One of the Church of Ireland's most senior leaders has told Premier that the church must model unity in Northern Ireland as a devolved government returns to function, and that its leaders must resist becoming political figures instead of disciples of Christ.
Church leaders from all major denominations in Ireland revealed this week that they had met separately with each of the main Northern Ireland political parties, reporting that all figures had "expressed a desire and willingness to step up to the mark and play their part in restored institutions."
Archbishop John McDowell, the Church of Ireland's Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, told Premier that against the backdrop of sectarianism and decades of troubles that heavily featured religion, the church had a special responsibility to the people of Northern Ireland, in the wake of newfound national hope.
"There's no doubt that we [the church] played a part in not always speaking a word of peace into divided society, and being captive to some ideas which aren't really part of the gospel at all.
"I think there's that part which the church leaders in Ireland have to, in our own very small way, model working and living together and trying to do things together, even though we come from different perspectives.
The Archbishop warned that church leaders must resist the historical tendency to become political figures, regardless of who's in their congregation.
"Church leaders need to remember, we need to remember that while, for instance, the vast majority of the people who would worship in the Church of Ireland, in the north of Ireland would be unionist.
"There's no doubt about that. But that's not I am their leader, I'm not their leader, in the sense of being their political leader. I am a leader, only in the sense as a disciple of Jesus Christ, and everything that we do or say or think needs to be seen in relationship to that primary allegiance, our primary identity, which is in Christ."