Regret as Presbyterian Church in Ireland votes against attending General Assembly

Right Rev Dr Derek Browning
Right Rev Dr Derek Browning

The Moderator has said it was a “matter of profound regret” that the figurehead of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland will not attend the General Assembly in Edinburgh next year.

Right Rev Dr Derek Browning said he was sorry that “our sisters and brothers” voted by 221 to 139 not to send the Moderator of PCI’s General Assembly, Right Rev Dr Noble McNeely, to the annual event on The Mound.

Legal protection

Dr Browning was a guest at the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s General Assembly in Belfast this week.

The welcome to the Church of Scotland delegation, led by the Moderator, was genuinely warm from most members of the Irish Assembly.

Before the debate, Dr Browning conveyed the greetings of the Scottish Assembly to its sister church in Ireland.

He urged Irish Presbyterians to continue maintaining bridges of communication, whilst recognising the significant differences between the two denominations over matters relating to human sexuality.

Dr Browning said it had been a privilege to share in communion earlier in the week and assured the Irish Presbyterians of a warm and gracious welcome should they choose to attend.

He had hoped that his Irish counterpart would be able to receive and accept an invitation to Edinburgh.

“We may agree and disagree on many things, but this will be most helpful when we meet, face to face, in fellowship,” said Dr Browning.

Addressing the Irish Moderator, he added: “You will be most welcome.

“Our invitation to you is to be with us.”

Open door

But the General Assembly in Belfast took a different view.

Following the discussion, Dr Browning said: “I view this vote with disappointment.

“I also note that it is clear that there is division on the matter of human sexuality within the Irish Church.

“At a time when Christians should be working together and talking to each other, agreeing and disagreeing, the vote not to attend our Assembly can only be viewed with profound regret.

“As a broad church the Church of Scotland stands beside an open door of invitation.

“It must remain good that we continue to talk at every level.

“The doors of hospitality and welcome remain open.”