Northern Ireland

Presbyterian ministers warned about bringing church "into disrepute"

Presbyterian Assembly Buildings in Belfast
Image caption The Presbyterian Church in Ireland's General Assembly took place in early June

The clerk of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) has written to ministers warning them against engaging in "public comments" that might bring the church "into disrepute".

The letter followed a special meeting of the General Council on Thursday.

In June the PCI adopted a new policy that means anyone in a same-sex relationship cannot be a full member of the Church.

It also means their children cannot be baptised.

While many ministers have expressed their agreement with the decision of the General Assembly, a number of politicians, ex-clergymen and church members have spoken out against the decision.

It is not stated in the letter if the clarification refers to recent media comments about the issue of same-sex members.

The letter deals with a range of church business.

One section, however, refers to "clarification regarding public debate".

'Disrepute'

It says members are "free to debate reports presented to the Assembly, oppose the conclusions of those reports and seek to have those conclusions rejected".

However it adds that such debates should primarily take place within the General Assembly itself.

It adds that although discussion can take place outside the church "any such public debate involving ministers and elders of the church should seek to avoid discourse that gives rise, or may give rise, to scandal injurious to the purity or peace of the Church".

"Ministers and elders of the Church should ensure that by their public comments they do not bring the church and its agencies into disrepute.

"Ministers and elders should also ensure that their public statements do not amount to contumacy or equate to an open declaration of their intention to take actions that would lead to defiance of or disobedience to the courts of the Church."

The PCI has been contacted for comment.

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