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16 October 2014
BBC NI - Eyewitness

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Rev David McIlveen is minister of Sandown Road Free Presbyterian Church in east Belfast Image of Rev David McIlveen

I believe that sectarianism suggests that you have a group of people who believe that they are right in every detail of their life, whether it is in their practice or in their belief, and therefore they sectionalise themselves from the general public of which they are a part. Sectarianism is something that is anathema, I believe, to every right-thinking person, and certainly from a Christian perspective, it is totally unacceptable.

Would you say that the Free Presbyterian church makes a contribution to the fabric of sectarianism that is part of life in Northern Ireland?

We would not accept that, of course, because as a church we believe in the principle of separation. And we believe because the Bible teaches those principles that it is our responsibility and obligation to propagate those very views that are central to the Bible. Now separation is different from sectarianism, and it would be totally, ah, irresponsible for the Free Presbyterian Church to develop a sectarian approach to its worship, its evangelism, to its whole structure. There will be those who will perceive our church as being extreme, but if our extreme is to be identified with our faithfulness to God, our faithfulness to His word, then we will take that criticism quite happily.

But as a Free Presbyterian minister, would you look askance, for example, if one of your congregation fell in love with, and wanted to marry, a member of the Roman Catholic tradition?

I think that would be something that we would be concerned about - not simply because it was a Free Presbyterian and a Roman Catholic, but because of the diminishing of a person's religious convictions. We have to accept that there is a difference. One cannot hide their head in the sand and say that the Protestant church by nature is the same as the Roman Catholic Church. There are different approaches, different doctrinal interpretations, and in order to make an amicable agreement or arrangement, one would have to compromise their principles from one side to the other.

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