Reflecting on his year in office, outgoing Presbyterian moderator Dr Charles McMullen has contrasted the high of an uplifting Easter Day, with the low of meeting “abandoned” IRA victims in the border regions.
Dr McMullen said he found the church responding to challenges as has he travelled the length and breadth of the country – including work in support of Syrian refugees and church chaplains in the RAF, Army and in our prisons – but said it was vital that innocent victims of terrorism were supported.
“As we move forward in our society, we must not forget those who are still left hurting from the Troubles, who feel abandoned or ignored,” he said.
“The single most harrowing experience of my year was to spend a morning with families in Castlederg and a similar afternoon in Bessbrook.
“It was difficult even to look at photos of totally innocent people who had been murdered by the IRA and to see the tears of heart-broken loved ones who have been left devastated.”
Addressing the general assembly on Monday evening, Dr McMullen recalled visiting many rural congregations across Ireland, describing them as having been “part of the backbone of Presbyterianism for generations ... as they seek to respond to contemporary challenges.”
He said: “Wherever I have travelled, again and again I have been impressed by the faithfulness and dedication of God’s people.
Talking about Scripture, and what it teaches about marriage, Dr McMullen said, “It is our duty to uphold what the Scriptures teach, but to do so in a manner that is pastorally sensitive, does not turn our general assembly into a series of case studies, or a place where we create a hierarchy of sin.
“In a rapidly changing and secularising Ireland, as the Bible reminds us, we need to speak the truth in love and not be perceived to be closing the door to those who would see our churches as a cold place, when we know that not to be the case.”