Moderator to take part in Queen’s State Funeral

19.9.2022 | Moderator, Church in Society, Statements.

Presbyterian Moderator, Right Reverend Dr John Kirkpatrick, along with other church leaders from the UK and Ireland, is in London this morning to take part in the State Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey.

Speaking ahead of the service, which will he attended by Their Majesties the King and Queen Consort, members of the Royal Family, and heads of state and government from around the world, including the Prime Minister, President of Ireland and An Taoiseach, Dr Kirkpatrick said that it was “an honour to be asked to take part and represent Irish Presbyterians at such an historic and unique moment.”

The Moderator, who also took part in last Tuesday’s Service of Reflection for the life of the late Queen at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast, will take part in the pre-procession through the Abbey along with other church leaders at the start of the service. Dr Kirkpatrick continued, “While a very public occasion, today will be a deeply personal moment for the members of the late Queen’s family. My thoughts and prayers, along with many across our denomination, will be with them today as they continue to grieve in the glare of publicity. It is an honour to be asked to attend and represent Irish Presbyterians at such an historic and unique moment.

“While the focus for many will be on the pageantry and symbolism of such a solemn state occasion as this, it is important that we don’t lose sight of the fact that this is also a day of thanksgiving for the life of Queen Elizabeth. As we reflect on that long life of devoted public service and devotion to her Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, it is my hope that today might be a moment of gospel witness,” Dr Kirkpatrick said.

“Like all families who mourn the loss of a loved one, it is also my prayer that the King and his family, may know the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the anchor of our soul, and our only hope in life and death.”

A gesture of grace

13.9.2022 | Moderator, Church in Society, Statements, Commemorations.

The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Right Reverend Dr John Kirkpatrick, took part in a Service of Reflection for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast this afternoon, saying that the service was ‘a gesture of grace’ while being ‘a special and unique moment’.

Along with Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic Archbishops of Armagh, the Presidents of the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Irish Council of Churches and the Bishop of Connor, Dr Kirkpatrick met Their Majesties the King and Queen Consort when they arrived at the Cathedral and led a prayer during a Christian act of worship. Along with his fellow Church Leaders, the Moderator also took part in the closing blessing.

Speaking after the Service of Reflection, Dr Kirkpatrick said, “Having been a part of this special and unique moment, where we had an opportunity to give thanks to God for the life and service of the Queen, it is still difficult to think back to just a week ago and those pictures of her receiving a new Prime Minister at Balmoral. It is perhaps a reminder that life, however long-lived, is still transient.

“In times of personal loss we see a coming together in families and local communities, where gestures of grace are offered to comfort those who mourn. It is part of who we are, and today I had that same feeling. In that spirit, before the service began, I had an opportunity to convey to the King personally our Church’s deepest, heartfelt and sincere condolences on his loss.”

Dr Kirkpatrick concluded by saying, “As the days unfold perhaps we should take a moment to reflect on the late Queen’s example of service and dedication to her calling, and ask God to show us how we can serve Him and others in our lives.”

Photo: The Moderator, Rt Rev Dr John Kirkpatick speaking to HM the King at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast prior to the start of the Service of Reflection (Credit BBC).

Special presentation as Luther conference opens

13.9.2022 | Moderator, Church in Society, Union Theological College, Reformation 500, Commemorations.

During yesterday evening’s commemorative reception at the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s Union Theological College to mark the opening of its international conference to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s translation of the New Testament, half a millennium on the quiet ongoing work of placing Scripture in the hands of ordinary people in their own heart language was also celebrated.

Entitled ‘Martin Luther: Bible Translator, Illustrator & Publisher’, the two-day event brings together a team of experts from Ireland, the UK the United States and Europe to explore aspects of Luther’s September Testament, its context and influence since its publication in 1522. As an example of Luther’s enduring work 500 years on, and the continued importance of Bible translation, one of the newest publications was presented to the College at the official opening commemorative reception by one of the conference participants – a translation of the New Testament and Psalms in contemporary Eastern Armenian.

Speaking after the reception, and the presentation of the first of two research papers to the conference, College Principal, Reverend Professor Gordon Campbell, said, “During our opening reception, it was important, and indeed appropriate, that we honoured the life and memory of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, who passed away on Thursday afternoon. Tonight we took a moment to pay tribute not only to the late Queen herself, but recognise her vibrant Christian faith, her commitment to personal Bible reading as well as to the promotion of Bible reading more generally, as the Patron of the Bible Society. Perhaps this conference might in some small way honour her rich legacy.”

