Category Archives: Free Presbyterian

Presbyterians And Brexit

On the eve of the referendum in the United Kingdom on whether they should leave the European Union I wanted to very quickly look at where various Presbyterians stand on the issue.

To my knowledge, the only top governing body or denomination that has taken a stand is the 2016 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland which endorsed remaining in the European Union. In the article the convener of the Church and Society Council, the Rev. Sally Foster Fulton, says that it is a work in progress and remaining is the only way to influence the transformation.

While the Presbyterian Church in Ireland has not taken a stand, they did publish an article to help people understand the referendum and think about it.

And some churches have been hosting debates as well including the London Kirk and Craigy Hill Presbyterian Church.

If there is another official denominational voice on this please let me know and I would be happy to update.

There are some prominent individual voices that have weighed in so sticking with the Church of Scotland one of those voices is the Hanna Mary Goodlad, the Moderator of the National Youth Assembly, who was highlighted in a separate article articulating reasons to stay. She tied it to her trip to the Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial Centre and Cemetery in Bosnia where more than 5,000 people are buried, the scene of the worst European genocide since World War II. The message was Europe is more peaceful and stable if it is united.

There are prominent individual voices on the other side. One of these is the Rev. David Robinson, the immediate past Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland, who says that after spending no small amount of time studying the issue:

[Democracy] is for me the key issue. Those who make our laws should be accountable to those for whom they are made. The elected should answer to the electorate. The demos needs a democracy. And the European project is fundamentally at its core anti-democratic.

And for a very different perspective, from Northern Ireland we have the Rev. David McMillan of the Free Presbyterians who favors leaving. The article in the Irish Times talks about his view that the European Union was prophesied by Daniel and that “this union of nations would bring to a close ‘the Times of the Gentiles'(the end of the world)”.

I will leave it at that.

Our prayers are with the UK tomorrow as they make this important decision.

Presbyterian News Headlines For The Second Half Of June 2015

Having gotten behind on news headlines I am just going to push the reset button and post a current one. And yes, a bunch of other stuff is sitting as drafts or in research right now.

There was a lot of news the in this time period so here are some headlines on select topics from the second half of June. (Not counting some GA stuff I plan to post on separately.)

In a still developing situation, two Presbyterian pastors from South Sudan have gone on trial in Sudan for preaching there (including some more recent information):

In Sudan: Imprisoned pastors facing possible death penalty barred from seeing families, lawyers – from Pulse Nigeria

Are Christians in Sudan facing persecution? – from BBC News

Sudan: South Sudanese Priests Defend Themselves During Trial Session – from allAfrica

PCUSA Writes to President Obama with Concern Regarding Imprisoned Sudanese Pastors – from Christianity Daily


The shootings and grieving at and for Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston had some Presbyterian connections:

‘All Shall Be Well’: Hear the Touching Voicemail from Charleston Massacre Victim Sharonda Coleman-Singleton – from People (and a bit more from the Presbytery of Los Ranchos)

Denmark Vesey and Clementa Pinckney – from Cheraw Chronical; The freed slave Denmark Vesey who founded Emmanuel AME was before that a member of Second Presbyterian Church next door

Salisbury native leads vigil in Charleston after mass shooting – from Salisbury Post; And while Emmanuel AME was closed Second Presbyterian next door provided space for prayer services

Cynthia Hurd funeral delivers a message of hope and mark on history – from The Charlotte Observer; Second Presbyterian also providing overflow seating for funerals

Delaware Pastor Writes Hymn for Charleston Victims ‘They Met to Read the Bible;’ Song Goes Global – from The Christian Post


A terrorist attack in Tunisia took 38 lives, most of them tourists from Britain on holiday. It included two from Scotland praised for their faith and work in the Church of Scotland. Their funeral was just held.

