The Church is facing “an ever increasing intolerance”, the new Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland has said, as he called for Christians to speak out boldly in the public square.
Revd Dr Ian McNie said that the Church must defend the right to freely express opinions which it disagrees with, but at the same time society should be tolerant of Christian viewpoints.
Dr McNie made the comments as he was formally elected and installed at the church’s General Assembly in Belfast.
Speaking to some 600 ministers, Dr McNie commented that values are being threatened relating to issues such as the beginning and end of life, as well as freedom of conscience and marriage.
He said: “As a church we want to unashamedly and unambiguously reaffirm our total commitment to the Biblical and historical position of marriage, that marriage is exclusively between one man and one woman, believing that this is God’s blueprint for the well being of society, and any redefinition of this position is not within His plan for His creation.”
Dr McNie also encouraged his hearers not to “retreat into the corner, keep our hands clean and backs covered”. He said that was “not the policy established by Jesus Christ”.
Do not conform
The new Moderator’s comments were echoed by the outgoing Moderator, Revd Dr Michael Barry, who said the Church’s view will not always fit with society.
He said: “Not everyone likes what we believe. But we do not conform to the world’s opinions.
“We do not change our beliefs to fit in with the ways of the world. There will be times we are out of step.”
In February Dr McNie spoke out against the actions of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland over its pursuit of Ashers Baking Company.
He said that the McArthur family, who own and run Ashers Baking Company, had the right to refuse to decorate a cake with a pro-gay marriage message.
“The Equality Commission has gone over the top”, he said, commenting: “It’s a David and Goliath situation and my sympathy is with the Ashers company”.
Ashers lost in court last month, but the company is appealing the decision with the support of The Christian Institute.