Talking about the conference, Professor Campbell said that Luther’s September Testament in German was pivotal for the Reformation and a watershed moment in German and European society and culture. “It is difficult to underestimate the powerful catalyst that Luther’s New Testament was for the rapid democratisation of Scripture and its interpretation, themes we are looking at during our conference.”

Professor Campbell continued, “Placing Scripture in the hands of ordinary people and making it more inclusive of German dialects generally, meant that for the first time as a result of Luther’s work, ordinary folk could read for themselves, or hear life-changing verses in their own heart language. Five centuries later providing translations in a people’s heart language is still one of the central principles of Bible translation to this day.”

The College is being partnered by the Bible Society in Northern Ireland, Biblica and Wycliffe Bible Translators, who are supporting the conference, giving attendees the opportunity to connect Luther’s legacy to Bible publication work today. That legacy was also demonstrated with the special presentation to the College’s Gamble Library of a book containing the New Testament and Psalms in contemporary Eastern Armenian.

Published in the Armenian capital Yerevan in April this year, it was presented by one of the conference speakers, Rev Éric Kayayan, director of Foi et Vie Réformées, which translates as ‘Reformed Faith and Life’, who is the chairperson of Christians for Armenia, which translated and published the New Testament. Monsieur Kayayan, who is of Armenian descent, wanted to continue the work of his father, who initially translated the New Testament into Western Armenian in 2005.

“The link between Luther’s September Testament in German and our project is quite conspicuous as it provides Armenian people with a faithful translation of Holy Scripture in a contemporary turn of phrase, while remaining faithful to the original languages,” Monsieur Kayayan said.

“Armenians have had a version of the Bible since 5th century AD. Until now, the various versions, or translations available, were just revisions of older ones and never a direct return to the Hebrew and Greek. Many people in Armenia complained that they did not understand the meaning of the sacred texts. My father had completed a translation of the New Testament in Western Armenian, which is mostly spoken by Armenians in the diaspora. We decided to publish one in Eastern Armenian along with the Psalms, for the sake of Armenians living in the current Republic of Armenia and the surrounding countries.”

Monsieur Kayayan, a specialist on the French Bible, concluded by saying, “Like Luther, however, we were met with opposition from the traditional clergy of the Armenian Apostolic Church, which goes back to the 4th century, and from equally conservative evangelical circles, who opposed the emergence of a new, more accurate translation, branding it as ‘unnecessary’. But we persevered in this demanding work, printing 6,000 copies, which were distributed for free in Armenia to pastors, churches, and individual Christians in April.”

Thanking Monsieur Kayayan, Professor Campbell said, “As I said when we launched the Conference last month, ‘Luther wanted the words of Jesus, the Evangelists and Apostles to be heard at the pace and rhythm of everyday speech on the streets, so that it would appeal to listeners’ ears, lodge in their memory and warm their heart for Christ.’

“It is a great honour to receive this copy of the New Testament, which has its theological roots in Luther’s great translation initiative. With around 1 in 5 people across the world still waiting for the Bible in their own language, it is a practical example of one aspect of Luther’s legacy, which our conference is exploring. It is our prayer that this New Testament and Psalms will be a blessing to all who read it. As Isaiah reminds us God said about His word, ‘…it shall not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.’”

The conference will close on Tuesday with contributors having brought a collective assessment of the relevance and importance of Luther’s Bible publishing project. Through five sessions and the presentation of nine research papers, conversation and Q&As that looked at how Luther’s work influenced the development of the Bible in English and other languages, to how it helped shape the theory and practice of Bible translation, once research is complete the College will be working with an academic publisher to make the Conference Papers available.

As a part of the conference the Presbyterian Moderator, Rt Rev Dr John Kirkpatrick, inaugurated a special exhibition in the Gamble Library where the College Librarian, Joy Conkey, drew attention to key books from the history of Bible translation from 1522 to the present day that were being showcased. Most were from the Gamble Library’s collection, with additional loan items from the Ulster-Scots Agency and from Maynooth University’s Russell Library. The exhibition, which is open to the public over the next few months, also features translations from the original languages into German, English, Gaelic, Scots and Ulster-Scots.