Tunisia attack: Prayers at Cumbernauld church for couple – from BBC News

Tributes paid to Scottish Christian couple killed in Tunisia terrorist attack – from Christian Today

Tunisia beach attack: funeral held in Scotland for Jim and Anne McGuire – from The Guardian


Digging back a little bit, in the various meetings this spring a number of Reformed branches have voted to become more inclusive, with some reactions from more traditional denominations:

French Protestant church allows gay marriage blessing – from Reuters UK

Largest Protestant denomination in Belgium allows gay and lesbian clergy – from Gay Star News; “The Synod of the United Protestant Church of Belgium has voted to decide that being gay should not be a barrier to being a minister in the church which already performs blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples.”

Russian Church severs ties with Scotland & France churches; warns a blessing of LGBT clergy paves the way for the Antichrist – from Christian Examiner


And looking at it more broadly:

Free Presbyterians slam supporters of ‘yes’ vote – from Portadown Times; a reaction to the Ireland referendum

Minister faces Presbytery probe over same-sex views – from Portadown Times; the only Presbyterian Church in Ireland minister to openly support the “Yes” vote was examined over her beliefs

How humanists changed Scottish marriage – from BBC News; “The first humanist wedding in Scotland took place exactly 10 years ago. Over the past decade the number of ceremonies conducted by humanist celebrants has grown massively, already overtaking Catholic weddings and threatening to replace Church of Scotland as the most popular belief service.”


A publicity campaign by the Church of Scotland to recruit new, and younger, ministers appears to be working:

Church of Scotland hails recruitment drive success – from The Scotsman


And in Zimbabwe, the Health Minister thanks the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland for working with the local residents to build a clinic, but more are needed:

Health Minister Says More Clinics Needed in Nkayi – from Voice of America Zimbabwe


From the PC(USA)

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) missions chief resigns – from WDRB; Linda Valentine steps down as executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency


A ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court goes in favor of a small Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church and its temporary signage in Gilbert, Arizona:

Supreme Court rules for church in case against Arizona town’s sign law – from The Washington Post


In the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) a battle over property between the Livingstonia Synod and a break-away church as well as a dispute involving an out-spoken cleric in Blantyre Synod.

CCAP Controversies Rage On: Livingstonia battle and Blantyre Synod Infighting – from Nyasa Times


High-profile PCA pastor, TE Tullian Tchividjian, resigns admitting infidelity

Renowned South Florida pastor steps down amid marital affair – from Local 10

After affair leads to pastor’s exit, Coral Ridge worshippers urged to keep the faith – from The Sun Sentinel


A proud adherent, if not member, of the PC(USA) declares his candidacy for President of the United States. Worth noting that his church, First Presbyterian of Jamaica, Queens, is the oldest continually serving Presbyterian church in the U.S.

5 faith facts about Donald Trump: a Presbyterian who collects Bibles – from Religion News Service

Donald Trump Is A Proud Presbyterian – from World Religion News

And finally, it may not be continuously serving, but a neighbor of First Presbyterian, Jamaica, was founded a bit earlier and is celebrating a milestone anniversary.

First Presbyterian Church of Southold to Celebrate 375th Year Anniversary – from Long Island Exchange

Earthquake in Nepal: Science And Response

It has been a while since I have made some scientific comments about an earthquake so for those of you who are not aware, I am an earthquake geologist and part of my day job is research and public outreach related to earthquakes.

Needless to say the earthquake over the weekend in Nepal got my attention and my response may be a bit surprising – no surprises here.

If you have been following the coverage you know that the most commonly reported magnitude measurement puts it at 7.8 although another slightly different magnitude measurement scale gives is a value of 8.1. For the record those of us in the business don’t spend a lot of time fretting the differences between the scales. Let’s just say that they all measure the event in slightly different ways and each has it’s advantages and disadvantages. The bottom line is that it is a big earthquake.

The most interesting scientific result to me is the finite fault model. This is a method of reconstructing the behavior of the earthquake as the fault breaks and it is interesting to note that the fault started breaking on the west end and broke to the east. In addition, the larger fault offsets were in the eastern portion and both of these circumstances would have increased the damage in the Kathmandu area. In addition, at 15 km deep it was relatively shallow and therefore more destructive. In addition, Kathmandu sits in a basin with soft sediments which would also amplify the shaking for a couple of different reasons. The circumstances of this quake were not in its favor.

