The Presbyterian Church in Ireland is one of the most democratic denominations on these islands, with the structures and organisation of congregational life in the church operated from the bottom up.
This historical and firmly based modus operandi will be in evidence at next week’s Presbyterian General Assembly in Belfast when 1,000 ministers and elders, representative of 500 congregations across Ireland, will deliberate on theological, social, political and education issues pertinent to concerns of the church’s 225,000 members.
“Presbyterians from across Ireland, ministers who have been called by their congregations, elders who have been elected by their brothers and sisters in Christ, will join to listen, question, debate, often robustly and take decisions jointly,” Presbyterian general secretary, the Rev Trevor Gribben, confirms.
“The discussions we have, and the decisions we take, will set the direction for the life and ministry of the Church for the coming year and beyond. It is not only a collective and prayerful process, but a democratic one in the best sense of Presbyterianism,” he adds.
The General Assembly begins on Monday night with the installation of the new moderator, the Rev Dr William Henry, and continues on a daily basis until Friday.
This year’s assembly will receive a report on human rights, which seeks to establish a framework, based on Biblical principles, that will assist the denomination as it seeks to respond to rights-based issues.
The assembly will also debate a report on guidelines for church planting and extension to ensure the church’s growth in different ways.
In a presentation entitled ‘Life Always Matters’, the church will speak to the professional world and public square on the dignity of human life. In a commissioned video, and a panel discussion involving three Presbyterian elected representatives, the Assembly examined dementia and end of life care and child and adolescent mental health.