Though not known for its reticence to enter public debate, the Free Presbyterian Church has thus far avoided any comment on its
Founded by Ian Paisley and famed for bombastic sermons and public protests, the denomination is resourceful at getting its point across.
Only this week, Newtownabbey Free Presbyterian minister the Rev Brian McClung played a key role in having The Bible: The Complete Word of God (Abridged) removed from the local council’s theatre, after emailing a letter of complaint to councillors, several of whom have links to his congregation.
But in the wake of Monday night’s BBC interview with Dr Paisley, only one of the church’s ministers, the retired clergyman Rev David McIlveen, has spoken about the controversy.
Speaking in a personal capacity, the Rev McIlveen is the only individual from either the church or the DUP to come out in defence of the Paisleys and their interview with Eamonn Mallie on Monday night.
The Rev McIlveen, a long-standing friend of the Paisleys, said on Tuesday that Dr Paisley’s work as a Christian minister “could not be quantified” and added: “I feel that we must and should assure them of our prayers and of our encouragements at this time.”
The previous day, after details of the Paisleys’ fury at their departure from the church had been extensively covered in all the morning newspapers, none would speak. Of 20 ministers phoned by the News Letter, not one who was contacted would comment about their former moderator. Several said that they had been told not to comment.
Among those contacted was Moderator John Greer.
There were initially rumours that a statement would have been issued by the church’s ruling presbytery but that has yet to materialise.
In Monday night’s film, Dr Paisley alleged that he had been put out of the moderator’s position and had also been asked by his own congregation’s elders to step down as minister of Martyrs’ Memorial Free Presbyterian Church.
The Paisleys revealed that they no longer attend the church, a stance Dr Paisley endorsed.