You may have caught in the news coverage that there was a slightly larger earthquake in this area back in 1934 so these events do occur on a regular basis. There have been some other smaller earthquakes in the area but this event does overlap with both the 1934 event and the previous substantial event back in A.D. 1255. The Earth Observatory of Singapore has a nice page with a lot of technical information about the event. There is also a set of slides from IRIS (available in a PDF file) that gives a great overview of the event.

The bottom line is that this is a plate boundary where India is colliding with and going under Asia — very large earthquakes are to be expected. The Himalaya are being pushed up and Southeast Asia is getting squeezed out the side. In fact, this event moved Kathmandu about 10 feet south and raised the central Himalaya a little bit and Mt. Everest is most likely a bit taller, but think in terms of an inch, not feet. The majority of the motion is horizontal and this was a pulse in the constant shortening of Asia that is bringing Beijing closer to New Delhi. [Update: My initial uplift calculations were a bit off and Mt. Everest appears to be on the far side of the flexture line and is actually now an inch shorter.]

Aftershocks will continue for a while but with a couple in the magnitude 6 range and a good number of magnitude 5 events everything is looking typical. The big question is triggering and whether the stress redistribution of this event will make another large earthquake more – or less – likely. It would seem that triggering another earthquake is likely but it is best to think on the scale of decades to centuries and not a few days, months or years.

So what Presbyterian news has come out related to this?

First, branches are reporting on the status of their workers in that area: The missionaries from the neighboring Mizoram Synod are reported safe and have declined evacuation and will continue working there. Similarly, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the Church of Scotland have reported that their workers are safe and furthermore that all the workers with their partner agency, the United Mission to Nepal, are safe. And the Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church of Northern Ireland returned from Nepal the day of the earthquake and the church reports that members and workers with the Free Presbyterian Church of Nepal are shaken but safe.

Second, work has kicked into high gear across the Presbyterian family to solicit relief aid for the country. A quick rundown:

I will keep updating that list as I hear of more branches who are reaching out with aid for that country.

As we look ahead prayers for the country are certainly in order. The death toll has passed 5,000 and based on the building styles and the disruption of communication with smaller villages I think the Prime Minister’s estimate of 10,000 dead is unfortunately a real possibility. Thank you for your prayers and however you can help out in this disaster.

Top Ten Presbyterian News Themes Of 2014

As we close out this eventful year I will once again join the numerous sources putting out top ten lists for the year that was. And as in past years my primary focus will be on stories, or themes, that were seen across multiple Presbyterian branches with a few more selective ones thrown in.

General Assemblies and Same-Sex Relationships

This was probably the top news theme of the year: The Church of Scotland GA sending to the presbyteries, and the presbyteries approving, language for churches to opt-out of the traditional standards. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 221st GA approving language to redefine marriage in its Book of Order and it appears on path to approval in the presbyteries. The Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand approving a change to their Book of Order to prohibit same-sex marriages. And momentum is building around an overture to the next Presbyterian Church in Canada GA that would remove the prohibition against ministers being in a same-sex relationship.


This was a category that really caught my attention this year but which I have yet to write up in detail. In any year there is interesting seminary news, like Doris J. García Rivera’s installation as president of the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico. But this seemed to be a year with more initiatives than normal.

These included the reorganization of the Free Church Seminary as the Edinburgh Theological Seminary. There was also the new joint initiative between Reformed Theological Seminary and Redeemer Church in New York City.

More radical seminary initiatives include a non-accredited communal seminary associated with Church of All Nations in Minneapolis and San Francisco Theological Seminary has launched a Center for Innovation in Ministry with a workshop on the theology of video games.

