THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: Presbyterian General Assembly debates the Irish Council of Churches

From the News Letter, June 9, 1950

By Darryl Armitage
Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 10:00 am
A meeting at Church House, Belfast, in 2010. Picture: Press Eye Ltd
A meeting at Church House, Belfast, in 2010. Picture: Press Eye Ltd

It was reported by the News Letter on this day in 1950 that the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland had passed an amendment the previous day to the draft proposed constitution of the Irish Council of Churches, providing that members of the council would consist of representatives of Christian communions in Ireland who were “willing to accept Christ as God and Saviour”.

It had been proposed that the council should be represented as follows, Church of Ireland and Presbyterian Church, 12 each; Methodist Church, six; Congregationalist, Moravian, Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church and Society of Friends, two each.

The amendment, the adoption of which had been moved by the Reverend Professor Davey, was agreed after a long discussion on a report of inter-church relations.

The report referred to the conference of Irish Church delegates in Belfast in 1949 and stated that a further step in co-operation was to be seen in the fact that the United Council of Churches in Ireland proposed to change its constitution which would enable it to initiate co-operation between the churches on more than social matters and bring it more into line with the World Council of Churches and the British Council of Churches.

Professor Davey, who appealed for honesty instead of politeness in church co-operation, said there was too much good manners among those who did not want to move.

He remarked: “We want complete honesty from those who do want to move. I believe that we should be engaged before we are married. We should have a unity of spirit and understand and trust one another. We ought also to get rid of our feelings of superiority.”

The Reverend Professor J L M Haire seconded Professor Davey proposal that the report should be adopted. He added that for the first time the Church of Rome had treated other denominations as churches.

Meanwhile, Mr K M Alexander, speaking on the draft constitution of the Irish Council of Churches, moved the deletion from Clause 2 of the words ‘Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Churches’.

This amendment was seconded by the Reverend William McDowell but it was later defeated.