Church unity worshippers 'intimidated' by protest

Impartial Reporter
27 Jan 2005

Protesters gathered outside the Church of Ireland's Rossorry parish
church last Friday as Catholics and Protestants inside joined in

The joint service at the Enniskillen church was one of three arranged
in Fermanagh to mark Christian Unity Week.
Father Brian D'Arcy, from the Graan, delivered a sermon on `God With
Us in our Suffering', examining the global impact of the tsunami.

But as worshippers approached the gates of the church, they were met
by a gathering of up to 40 protesters carrying placards and
conducting an open-air meeting of their own.

Some of the worshippers entering the church had found the protest
intimidating, Archdeacon Cecil Pringle, rector of Rossorry Church,
It was organised by Kilskeery and Bethel Free Presbyterian churches.
Congregation members handed out leaflets outlining the reasons for
their opposition to ecumenical gatherings.

These included the Church of Ireland's condemnation of Catholicism in
its 39 articles, as well as the Decree on Ecumenism from Vatican II
which sought to gather all Christians to the Catholic church.
The Rev. Ivan Foster, from Kilskeery Free Presbyterian Church,
admitted the worshippers entering Rossorry Church were "mainly
dedicated ecumenists" and were unlikely to be interested in learning
more about why the protesters were opposing the meeting.

"The activities of Canon Pringle and this bringing of the priest Mr
D'Arcy in so blatantly in violation of Mr Pringle's stated doctrines
and his ordination oath - we feel that it needs to be highlighted,"
he said.

"It underscores that the present unity movement is one that is based
upon a deceit and a falsehood.
"If he said `I no longer believe Church of Ireland doctrine and I am
going to amalgamate myself with the Roman Catholic Church', there is
nobody who could protest about that. He's free to do that.
"It's the fact that Mr Pringle says that he believes the 39 articles
of the Church of Ireland."

Rev. Foster said Free Presbyterians were lambasted for all sorts of
things, but were not living in violation of what they stood for.
This charge could be laid against every minister who involved
themselves in the church unity movement, he said.

These ministers had consistently shied away from debating the issue,
he said.
Fr D'Arcy said he didn't want to comment about events outside a
different church, but added: "It's a struggle to find our God, no
matter what religion we believe in, and that is what we have to do.
He's the one God who loves us all."
Archdeacon Pringle said the outdoor protest, conducted with the aid
of a microphone mounted on a car, did not harm the ecumenical service
at all.
"Some of the people coming in found it quite intimidating," he said.
"I was surprised. It's the kind of thing that happened on a number of
occasions back in the late 60s and 70s.

"I found it just sad. I think sometimes we pray for Christians in
other countries who are hindered in worshipping. It's sad that
Christians coming to worship in Rossorry Church on Friday evening
were being hindered."
Responding to the protesters' criticisms of ecumenism, Archdeacon
Pringle said: "We have to remember that written Christian doctrine is
always set in the context of the history of the time in which it was

Worshippers read lessons and prayers based on the theme `Christ, the
one foundation of the Church', he said.
"If [the protesters] had come inside and shared in the worship, they
would have felt the warmth. It was a warm, inclusive and inspiring
act of worship," Archdeacon Pringle said.

"It was one of the most uplifting and spiritual experiences I've had
in a long time."

The sermon by Fr D'Arcy on `God with us in our suffering' was a
moving one, he said.

"It really was the most moving and inspiring theme, in a way which I
haven't heard for a long number of years," Archdeacon Pringle said.

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