Rev Ian Brown took over as minister of Martyrs’ Memorial Free Presbyterian Church from DUP founder Ian Paisley in 2013.
His church is currently attended by, among others, three DUP MLAs and at least two DUP councillors.
He would not divulge who the politicians are (although DUP MLAs Christopher Stalford and Gordon Dunne have in the past been linked to the church).
“As a Gospel minister my perspective is going to be what Proverbs teaches: ‘Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people’ – that has to be my core guiding light,” he told the News Letter, quoting from the Book of Proverbs chapter 14, verse 34 (KJV).
“Therefore the more our country is allowed to drift from its moral rules then the worse it’s going to be for every single person.
“Countries do not prosper by surrendering moral principles.
“Therefore there’s a lot of ground be made up again on the whole abortion issue; that’d be a chief concern of mine.
“As a local church we’re certainly praying that there will be a rolling back of the tide of moral decline.”
He re-iterated that it is abortion – above and beyond many other socially-liberal causes – that concerns him most, especially the imposition of it upon the Province from Westminster.
“That’s something that is deplorable, and must be resisted,” he said.
“People have talked a lot about red lines over the years. That has to be an absolute, non-negotiable red line.
“We talk about hills to die on – well, that’s a hill to die on.”
He said that the country as a whole needs “a lot of corrective surgery, morally,” and acknowledged that much of the opposition to abortion has come from within the DUP ranks (and those of the TUV).
“I’d hope that that opposition would become even more definite and unambiguous,” he said. “We stand in huge need of divine intervention. I’d be hoping our country can spiritually and morally perform a U-turn.”
The Free Presbyterian Church was founded in the 1950s by Ian Paisley.
By 1971, it had 7,337 adherents in Northern Ireland according to Census.
By the time of ther 2011 census, the figure stood at just over 10,000.
Though the denomination is relatively small (it sits just behind Pentecostals and Baptists in the 2011 census figures) it is disproportionately well-connected politically, thanks to the close links between the DUP and the church historically – with Rev Paisley heading up both simultaneously.
Arlene Foster herself is a member of the Church of Ireland.
Edwin Poots, a longstanding senior DUP figure and one of those touted as being a possible DUP leadership candidate, is on record himself as having been a chorister at Hillsborough Free Presbyterian Church.
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.
With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers — and consequently the revenue we receive — we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.
Subscribe to newsletter.co.uk and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.newsletter.co.uk/subscriptions now to sign up.
Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.