‘We desperately miss you over gay row’ Church of Scotland tells Irish counterparts

06-06-2017: This year's General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland
06-06-2017: This year's General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland

A Church of Scotland cleric has said his church “desperately misses” the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) as a result of a rift over differing views on gay marriage.

The comments came from the Church of Scotland’s Rt Rev Dr Derek Browning at the PCI’s General Assembly on Tuesday.

The last time the PCI attended the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly was 2014, as a result of the latter’s attitude to same-sex marriage.

In 2015 the Church of Scotland voted to allow people in same-sex civil partnerships to serve as ministers and deacons, a decision which was at odds with a great many Presbyterians in Northern Ireland.

Last month the Scottish Church moved a step closer to allowing ministers to perform gay marriages.

The PCI’s snub to its Scottish counterparts has not deterred a reciprocal visit, and on Tuesday in Assembly Buildings in Belfast, Rev Browning told those gathered: “As I bring you our greetings from Scotland, it would be remiss of me not to say that we have desperately missed you these recent years, and note with real hope and delight the possibility that you will be with us in 2018.

“It is important not only when we are in agreement, but also when we are in disagreement that the courtesy and the kindness that is a hall mark of our mutual faith is extended to each other.

“In the frank exchange of views, how we treat each other must be sign of grace and kindliness that we find consistently in Christ.

“For me, and for mine, the door has been and will continue to be wide open, and you will be most welcome.

“At our General Assembly and now yours, beyond the events of Manchester and London, Egypt and Kabul, beyond the looming General Election.

“God’s hope will remain an inconvenient challenge. Each one of us has our agenda; each one of us has our world-view and blind-spot.

“In our world there are too many communities, and individuals within them, who are not heard, and who no longer find a place at the table of public or church life.

“In our often bleak world, may your message be one of God’s rainbow hope which we may all share.”

On Thursday, the relationship between the PCI and Church of Scotland is expected to be discussed in more detail.

Having been installed on Monday evening as Moderator, Rt Rev Dr Noble McNeely will chair the annual weeklong gathering of 1,000 ministers and elders from the Church’s 500-plus congregations across Ireland with major emphasis on plans to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.