Church tributes to the Rev Ian Paisley (Lord Bannside) have been led by leaders of his own Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster.
A statement, signed by the moderator the Rev Dr John Greer, deputy moderator the Rev Thomas Murray and the clerk the Rev Ian Murray, expressed deep sadness and regret at the passing of their church founder.
“We pay tribute to the many, many years of faithful gospel ministry that Dr Paisley exercised both in Northern Ireland and also farther afield. Under the hand of God, Dr Paisley was mightily used of the Lord in the conversion of many to Jesus Christ.
“Throughout the Free Presbyterian Church at home and abroad and, in various other Christian churches, there are large numbers of people who recognise Dr Paisley as the instrument God used to bring them to the Saviour.
“We remember also the huge contribution that Dr Paisley made to the foundation and formation of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster; and we salute his gifted leadership in his role as moderator of Presbytery over many decades.
“We are grateful that through Dr Paisley’s faithful and anointed preaching of God’s Word and the stand he took for Christ’s cause, the spirit of God raised a Biblical witness against apostasy from Christ. And we thank the Lord that this witness for truth continues under the blessing of God to this day.
“We publically extend to his wife Eileen and family our sincere Christian sympathy on the home-going of their dear loved one. In their time of deepest loss, when their hearts are broken and grief-stricken, we assure them of our prayerful support.”
The statement concludes with the Biblical quotation: “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” Isaiah 43:1-2.
In a statement, the moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, the Rev Dr Michael Barry, said: “Lord Bannside served the people of Northern Ireland in many capacities over the course of his long political career and he will be warmly remembered, particularly for the historic leadership he gave on assuming the office of First Minister.
“On behalf of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, I extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Baroness Paisley and family.”
Church of Ireland primate the Rev Dr Richard Clarke conveyed his church’s sympathy to Baroness Paisley and the Paisley family on the death of Dr Paisley.
“We assure them of our prayers at this time. Whereas, Lord Bannside’s political career was certainly controversial, he will nevertheless be remembered as a fair-minded constituency MP who worked hard for all his constituents in North Antrim.
“The legacy for which he will be most generously remembered will be his work in more recent years in progressing partnership government in the executive of the Northern Ireland Assembly.”
The president of the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Rev Peter Murray, also expressing sympathy, said: “Rev Dr Ian Paisley was a preacher and politician who moved on the world stage but retained his roots in home soil.
“He had a remarkable ability as an orator to speak to the masses and also take a keen interest in the life of the ordinary person on the street.
“In recent years his willingness to take substantial steps towards building a strong working relationship with political opponents helped to build a peace process which we hope will prove to be a lasting legacy to future generations.”
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby expressed his condolences to the Paisley family.
“He was a passionate advocate for his community, a parliamentarian who made his presence felt in our national life and a man of deep faith.
“History will remember him for many things but above all for having the courage, when he judged the moment to be right, of taking the difficult but vital steps towards reconciliation.”