But the one that I have found most interesting is the Redesigned Master of Divinity Program at Fuller Theological Seminary. Fuller listened to their alumni and launched a new program which is described in part like this:

Many graduates can no longer count on traditional systems to create jobs for them. They will have to invent new ways to minister. Our reshaped curriculum is designed to prepare students with entrepreneurial skills.

One of the interesting things about this new initiative, and Fuller in general right now, is the prominence of Presbyterian leadership. In addition to Mark Labberton becoming President last year, the initiative is under the oversight of Scott Cormode, the Academic Dean. Behind the Vocation and Formation part of the initiative are some well-known Presbyterian faces that include Tod Bolsinger, Steve Yamaguchi and Laura Harbert.

Congregations Switching Branches

The moves between branches continue with the PC(USA) once again transferring more churches than it closes. And in the Church of Scotland there has been a slower, but noticeable, departure.

The other interesting movement is churches moving from the Reformed Church of America to the Presbyterian Church in America. Last Spring one of the flagship churches, University Reformed Church, voted to transfer. This fall five churches in Illinois have also voted to make the move.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

The General Assemblies of both the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand considered this issue. In the PC(USA) the Assembly did not approve an outright divestment but referred it to the Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee for further consideration. The PCANZ instructed their Property Trustees to divest and recommended that individual churches do likewise.

Independence Referendum in Scotland

The Church of Scotland was prominent in the time leading up to the Scottish Independence Referendum with an open session at their General Assembly that presented a variety of voices on the subject and further national and regional level gatherings leading up to the vote. Following the vote there was a service of unity hosted by the Kirk.

The Free Church of Scotland also held a session at their General Assembly and issued their own material providing viewpoints on Independence.


For the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) this was certainly a hot topic with a GAPJC decisioncivil legal challenges, settlements and high-valued negotiations. For this post the full extent of the property news is left as an exercise for the reader but there are still a lot of open questions and at the moment there seems to be momentum in favor of the hierarchical church.

Another property news item is the Greyfriars Church in Port of Spain, Trinidad. The historic structure was sold to a developer and it’s future is uncertain. Some preliminary demolition has begun and efforts are underway to try and preserve it.

PC(USA) Ethics Investigation

In a still developing story, it was revealed that four PC(USA) church development employees associated with Presbyterian Centers For New Church Innovation were the subjects of an internal ethics investigation for not following policy in setting up an outside non-profit corporation to facilitate distribution of 1001 Worshiping Communities funds. Initially there were administrative actions taken but as the story grew the four were placed on administrative leave and an outside law firm brought in to conduct an independent investigation. At year’s end it was decided that firm had a conflict of interest and a new firm was chosen.

Israel-Palestine Actions

The other hot topic leading up to the PC(USA) General Assembly was issues around Israel-Palestine. At the previous GA a proposal for divestment from three companies who profited from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory failed by a very narrow three-vote margin. The proposal was returning to this GA. In addition, a PC(USA) affiliated group, The Israel/Palestine Mission Network, (IPMN) issued a controversial study guide Zionism Unsettled that questioned Israel’s character and identity. While IPMN does not speak for the PC(USA) the study guide was sold by the official Presbyterian Distribution Services making the distinction fuzzy in many minds. In addition, there was some advanced controversy when the commissioner chosen to moderate the related commissioner committee was asked to step down because a number of people questioned his impartiality.

The 221st General Assembly did approve the divestment proposal by a slim seven-vote margin, but the action also encourages ecumenical dialogue in the region and affirms the denomination’s commitment to Israel and the peace process.

The Presbyterian Distribution Service dropped Zionism Unsettled shortly after the Assembly and it is now available on the IPNM web site. However, studies around this topic are available on Thoughtful Christian.

Women’s Ordination and Related

The religion gender issues news this year was dominated by the Church of England and the completion of the process to have women serve as bishops. In fact, in Presbyterian circles it was a very quiet year for complementarian/egalitarian discussions, which in itself is probably news.

The one big item is the decision by the Mizoram Synod conference to reject a long-standing request from Kohhran Hmechhia, the Women Ministry of the Presbyterian Church, to ordain women theologians.

