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World News

Churchgoers criticise next Presbyterian Moderator’s views on women ordination

by Kelly Valencia

More than 150 members of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland have expressed dismay at the incoming moderator, Rev Dr Sam Mawhinney's comments opposing women in ministry.

In an open letter addressed to the outgoing moderator John Kirkpatrick, the group described Rev Mawhinney's comments as "misogynistic remarks" that are "not at all rare within certain quarters" of the Church.

In 1973, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) became the first major Presbyterian denomination to approve the ordination of women as ministers.

Last month, Rev Mawhinney told BBC's Mark Simpson he wasn't in favour of the ordination of women during an interview about his appointment as the new moderator.

"That's a position that I hold, but I respect the Presbyterian Church's view and there are people that disagree with me on that. I don't want to make it a primary issue, but it is something that I hold," he said.

His remarks prompted a statement from the Church's general secretary to clarify that the policy had not changed. He also asserted the denomination "permits those who genuinely and sincerely differ from its position to hold a different personal view".

"Both men and women can apply to be students for the ministry, trained in our college and become eligible to be ordained as full ministers of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland," he added.

Now, the signatories to the letter are demanding church authorities to "act immediately and without prevarication" to "repair the damage to the reputation of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland".

"The Church needs to demonstrate its commitment to upholding the value and worth of women as equals in both the church and in wider society, and to do this by issuing a public statement to that effect," the group wrote.

The Church said it would give the letter "due consideration".

Rev Mawhinney is due to take over the 12-month position in June.

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