In a Church with over 6,400 ministers and elders, we recognise that many will hold different views and some will choose to express them publicly in this and other ways. In a recent pastoral letter to ministers following this year’s General Assembly, the Moderator, Rt. Rev. Dr. Charles McMullen said that ‘…the mind of our General Assembly was very clearly expressed at the end of debates which, I believe, were conducted fairly and sensitively. Sadly, however, considerable hurt has been caused among various members of our denomination…'
As the Clerk of the General Assembly, the Rev. Trevor Gribben, said in his accompanying letter – and repeated in a recent BBC interview - people are free to debate in public, but it is the nature of the discourse that is important. Therefore it is worth positively noting that the 200-plus ministers and elders who were signatories, state that they were making their statement ‘as a prayerful expression of appropriate loyalty to the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’. Discussions will also, no doubt, take place within the structures of the church, in presbyteries and kirk sessions. Indeed in his letter the Clerk also gave guidance as to how any decision of the General Assembly could be changed.