Presbyterian Church rejects motion to ‘restore relationship’ with mother church in Scotland

Delegates listen to the debates at Wednesday's general assembly
Delegates listen to the debates at Wednesday's general assembly
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An attempt to “restore the relationship” between the Presbyterian Church and its mother church in Scotland has been rejected by the general assembly.

The South Belfast Presbytery had put forward a memorial at Wednesday’s general assembly which proposed further debate on the decision taken last year to exclude the Church of Scotland moderator from the general assembly based largely on differences on same-sex relationships.

The notice of motion to debate the decision at the general assembly in 2020 was defeated by 353 votes to 187.

Presenting the memorial Morris Gault, minister of Cooke Centenary, said: “I found it difficult to understand last year, that having watched the Scottish moderator leave our assembly obviously heart broken, that we immediately passed a resolution that said that the councils, committees and departments of our church could collaborate with the Church of Scotland for the mutual benefit of both.

“Such meetings have been taking place. So what was the point in passing the earlier resolution?”

Seconding the motion, former clerk of South Belfast Cecil Graham, said: “Our focus is on the restoration of relationships which go back over many centuries. Indeed the Scottish Kirk is regarded as our mother church.

“As in most families there can at times be tensions and disagreements but pastoral experience evidence suggests that the restoration of relations brings healing.”

Opposing the memorial Rev Jonathan Boyd, minister of Hyde Park and Lylehill Church in Templepatrick, said it was “time to move on”.

He said: “It’s been six years since I was ordained and I can’t remember a general assembly where we haven’t debated these issues.

“I don’t see how it does our denomination any good to keep revisiting an idea that is so clearly being rejected in not one, not two, not three, but four successive votes. Surely not even Theresa May wouldn’t go so far as to put the same issue to a fifth vote.”

He added: “I pray that there will be such revival and reform in the church of Scotland that we will be unanimous in wanting to restore these symbolic links, but that time hasn’t come.”

Following the defeat of the memorial clerk of the general assembly Trevor Gribben said: “Democracy is one of the strengths and hallmarks of our Presbyterianism and system of church government – debating together, in general assembly, in an open and transparent way.

“I am sure that there will be some in our church who will be disappointed that this assembly decided not to reopen the debate next year.”