In another story, history was made when Michael Barry and Liz Hughes tied in the first round of voting for Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. Rev. Barry was elected in the second round by one vote over Rev. Hughes and a third candidate, Rev. McNie. This was the strongest showing that a female candidate has had in the election.

Death of Ian Paisley

Among several notable deaths in the Presbyterian community, the death of Ian Paisley stands out for his iconic status in both Northern Irish religion as the leading founder of the Free Presbyterian Church and for his important roll in politics and reconciliation in Norther Ireland.

And a couple of other Presbyterian-ish stories

Knox 500

While the date of birth of John Knox is not known with certainty, the best information suggests that it may have been in 1514 making this the 500th year of his birth. This was marked by the Knox 500 Conference in Edinburgh as well as the making of a documentary about him titled “Give Me Scotland.”

Spectacular Viking treasure hoard found on Church of Scotland land

Not your typical religion news story but a very important archaeological discovery involving the Kirk and a couple of its ministers as well as a metal detectionist.

And let me take a moment to throw in two transitions: The retirement of Jerry Van Marter after over 26 years with the Presbyterian News Service and Jack Haberer stepping down from the helm of the Presbyterian Outlook to return to parish ministry. Best wishes to both in their new settings.

And those are some of the highlights of 2014. Now as we look ahead to 2015 – and many of my friends around the world are already there or now busy celebrating Hogmanay – I wish all of you a very Happy New Years and best wishes for the coming year.

May you balance your ardor and order and remember to be decent and in order.

Happy New Year!

Presbyterian News Headlines For The First Half Of September

Yes, I really am four, soon to be five, installments behind on the news headlines coverage. So here goes one and we will see if we can get caught up.

The Presbyterian-related news for early September was dominated by the Scottish Independence Referendum and the place of the Church of Scotland and the Free Church of Scotland in that debate. I mention this only as reminder since I dealt with that in its own piece at the time. But stay tuned because the IndyRef decision was not for the status quo but for restructuring the relationships within the United Kingdom, a task that is only beginning.

In other news…

In a tragic accident in Chicago

Chicago woman killed by gargoyle falling from landmark Second Presbyterian Church – from The Washington Post

Second Presbyterian Church Being Check Out; Family Files Wrongful Death Suit – from Sloopin Blog

The network of Arizona sanctuary churches expands to Tempe

Churches Offer Sanctuary to Immigrants in Danger of Deportation – from The Wall Street Journal

In the Church of Scotland the departure of pastors and parts of congregations continue:

Tarbert group of 94 quits the Church of Scotland – from BBC News

Statement on congregation departure in Tarbert – from Church of Scotland

Gay Inclusiveness Costs Church of Scotland Clergy – from EDGE Media

Church of Scotland [presbytery] moderator intervenes over gay minister row – STV

In Malawi, the Livingstonia Synod of the CCAP comes out against the political proposal for an independent North Malawi/Nyika Republic as being politically motivated and having left the people out of the process.


Livingstonia Synod clarify stand on North Malawi independence – from Nyasa Times

The death of Northern Ireland political and religious leader Rev. Dr. Ian Paisley:

Ian Paisley, the Dr No of Ulster politics, dies aged 88 – from The Guardian

Ian Paisley – obituary from The Economist

In the mould of an Old Testament prophet, Paisley founded his own church – from The Irish Times

And a milestone anniversary for a church in Dover, Delaware, that was planted by America’s original presbytery

Dover’s Presbyterian Church celebrates 300 years of service – from Dover Post

Now, on to the second half of the month.

