the hand of an all-knowing divine being.

    Roman Catholicism (which I am no cheer-leader for) does not regard the bible as being infallible and many Protestant denominations regard it as a historical document rather than a divinely inspired book. Many others (particularly the more recent ones) regard it as being the literal word of God. Who is to say who is right?

    As I stated in my previous post, there is no logical reason, other than tribalism, to put one’s store in any particular branch of organised religion. You arrive in this world alone and you leave alone. Any relationship you have with God should be on a one-to-one basis rather than channeled through the dubious notions of one particular sect.

  • Paul P @ 12:36 PM:

    Gosh, I never thought to see Henry Parry Liddon, that arch-AngloCatholic, held up for admiration here:

    Canon Liddon insisted that Christianity itself depends on a literal belief in Noah’s flood, in the transformation of Lot’s wife, and in the sojourn of Jonah in the whale.

    Might I also mention Thomas Huxley on Liddon in Science and Pseudo-Science?

    After all, in passing, if we are basing our conclusions on mathematical probability, such calculation applies equally to creationism.

  • abucs


    having a one to one relationship with a deity is fine. In my opinion, limiting spirituality to this has advantages and disadvantages.

    I’m sure you are aware of the advantages.

    I would suggest though, we also have to think in terms of community and progression, of teaching, transmission, deity intent, division of labour, having access to (and building on) great thinkers that went before us and claims and recordings of important events and their messages and interpretation amid the backgrounds of those events.

    My personal thoughts would be to have both and accept some problems that go with it.

    Of course it depends where you think the balance of positives lay. Many people will think the positives lay in rejecting both.

    I also think to concentrate on where the hierarchical church goes wrong, and make that image the universal, and the norm and project it backwards into the past is not necessarily fair.

    Also, one of the things the church is criticised for is that they don’t change things.

    One of the ‘latest’ infallible statements from that hierachy was the immaculate conception proclamation in 1854 and there is still arguement with other churches about that, further blocking unity.

    So i’d say being dependant on a decadent hierachy’s theological commands is not very accurate when the decadence, while always there to some extant, is not a fair description of the usual overall reality and that hierachy’s greatest role is to preserve rather than dictate.

    Perhaps that’s why men are best at it – we are usually better at finding excuses not to do anything. :o)

    There is though, a difference between rare theological commands and constant theological interpretations (development) for consideration that may shape thinking.

    Malcolms point here, on having access to women’s theological input is well made. My own church is not exactly overflowing with the historical theological insights from women and that is a fair criticism that should be addressed.

    I would still not argue against the seperating of the roles of priest and theologian though, in order to address this.

    But to be fair, in practise, up until now at least, the two have largely been intertwined and at least in name, the great theology discussions and thoughts have been attributed to men.

    Historically most have been theological priests or theological consecrated brothers. I suppose there should be no real reason why more consecrated sisters cannot concentrate on theology also as well as women in the laity although of course anything based on the bible, that in non revelatory will involve much study first.

    Sister Faustina, Sister Lucia, Mother Theresa and Mother Angelica’s founding of Catholic TV are some ‘recent’ important contributions.

    While Christianity is flourishing in most of the world, the restructuring of the church in the west to further incude laity and women in particular, would be a good thing and help with renewal IMHO.

    For me, the role of priest is not necessarily the same issue though.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Abucs I appreciate that you’re very much ‘into’ your church and I can respect that, but we’re patently on very different wavelengths.

    Whilst all religious denominations deliberately seek to garnish the basic religious tenets with endless rituals and rules, we do have to suspect their motives. A quick skim through the early centuries of the Christian church provides chilling reading and it’s inarguable that the early church stifled free thought, murdered vast numbers of dissenters and set up an institution designed to both line their pockets and cement absolute power.

    If everyone were to suddenly adopt the ‘one-to-one’ model I advocate, we would see an immediate drain of wealth, power and influence from the established religions. And that is after all why they were established in the first place.

    The biblical figure of Jesus clearly had no interest in financial or earthly power, and his message was largely one of ‘be nice to people.’

    This portrayal of Christ has been largely expunged by the established churches and replaced instead with diktats, ritual, persecution, sexual obsession, biblical nerdiness and criticism of free thinking.

    I don’t think it’s too fanciful to suppose that God would be happy with someone who believes in him, communes with him and does no harm to other humans.

    I do however think it fanciful to suppose that God would be displeased if you failed to say enough hail Mary’s or didn’t spot the supposedly mathematical code running through the bible.

    Christ’s message was simple — it was intended for the common man and woman, and it was to them that he preached. To suppose that we need someone to explain that message and somehow have a special channel to the divine others don’t possess is ludicrous in my view.

    As regards women in the church, my last word on the subject is simply that barring women from any office of any church is mysognyistic and all arguments advanced to the contrary are merely dogmatic babble.

  • abucs

    OK Gerry. I wish you good luck.

  • Well one Presbytery did vote for Ruth Patterson tonight – leaving the other twenty to vote for men! They elected Rev Dr Donald Patton (11 votes) in case you were wondering!

  • Alan in Belfast @ 10:00 PM:

    It’ll be hot times in the Randalstown O.C. (tea and choccy bickies?) tonight!

  • Could be double HobNobs!