A recording of a Free Presbyterian sermon which denounced the DUP’s moves to broaden its appeal was removed from a church website, it has emerged.
Amid growing tension between the church and the party which were the life work of the late Ian Paisley, there has over recent weeks been open conflict between several Free Presbyterian clerics and the DUP over the selection of the party’s first openly gay council candidate.
But the News Letter can reveal that 10 months ago, long before that decision, a sermon was preached from a Free Presbyterian pulpit which savaged the party – but was wiped from the church-maintained website the following day, without explanation.
However, before being removed someone made a copy of the sermon, entitled ‘The Deliverance of Northern Ireland’ and uploaded it to the Soundcloud website.
The Free Presbyterian Church has a long tradition of highly politicised sermons and pointed public denunciations of named individuals, something started by Ian Paisley.
The sermon was preached by Luke Barker, an English-born preacher who moved to Northern Ireland in 2011 to study at the Free Presbyterian theological college.
In his marathon 47-minute sermon last July, Mr Barker told the congregation in Markethill Free Presbyterian Church that there were “three areas where Christians look for deliverance” and said that he wanted to “discredit” one of them – that “Northern Ireland will not be delivered through politics”.
He said: “You say ‘why preach this message; why stick your neck out and cause trouble for yourself?’. Well, my motive is that I want to see this land blessed by God and delivered from its enemies; I’d like to see Northern Ireland remain part of the United Kingdom; I’d like to see Protestantism dominate this country; I’d like to see the cause of Islam, homosexuality, secularism, atheism and Irish republicanism confounded.”
He referred to “the rise of the sodomite or homosexual agenda” in Northern Ireland and “the collapse in morals just over the border in the Irish Republic”, and went on to say that “the problem with democracy ... [is] the pressure to be popular ... you’ve got to please the mob”.
Mr Barker said in the sermon: “I just automatically vote for the Democratic Unionist Party, the DUP – I say it from here: I vote for them every time”, but that he had become increasingly disillusioned with moves by the party.
He read from a News Letter report about Belfast Lord Mayor Brian Kingston’s attendance at a Gay Pride event and cited the party’s meeting with gay marriage campaigners as evidence of it abandoning its religious roots.
He said that he phoned the party and was put through to the press office where he said he was told that the mayor was “doing his civic duties”.
Mr Barker said that during a one-and-a-half hour phone call he quoted the Bible to the press officer and told him: “By mixing with these people and having your picture taken, then surely you’re consenting to what’s going on?”
He said he was “naming names” because some Free Presbyterians may come to church each week and always vote DUP and “still think it’s a good Christian party that stands for truth, but it’s not; it’s gone”.
He denounced Arlene Foster’s attendance at a GAA match on a Sunday, a LGBT event in Stormont and Eid celebrations. And he also cited Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s willingness to welcome the pope to Northern Ireland. Mr Barker put it to the congregation: “Anyone here interested in what the pope has to say? Raise your hand now. No. He’s a devil; he’s an antichrist.”
Mr Barker concluded by saying: “I’ve given up on politics in Northern Ireland. I had great hopes when I came here. I’ve lost all confidence.”
The Rev James Porter was minister of the Markethill church at the time. When asked by the News Letter whether the sermon had been removed because it was critical of the DUP, the Rev Porter said: “I am no longer the minister in Markethill so I really would not want to comment.” He said that he thought that it was unlikely that anyone else would want to comment.
When asked by the News Letter if he had requested that the sermon to be removed, Mr Barker said: “I don’t know why it was removed from SermonAudio. I found it was removed on Monday and I was saddened by that. I have not had an explanation.”
He added: “I don’t regret anything I said in the sermon. All the points were based on the Bible and all the illustrations I researched and confirmed that they were accurate because I wanted to avoid using hearsay or rumour.”
* Audio of the full sermon can be listened to here.