Presbyterian News Headlines For The Second Half Of February 2014

As I try to once again get caught up here the task was not made any easier by the numerous interesting stories that fell into this time period. So, I bring you a select few of the items that caught my attention last month…

Updating one story I mentioned earlier about a retired Presbyterian pastor in Asia on trial for charges many outside observers have found questionable:

KAZAKHSTAN: Criminal conviction, large “moral damages” – and new criminal case? – from Forum 18 News Service

And a terrorist attack in Egypt on a bus full of visitors from Jincheon Jungang Presbyterian Church in South Korea:

South Korean church mourns after Egypt bombing – from Salon

The Church of Scotland had a number of news headlines in this time period in matters related to civil politics. The first main topic is the release of their report on the consultations regarding the Scottish independence referendum:

Church of Scotland calls for integrity and community to be at the heart of the debate about Scotland’s future – press release from the Church of Scotland

People not basing referendum vote on financial gain or loss, says Kirk – from stv news

Kirk says community, not money, must be at heart of independence debate – from Christian Today

The second is a law passed in the Scottish Parliament which would create a safety net for children by appointing a guardian for every Scottish child and which the Kirk raised questions about:

Concerns raised over named person for Scots children plan – from BBC News

Scottish ministers threatened with legal action over ‘state guardian’ plans – from The Telegraph (note that the headline uses the title minister in the political and not clerical sense)

Law casts a shadow over family – commentary from Scottish Catholic Observer

In Ghana we had words from both the Presbyterian Church and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church about government corruption:

Corruption blamed on actions and inactions of Ghanaians – from Ghana News/SpyGhana

Public office holders urged to show integrity and maturity – from my Ghana Online

Also from Africa:

Sudan Arrests, Threatens Pastor During Sermon as Authorities Try to Intimidate Preacher Into Resigning – from The Christian Post; It is alleged that government officials were intimidating this pastor who is currently serving as the Moderator of the Synod of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church to get control of the property.

Mampong Presby SHS cries for help – from Ghana News Agency: “The Mampong Presbyterian Senior High School(PRESEC) has made a
passionate appeal to all stakeholders in education, particularly the
Ghana Education Trust Fund(GETFund), to come to the aid of the school.”

Spread Privilege Not Cashgate: Livingstonia Synod says Malawi for us all – from Nyasa Times; “The CCAP Livingstonia Synod has observed that Malawi is sliding into terminal decline and urged government to spread the privilege to all and not a few should enjoy.”

In Mizoram state of India the influential Presbyterian Synod is working to keep alcoholic beverages prohibited:

Mizo Church wants prohibition to continue – from matters india

And in Norther Ireland a Free Presbyterian clergyman protested against a Sunday football (soccer for some of you) game, a sentiment shared by some but not all in that area:

Sunday football: Clergyman plans protest at stadium – from Belfast News Letter

Play on! Public back Sunday football at Windsor Park – from Belfast News Letter

In news from Presbyterian-affiliated King University in Tennessee:

Dr. Greg Jordan, King University president resigns: Two-thirds of faculty gave vote of no confidence earlier in the week – from

And a note on the passing of a well-known actor who was also a Presbyterian pastor at a point in his career:

Ralph Waite, Depression-Era Patriarch in ‘The Waltons,’ Dies at 85 – the NY Times Obituary

And finally, not breaking news but an interesting historical tidbit…

Why an 18th Century English Presbyterian Minister Matters to College Football Fans – from Football Study Hall; hint – the minister was Thomas Bayes

So that’s it for now. Back soon with more headlines from March.

Presbyterian News Headlines For The Second Half Of January 2014

I am going to begin this post with a narrative form more in the style of my regular writing but I am not sure what to do with this otherwise.

In mid-January the BBC in Norther Ireland aired a two-part documentary and interview on Ian Paisley who helped found the Free Presbyterian Church and what is now the Democratic Unionist Party. This TV show has stirred a lot of feelings on all sides involved in the troubled history of that region and Dr. Paisley had some pretty strong things to say, not all of them what you might predict. As one article in the News Letter headlines it, his criticism of both the DUP and Free Presbyterian church were brutal. I will leave the civil politics aside – at least to the extent I am able in a situation where civil and secular are inexorably linked – and just note another article in the Belfast Telegraph that is headlined “It was religion, not politics that drove Ian Paisley.” In the interview, according to the online press reports, he talks about how the elders of his church forced him out. The Sunday following the airing of the programme the media were at the church he had pastored for many years with the Belfast Telegraph getting some reaction from congregants and the News Letter finding the church members “tight-lipped.” Lots more out there about this programme but to wrap this up let me note some published qualified comments from Dr. Paisley in IrishCentral about the Catholics were correct in standing up for their civil rights,  a profile piece on his wife Eileen, and some brief comments about all this from his son Ian, Jr.

