The largest Protestant church in the Province has issued an official statement condemning the “intolerance” shown by some people who purport to be liberals, in the wake of the departure of the Lib Dem’s Christian leader.
The Presbyterian Church in Ireland said that Tim Farron’s resignation this month – caused because he felt it was “impossible” for him to both follow Christ and lead a modern liberal political party – was “concerning”.
Mr Farron had been quizzed repeatedly during the election campaign for his views on social issues – particularly whether he regarded gay sex as sinful. The BBC reports that he initially did not “answer directly”, but later said he did not believe it was a sin.
During the election campaign, Mr Farron was quoted as telling gay magazine PinkNews said he supported gay marriage, and that Ashers were wrong to refuse their now-famous ‘gay cake’ order on religious grounds.
During the same campaign, gay comedian David Walliams was among the many people who heaped criticism upon Mr Farron for his “intolerance and prejudice”, stating that he was “definitely a sinner”.
When Mr Farron quit in mid-June, he declared that he had been the “subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in — in which case, we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society”.
Asked by the News Letter to comment on Mr Farron’s departure, the Presbyterian Church issued the following statement: “As a Church we want to see a Public Square where different views and ideas can be held and discussed in a respectful way.
“Tim Farron’s resignation highlights what many people see as a concerning trend of seeking to discredit those who hold beliefs that run contrary to the prevailing societal norm.
“It often seems that those who portray themselves as defenders of liberal values are, at times, in fact extremely illiberal and demonstrate an intolerance of the views of Christians when such views do not fit with their loudly proclaimed societal norm.
“While this is nothing new, it represents a particular challenge in this age of social media, for all followers of Jesus Christ, not least for those in political office.
“During his ministry on earth The Lord Jesus Himself, was at variance to the cultural narrative of His day.
“In John 16 Jesus tells us: ‘In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have over come the world.’
“In the previous chapter He is more specific: ‘If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.’
“While troubling, being misunderstood or wilfully misrepresented is nothing new for those who place their hope in Christ.”