Following the conference, a number of the themes from it will be explored in a series of seminars at the College, entitled ‘The Bible for All’, which start on Thursday, 29 September. Further details can be found on the College website here. An online exhibition to accompany the conference can also be visited at the College website.

Photos: (1) Presbyterian Moderator, Dr John Kirkpatrick (left) with College Principal, Rev Professor Gordon Campbell, who presented the conference’s opening paper, with fellow participants (left to right) Dr Paulian Petric, Seed Company US / Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland, Professor Sabine Hiebsch, Theologische Universiteit Kampen|Utrecht, Rev Éric Kayayan, Foi et Vie Réformées, Dr Fearghus Ó Fearghail, Dublin City University, Dr Shawn Langley, Kirby Laing Centre, Cambridge, and Dr Christine Ganslmayer (2) College librarian Joy Conkey recieves a copy of the New Testement and Psalms in Eastern Armenian from Rev Éric Kayayan in the Gamble Library (3) Dr Kirkpatrick inaugurating the conference exhibition.

Death of the Queen

8.9.2022 | Moderator, Church in Society, Statements.

Presbyterian Moderator, Right Reverend Dr John Kirkpatrick, has offered the Church’s ‘deepest, heartfelt and sincere condolences’ to His Majesty the King, on this evening’s announcement that Her Majesty the Queen passed away peacefully this afternoon at Balmoral.

In paying tribute to Queen Elizabeth, Dr Kirkpatrick said, “On behalf of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, I would like to extend our deepest, heartfelt and sincere condolences to His Majesty the King and the Royal Family, on the loss of one so loved and respected.

“For those in Northern Ireland who express their loyalty to the Crown, few can remember a time when The Queen was not part of the very fabric of national life, as her Platinum Jubilee in June demonstrated. At the same time, for many who do not share that same sense of loyalty, in her long life Queen Elizabeth became one of the most recognisable and respected figures across these islands.

“The Queen will be remembered for her sense of duty and quiet dedication to the service of the people of the United Kingdom, and those farther afield. Her promise, made long ago on her 21st birthday, that her ‘whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service…’ has now been fulfilled, and we give thanks to God for that long and dutiful life,” Dr Kirkpatrick said.

Dr Kirkpatrick continued, “As an all-Ireland denomination, many of our members, and indeed non-members alike, found much hope and encouragement in Her Majesty’s many visits to Northern Ireland, not least during the darkest of days. Few will also forget her state visit to the Republic of Ireland with her late husband, Prince Philip, 11 years ago.

“In a long and significant reign, they were four days in May that not only made history, but quietly closed a chapter in Ireland’s story. A short visit that left a long-lasting impression, which will be remembered for many years to come, alongside her commitment to peace and reconciliation,” he said.

The Moderator concluded by saying, “In acknowledging a life of devotion to public service, I will always remember The Queen’s willingness to talk about her personal faith in Jesus Christ. I was greatly encouraged by her Christian witness, which was a wonderful example for everyone who acknowledges the name of Jesus as their Saviour.

“A blessing to so many, I remember Her Majesty talking of Jesus in one Christmas broadcast as ‘an inspiration and an anchor in my life’. At this time of great sadness, bereavement and loss, it is my prayer that His Majesty the King, and Royal family, will take heart in that simple, but profound declaration. It is also my prayer that they may know the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the anchor of our soul, and our ultimate comforter in times of great sadness.”

Moderator congratulates new SoS on his appointment

7.9.2022 | Moderator, Church in Society, Statements.

Presbyterian Moderator, Right Reverend Dr John Kirkpatrick, has congratulated Northamptonshire MP, Chris Heaton-Harris, on his appointment as Northern Ireland’s 24th Secretary of State.

“The call to public service, especially to political office, can often be onerous, especially in uncertain and challenging times. On behalf of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, I would like to offer my congratulations to Mr Heaton-Harris on his appointment and assure him of my prayers, along with the prayers of many in our Church across the island of Ireland,” Dr Kirkpatrick said.

“Mr Heaton-Harris assumes this office, along with his Cabinet colleagues, at a time when the UK is facing some of the most trying and complex domestic issues, especially the increasing impact of the cost of living emergency alongside the energy crisis. On top of these, as Secretary of State he will have to deal with the unique issues which confront Northern Ireland, including matters relating to the Northern Ireland Protocol and the continued lack of a functioning Executive.”