And now back to my usual format for this stuff…

In other news from Ireland, these items from the Presbyterian Church in Ireland

Irish Presbyterians back Syrian victims – from Belfast News Letter; “Representatives from churches around the world have been meeting
in Lebanon this week to consult with and give support to churches
working to bring about relief and peace in Syria. The Presbyterian Church in Ireland is represented by its
board of mission overseas convenor the Rev Cheryl Meban at
consultations organised by the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and
Lebanon (NESSL).”

Presbyterian concern on mental health issue – from Belfast News Letter about a conference the church held

From Scotland an exception to the trend that new Church of Scotland ministers are typically second career…

Church of Scotland’s Young Turk ordained aged 25 – from Scottish Express

Turning to Africa, news from Nigeria and Ghana:

Presbyterian Church, Muslim group laud Jonathan over anti-gay law – from The Guardian Nigeria

Nigerian school stakes claim to have set up Africa’s first printing press – from The Guardian; “The Hope Waddell Training Institution, a school in Nigeria founded in 1895 by Presbyterian missionaries, is laying claim to have set up Africa’s oldest press. But could it be so?”

Rev Martey urges Christians to enter politics – from Joy Online; in comments by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana

In Asia:

Presbyterian Pastor On Trial On Extremism Charges in Kazakhstan – from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

and then two days later

Kazakh Court Drops Extremism Charges Against Pastor – from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; but some lesser charges have not been dropped

From North America:

Presbyterian pastor of NY church dies a month after gas station explosion in Conn. – AP article published by, among others, the Daily Reporter

And that is it for now. A few other things caught my eye in these two weeks but I am holding those for further developments or I might develop them beyond the scope of a headline post.

Presbyterian News Headlines For The Week Ending July 6, 2013

[Let me begin with an editorial note: Over the next six weeks I have an extremely busy schedule of travel and family events. If you see nothing new on this blog until the middle of August nothing is wrong. I will post as able but it will only be occasionally.]

The following items caught my attention this past week:

Gayism is “satanic” – Presby Moderator – from Report on remarks by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana

Punish Ken Agyapong over genocidal comments – Presby Moderator – from Vibe Ghana: A completely different take on what appears to be the same speech.

Londonderry pastor to replace Ian Paisley at Belfast Church – from Belfast Newsletter: A high-profile pastoral transition

Presbyterians Seek Action against Slavery – THISDAY Live: “The Synod of the West of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria has raised
the alarm over the ugly phenomenon of forced prostitution and
child/human organ trafficking which,  it said, had assumed pandemic
proportions in Nigeria.”

Presbyterian News Headlines For The Week Ending May 25, 2013

One primary intersection of major breaking news and the Presbyterian world this past week, with all due respect to the Scottish General Assemblies, was the tornado in Oklahoma. A few of the items related to that:

Oklahoma Tornado — May 2013, Index of Response – from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance
Massive Tornado Hits Moore OK – from PCA Mission to North America
In the Aftermath of the Oklahoma Tornadoes, the Support of Volunteers is Key – from FEMA including PDA in the list of resources

Regarding last week’s General Assemblies, I am going to let the dust settle another day or two and deal with each of them in their own articles.

