Presbyterian general assembly ready for week of key discussion

The Presbyterian Church general assembly takes place from Monday to Friday next week
The Presbyterian Church general assembly takes place from Monday to Friday next week
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This year’s general assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland will be asked to reconsider its decision to end the exchange of moderators with the Church of Scotland.

The decision to sever formal ties with their sister church in Scotland was passed by a majority vote at last year’s assembly based largely on differences on gay marriage.

Also scheduled for discussion is the decision by Queen’s University to break its link with Union Theological College.

The opening night of the general assembly on Monday will see the formal election of the denomination’s youngest moderator in living memory – Rev Dr William Henry, 50, minister of Maze Presbyterian Church in Co Antrim.

From Tuesday to Friday Rev Dr Henry will preside as around 1,000 ministers and elders from the church’s 500-plus congregations across Ireland will come together for a week of fellowship, worship, prayer, Bible study, celebration, debate and decision-making.

Across the 26 sessions scheduled throughout the week – the vast majority of which are open to the public – members of assembly will have the opportunity to discuss around 110 reports from PCI’s councils, commissions, task groups and committees and be asked to consider resolutions on a diverse range of public issues and church-related matters.

The general assembly will be asked on Tuesday to receive a notice of motion from the presbytery of south Belfast to reconsider the decision to end the exchange of moderators with the Church of Scotland. If the assembly votes to receive the motion this year, a full debate will take place in 2020.

Rev Trevor Gribben, clerk of the general assembly and general secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, said: “I can say without fear of hesitation that church relationships in local villages, towns and cities the length and breadth of Ireland are better than they’ve been for a long time.

“We have challenges with the symbolic nature of our relationship with the Church of Scotland largely because of our church’s view of that church’s theological drift, but on the ground church relationships are better than ever.”

Of the decision by Queen’s University to end its partnership with Union Theological College, Rev Gribben said: “The assembly will be taking time to reflect on that change, but will also be looking forward to hearing of the emerging plans for a new and potentially exciting future for the college.”