In a letter to the newly appointed Secretary of State, Dr Kirkpatrick said “Last September my predecessor said that the power-sharing arrangements which exist in Northern Ireland, ‘while not by any means perfect, are precious.’ As a Church, we deeply regret that circumstances are such that parties have not found themselves in a position to re-form the Assembly and Executive, especially at this time of mounting hardship so that significant issues like the cost of living emergency, healthcare reform, education and a budget, can be addressed.

“It is my hope and prayer that working with your colleagues in Government, along with local parties, and the Irish Government, you will be able to facilitate the necessary steps that create the circumstances whereby devolution can be restored,” he said.

Dr Kirkpatrick concluded his letter by saying, “Earlier this week, in a letter to the Prime Minister, I said that the Apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 13:4 that the ‘one in authority is God’s servant for good.’ While the issues you face are many and varied, as you get to grips with your office, I am also reminded that Jesus calls us to go the extra mile. In that, you can also be assured of my prayers and those of many in our Church.”

Moderator congratulates the UK’s next PM

5.9.2022 | Moderator, Church in Society, Statements.

With the announcement today that Liz Truss is to be the United Kingdom’s next Prime Minister, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Right Reverend Dr John Kirkpatrick, has offered his congratulations to her as she assumes office saying, ‘the in-tray awaiting the new Prime Minister contains some of the most difficult and complex issues that have faced the UK and farther afield in a generation.’

“On behalf of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, I would like to offer my congratulations to Ms Truss as she assumes the UK’s highest political office”, Dr Kirkpatrick said.

“The in-tray awaiting the new Prime Minister contains some of the most difficult and complex issues that have faced the UK and farther afield in a generation. From the cost of living crisis to the war in Ukraine, industrial unrest in Great Britain to record levels of inflation, I recognise that this will be a very challenging time for any new Prime Minister. Alongside these important issues, I would urge the new government to encourage the formation of the Northern Ireland Executive and resolve matters relating to the Northern Ireland Protocol.”

Dr Kirkpatrick continued, “For those of us who are disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are called to pray for those in authority. Ms Truss can be assured of my prayers and those of many throughout our Church across the island of Ireland as she begins the work of government and starts to deal with the vast array of issues before it.

“The Bible also reminds us that the ‘one in authority is God’s servant for good’ (Romans 13:4). Bearing that in mind, it is my hope and prayer that Ms Truss will prioritise those who are vulnerable and in need, while at the same time, upholding with dignity and respect the office that she has been entrusted with.”

Moderator writes to Hargey & Humphreys

2.9.2022 | General Assembly, Moderator, Church in Society, Public Affairs.

Presbyterian Moderator, Right Reverend Dr John Kirkpatrick, has written to Deirdre Hargey MLA, Minister for Communities in Northern Ireland and Heather Humphreys TD, Minister for Social Protections and Minister for Rural and Community Development in the Republic of Ireland, regarding widespread concerns around the cost of living crisis.

In his letter, Dr Kirkpatrick drew the attention of both ministers to a resolution passed by the General Assembly in June, which urged both administrations ‘…to not only find ways to mitigate the immediate crisis, but also prioritise the development of anti-poverty strategies in each jurisdiction that begin to tackle the root causes of endemic poverty on the island.’

The Moderator also highlighted last week’s Church Leaders statement on the cost of living crisis and his predecessor’s comments in a statement in March on the situation. Dr Kirkpatrick wrote that ‘At that time, he [Dr Bruce] also echoed concerns that the faith, charity and third sector organisations should not be expected alone to alleviate the growing financial pressures experienced by many in society, and called on the political parties North and South to prioritise the development of an anti-poverty strategy within their respective jurisdictions.’

Dr Kirkpatrick also pointed out that Presbyterian congregations across Ireland, along with others, continued to find ways to respond to the pressures faced by families and individuals in their local communities. This includes supporting foodbanks, providing debt counselling services, and more recently, for example, school uniform projects ahead of the start of the new term.

In conclusion, the Moderator said that PCI representatives were willing to engage with both ministers and their officials ‘on any initiatives or policy development through which we might work together for the common good, and which might usefully contribute to the pursuit of a peaceful and just society.’