From Ireland we have two deadly car crashes that involved Presbyterian clergy and their families

Free Presbyterian minister dies in car accident – from the Belfast Newsletter
Wife of Presbyterian minister dies in road crash – from the Belfast Newsletter, includes comments from the Presbyterian Church in Ireland GA Moderator

Last week I mentioned a developing situation in Ghana with sexual misconduct charges brought against a minister. Among the continuing coverage this week is

Church Members Deny Sodomi Allegation Against Pastor – from SpyGhana

And finally, an interesting headline related to church dismissals in the PC(USA)

Opposing Groups Emerge In Presbyterian Church Discernment Process – from KUHF news

Review Of The BBC Documentary “An Independent People”

I had heard about the BBC – Northern Ireland producing a documentary on Ulster Presbyterians titled “An Independent People.” Well, it is now released and was broadcast on the BBC this past week with the final part airing last night.

Since it was on the BBC it is available on their iPlayer, but that did not help those of us outside the UK. Well, this past weekend I found it on YouTube and spent some time watching it. In short – I was not disappointed!

This is a documentary that presbynerds and those interested in Presbyterian church history will enjoy and I suspect that others with a more passing history of Presbyterianism will as well.  As I will explain in a moment, the first episode is a good general background for any Presbyterian and the second episode has some interesting background for Americans – Presbyterian or not.

This is a three-part documentary, each part one hour long, hosted by BBC NI religion correspondent William Crawley. The program presents the history of the Ulster Presbyterians with a wonderful balance of Mr. Crawley’s narrative, expert quotes, historical and current imagery, and plenty of location shots at historical sites. I don’t think there is a studio shot in the whole three hours.

But beyond the visual richness of the series it does a great job of explaining the history and the individuals behind it without taking sides in the many conflicts and controversies throughout the history. While it seemed to me that it presented a fairly complete history – and helped fill in several holes in my understanding of the Ulster Presbyterians – I do not have a deep enough knowledge of the history to know if there were any glaring errors or omissions.

It is also worthwhile to note that it sticks very close to the Ulster Presbyterians so when it talks about Scottish or American Presbyterians it is only to the extent that the Irish were involved. The primary exception is the very beginning when the origins of Presbyterianism in Geneva and Scotland are discussed.

The first episode titled “Taking Root” begins by recounting that early history and then the first wave of Scots to Ulster in the Plantation movement and resistance they found there. The next episode is “Seeds of Liberty” and talks about the Ulster Presbyterians in American and the ideas of the Enlightenment they brought with them that found expression in the American Revolution. It also discusses how that revolution, the French Revolution and the Enlightenment influenced Ireland. The final episode is “Union and Division” and traces the history in the Union of the UK and the divisions within Ireland as well as touching on the early Presbyterian missionary efforts.

The program was produced by Below the Radar for the BBC. You can find @williamcrawley and the show’s producer Fiona Keane (@fikeane) on Twitter. There are notices from both the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland promoting the show. In addition to the BBC the show was funded in part by the Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund.

A trailer/ad is also available but I’m not sure it does the series justice — but what can you do in 30 seconds?

As you can probably figure out, the title reference to an independent people works on many levels. For those that think Presbyterian realignments are a new phenomenon this series makes it clear that it is not.  Mr. Crawley begins the third episode with this lede:

[P]resbyterianism has always been a fractious faith. The democracy that defines it also creates division and dissent.

While the Ulster Presbyterians have components of their history that are unique in the Presbyterian universe, much of their history has interesting influences and parallels throughout global, and especially western, Presbyterianism. This documentary does a good job of helping us see where those puzzle pieces fit in the larger picture.

UPDATE: After posting this I found that Gladys Ganiel had written about the series. Some interesting insights from her background living in both The States as well as currently in Belfast. She did alert me to one error in the program – the statement that Francis Makemie founded the first Presbyterian Church in America. The program could have meant the oldest active congregation but a Long Island congregation founded by English Presbyterians in the 1640’s is generally regarded as the first. Makemie did however organize the first presbytery. But Gladys has a good point that I remember no mention of Amy Carmichael in the third episode and generally little coverage of the role of women in the history. She has also written some thoughts on the first episode.

UPDATE: Another insightful review and discussion of the program by Steve Stockman on his blog Soul Surmise. (And thanks to @alaninbelfast for bringing it to my attention.)