The following is a report from the ‘Belfast Telegraph’, 30th November, 2021.
The “Irish News” and the “BBC” carried similar reports in which there were a number of misleading statements made about myself. The “Irish News” reporter, when notified of them, kindly apologised for the errors and for calling me on the Lord’s Day for an interview. I await the BBC’s response!
This report from the ‘Belfast Telegraph’ serves to verify my condemnation of Mr Girvan’s actions in my statement on his attendance at the ecumenical service, published on 25th November and entitled: “Statement regarding Mr. Paul Givan’s attendance at Armagh service”. In it I said that Paul Givan, who was then a member of the Free Presbyterian Church, was wrong in his attendance at the service The service was led by the leaders of the Roman Catholic church, the Presbyterian and Methodist churches and the Church of Ireland, deniers of God’s Word one and all!
Mr Givan is quoted in the BT article as saying: “This for me is an issue where first and foremost I regard the Gospel as being of fundamental importance. My own personal circumstances are secondary to that. I would never want to say anything in a public way which would diminish that Gospel witness. That’s why I don’t intend to make any further public commentary around this particular issue.”
That is utterly specious! Mr Given chose to attend this service knowing full well that by so doing he acted in utter disregard of the witness and stand of the Free Presbyterian Church and, above all, the teaching of God’s Word!
He then chose to stand by his actions rather than submit to any admonition that he may have received from his elders, and instead of acting in a manner to uphold the gospel, disobeyed its teaching and withdrew from membership of the Free Presbyterian Church.
I can but think of what is said of Demas by the apostle Paul: “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica,” 2Timothy 4:10.
Such a decision is one that Mr Givan will, sooner or later, come to regret! He chose the company of Christ-deniers, rejectors of the Word of God and embracers of moral perversion. He rubbed shoulders and bumped elbows with the enemies of Ulster who have aided and abetted IRA terrorism in its efforts to destroy our very existence. The service he attended was, as Rev John Armstrong said at the time: an event “arranged to promote the purposes of unscriptural ecumenism”. “Such ecumenical union does not represent the views of thousands of Ulster Protestants who do not accept the Roman Catholic Church as a Christian Church. Our opposition to fellowship with Roman Catholicism is theological”.
For Mr Givan to claim that he attended that service in fulfilment of his duties as First Minister is a fabrication. His position is lowly compared to that occupied by Daniel in the Persian empire yet Daniel, in faithfulness to God, put his duties as a worshipper of God before any civic duty which may have been his. Read Daniel chapter 6 and there it will be seen what a true disciple of the Lord will do when faced with a choice of loyalty to civic duty or loyalty to God and His TRUTH.
I repeat, such a decision as Mr Givan has made, he will, sooner or later, come to regret!
Below is the report from the ‘Belfast Telegraph’.
Sincerely in the cause of Christ and His truth,
First Minister Paul Givan won’t deny he has resigned from Free Presbyterian Church after NI centenary event dispute
DUP First Minister Paul Givan has declined to deny reports that he has resigned from the Free Presbyterian Church.
A retired leading minister from the church and former prominent member of the DUP said he had been made aware that the Lagan Valley MLA has left in a dispute over last month’s cross-community Northern Ireland centenary service in Armagh.
Welcome: First Minister Paul Givan greets Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney at the centenary event
Rev Ivan Foster, who split from the DUP over the decision to share power with Sinn Fein, said he had been made aware the First Minister had resigned after being spoken to by the church’s elders in Lisburn.
Mr Givan was criticised by the church for his attendance at the ecumenical service held in Armagh to mark the formation of Northern Ireland.
But Mr Givan said it was “an issue that I don’t intend to make public commentary about”.
While the DUP has not commented, saying the matter is a private one for Mr Givan, his resignation signals that ongoing tensions between unionist political leadership and the Free Presbyterian Church show no signs of healing, though Mr Givan could still attend the church as a non-member.
The Free Presbyterian Church said it was unaware of the situation, and it would be a matter for Mr Givan’s own session to deal with.
“This is a private matter,” said Mr Givan, speaking on BBC Radio Ulster.
“It is something I have worked through with my own church.
“This for me is an issue where first and foremost I regard the Gospel as being of fundamental importance.
“My own personal circumstances are secondary to that.
“I would never want to say anything in a public way which would diminish that Gospel witness. That’s why I don’t intend to make any further public commentary around this particular issue.”
Mr Givan had been criticised by some within the church for his attendance at the centenary event in Armagh, but stood by his decision to attend. “When the invitation came in it was obviously something I considered and I took the view that it was appropriate for me as First Minister to attend that event. I subsequently did attend that event.”
When contacted by the Belfast Telegraph, Rev Foster said he stood by his claim.
“I have been told by a minster that as far as he knows Mr Givan was spoken to by his session about his attendance at the ecumenical service in Armagh and he has since resigned his membership of the Free Presbyterian Church,” Mr Foster said.
He added that he was “thankful and heartened if it is so that the elders in this case acted”.
Mr Foster has a long association with the Free Presbyterian Church in Fermanagh and Tyrone after being ordained a minister in 1968.
A row between former DUP and church leader Ian Paisley and senior Free Presbyterians, ultimately saw the unionist figurehead break ties with the church he founded.
Mr Foster’s comments demonstrate the growing uneasiness within the Free Presbyterian Church over the links to the DUP.
In 2018 South Belfast MLA Christopher Stalford was rebuked by his own minister for his attendance alongside then DUP leader Arlene Foster at the Ulster GAA Final.
Further questions were raised over the DUP’s selection of its first openly gay councillor when Alison Bennington took a seat on Antrim, Newtownabbey Council.
Mrs Foster’s abstention in an Assembly vote on gay conversion therapy further agitated religious sections of the party’s grassroots and Mrs Foster was ousted as party leader just a few days later.
Mr Foster has been a DUP councillor on Omagh District Council and won a seat in the Assembly elections of 1982 in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.
He was also one of the founders of Ulster Resistance in the mid-1980s.
Ahead of the October 21 inter-denominational service to mark Northern Ireland’s centenary at Armagh Cathedral, current Free Presbyterian moderator Rev John Armstrong described the event as “arranged to promote the purposes of unscriptural ecumenism”.
“Such ecumenical union does not represent the views of thousands of Ulster Protestants who do not accept the Roman Catholic Church as a Christian Church. Our opposition to fellowship with Roman Catholicism is theological,” he said.