Doctrine and Decline? Irish Churches and the Conservative Turn

This would be a very good time to train as a humanist celebrant in Ireland. Who else is going to marry and bury the queers and the Yes voters and those living in sin? It’s interesting that at a time when many ordinary Catholics and Protestants are developing more nuanced religious beliefs and practices, some in the institutional churches are careering the other way. Denying full membership. Refusing to baptise kids. Hoking around people’s facebook pages to decide if they’re …

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Should Queen’s University break its link with The Presbyterian Union Theological College?

There has been a public backlash against the perceived anti-LGBTQ policies of the Presbyterian Church. Many people have left the church over it, and many more are considering their position. The writer Tony Macaulay and his wife Leslie have left the church after more than 50 years of membership, and decades of inspiring service. Tony was a youth worker for the Presbyterian Church on a violent interface during some of the most dangerous years of the Troubles. Their daughter is …

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Presbyterians, Salvation, and God

We cremated my friend James on the freakishly warm Friday before St Patrick’s Day, between the two bouts of even freakier snow. We did this after a celebration of the Supper of the Lord Jesus Christ who was his Saviour and the anchor of his life. The daffodils bobbed in the sunshine as we took his coffin through the traffic from the church in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral to the crematorium in East Finchley, his terminus ad quem …

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Remembering the comic with 9-and-a-half fingers – and why he still matters

The man looks so cool and self-assured: sleekly besuited, seated on stage, cigarette in one hand, glass of whiskey on the rocks (except it wasn’t – it was actually ginger ale with ice, but hey, that’s television mythmaking for you) on a small side table, utterly confident of his audience’s attention. David Tynan O’Mahony – or, to give him his more familiar professional name, Dave Allen – may have left us exactly ten years ago, but the image and memory …

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Human Rights, Equality, and a call for a generous grace …

Does Northern Ireland need a Bill of Rights? Is Equality a Biblical value? Are human rights all about me? These were some of the questions addressed at today’s The Church in the Public Square conference organised by the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. Focussing on the topics of Equality, Freedom and Religion it it was perhaps appropriate that as delegates arrived the music wafting up from the Spires shopping arcade underneath the conference venue was “I can’t get no satisfaction”!   …

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Blue Plaque unveiled in Aghadowey

Yesterday the Ulster History Circle unveiled a Blue Plaque at Aghadowey Presbyterian Church in honour of Rev. James McGregor. Aghadowey Presbyterian Church was founded in 1655 making it one of the oldest congregations west of the Bann. It also has amongst the largest Presbyterian church buildings in County Londonderry. Rev. James McGregor was a veteran of the siege of Derry where he is purported by some to have been the first to see the relieving ships. He became minister of …

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Presbyterian Church Punishes Ford for Marriage Equality Vote

The News Letter and the Antrim Guardian have both reported that Justice Minister David Ford has ‘agreed’ to step down from his duties as an elder at Second Donegore Presbyterian Church in County Antrim, as a result of his vote in favour of civil marriage equality. This seems to have been the result of what has clearly been quite serious pressure in what the News Letter describes as “months of private meetings” at the sub-regional body to which Second Donegore …

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Row between Parades Commission and LOL District No. 6

During last week the ongoing row between the Parades Commission and the Orange Order came up again. In April Rev. Mervyn Gibson, minister of Westbourne Community Presbyterian Church and Orange Order’s District Number 6 Chaplain complained when the Parades Commission specified that only one hymn “Abide with Me” be played whilst bands marched passed St. Mark’s Catholic Church on the Lower Newtownards Road. Mr. Gibson stated: “It breaches our religious liberties. They have banned the playing of Christian hymns in …

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Norman Hamilton and inconsistent moderation

The Presbyterian Church is tonight due to elect a new moderator. Update: Ivan Patterson elected (thanks Drumlin’s Rock). Presbyterian moderators are elected every year: in actual fact the office has almost no power; the moderator presides over the General Assembly in the summer and although often perceived as the leader of the church that is not really correct, as such a position does not exist within Presbyterianism. It must be remembered that ministers are not even the leaders within their …

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Presbyterians debate PMS

The PMS debacle continues to create problems within the Presbyterian Church. At the general assembly there was a proposal that ministers donate £1,500 each to help kick start a £1 million hardship fund for the PMS savers. The minutes of the meeting drily note that the proposal was withdrawn “By leave of the House” and instead the following was passed 274 for: 164 against. That the General Assembly authorise the General Board when and if appropriate to ask ministers to …

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