Gibson to meet Watts over parades body letter

archive picture'Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 12th March 2010 'Rev Mervyn Gibson leaves Belfast High Court this afternoon after appearing at a bail hearing for Belfast loyalist Rab Warnock. See story by Alan Erwin.
archive picture'Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 12th March 2010 'Rev Mervyn Gibson leaves Belfast High Court this afternoon after appearing at a bail hearing for Belfast loyalist Rab Warnock. See story by Alan Erwin.

THE Rev Mervyn Gibson is to meet with the senior Presbyterian figure who wrote to the Parades Commission criticising his comments about a ruling by the commission.

The east Belfast Presbyterian minister said he intended to meet the clerk of the Presbyterian General Assembly, the Rev Dr Donald Watts, to discuss Dr Watts’ letter to the commission in which he described the Rev Gibson’s criticism of the commission as “unacceptable”.

However, as revealed in yesterday’s News Letter, Dr Watts refused to make any comment about the Rev David Latimer’s controversial speech to Sinn Fein’s ard fheis in which he described Martin McGuinness as “one of the true, great leaders of modern times”.

A Presbyterian member, David Morgan, wrote to Dr Watts objecting to the theological implications of Rev Latimer’s speech, which he argued went against Presbyterian teaching about repentance and the need for personal salvation.

However, Dr Watts replied to Dr Morgan that the Rev Latimer’s attendance at the conference was “a personal decision” and that he “was not present as a representative of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland” at the Sinn Fein conference.

The Rev Gibson, who was unaware of Dr Morgan’s complaint to the church, said he believed it showed that there were double standards being exercised by the church authorities.

The Rev Gibson, who is also a senior Orangeman, said: “Somebody made a complaint about me to the church and the church responded to that. They didn’t name me in the response but it was clear that they had been asked for an opinion about me.

“All they had to do was say that if I made any remark it was in a personal capacity.

“Clearly there are discrepancies in the way in which I have been treated and I believe it has happened on other occasions as well.”

Meanwhile, the Rev Latimer has said he believes that Mr McGuinness is “one of the most impressive statesmen of our time”.

Expanding on his comments at the Sinn Fein conference, the Presbyterian minister told his local newspaper the Derry Journal: “I have no doubt that Martin would be effective amongst other world leaders and I think he is one of the most impressive statesmen of our time.”

The Rev Latimer said he was praying that the former IRA commander would win the Irish presidential election and that he believed Mr McGuinness would “send ripples of hope” if he becomes president.

“Not only does he have my support for his campaign but he also has my prayers,” he said.

The Rev Latimer added that he wished Mr McGuinness “the very best of luck” and hoped that he was successful.