Gathered at this great Assembly, 850
of us in all, animated and uplifted by a fresh hearing of God's word, by
joyful music and by songs of praise, we have been gripped by the
Assembly's theme 'Transformed, not Conformed'.
We confess that too
often we have been conformed to this world;
- by our failure to listen to God;
- by our lack of appetite for God;
- by our failure to recognise and use the power of prayer;
- by casually assuming God's presence with us;
- by our failure to listen to one another;
- by being bound to the traditions of the past;
- by being more committed to Presbyterianism than to Christ;
- by being content with superficial fellowship;
- by our preoccupation with money and possessions;
- by our failure to enable all our members to exercise their personal
- by ministering to ourselves rather than to others;
- by our lack of concern for the divisions within the Church, the Body of
- by not challenging sectarianism;
- by being afraid to take risks for our faith.
In spite of all this, we thankfully
acknowledge God's mercy in calling us, unworthy as we are, to be His
people, chosen and redeemed in Christ. It is our vision that through the
power of the Holy Spirit, we will be transformed, so that we may
- be hungry for God -
and His truth and righteousness;
- be open and willing to listen to His word;
- be enriched in worship as we celebrate God's awesome and joyful presence
- be ready to make each congregation a living example of the family of
- be renewed in our personal and local church life so that members
contribute to the total ministry;
- be willing to adopt a simple lifestyle, no longer preoccupied with money
- be glad to share our time, talents and money for the work of God;
- be committed to mission, not only in our own country, but in all the
- be responsive to the needs of the world Christ came to save;
- be present as Christ's love, Christ's justice, and Christ's hope in the
world's darkness and decay;
- be concerned to proclaim with new confidence and joy the saving name of
Jesus, both by word and action;
- be gifted to present Christ attractively and to apply the Word
- be able to affirm our oneness with all who sincerely love the Lord
God make us a joyful and
expectant Church, confident in Him who has made us His people, and given
us a heavenly destiny.
God make us no longer a Church of
yesterday, but a Church of today and tomorrow.
God make us mindful of Christ's
living presence in our midst, leading us where He wants us to go, no
longer conformed to this world, its mind-set and lifestyle, but
transformed by the Spirit's renewing power.
To God be glory in the Church,
now and ever.
The Full Text
1.1 The Presbyterian Church in
Ireland, met in special General Assembly at the University of Ulster in
Coleraine from 10-13 September, 1990;
1.2 gives thanks to Almighty God for
His many blessings given to our Church from its first beginnings in
1.3 and especially for the Union of
Synods in 1840 and for all that we have received from the Lord during the
150 years since we first met in General Assembly.
1.4 We humbly acknowledge before God
our many sins and failures, and pledge ourselves anew to seek first His
Kingdom and righteousness in our common life, and in our witness to our
society, and to the whole world in His Name.
The Mission of the Church
2.1 We rejoice afresh in the mission
to which Christ has called us. Recognising His concern for the less
privileged in society, we recognise our largely privileged membership, and
we urge upon each congregation the need to share Christ's love with people
of every kind, so that everyone may be reached with the gospel of Christ,
and in turn may be prepared to offer their gifts in the life and mission
of the congregation and of the wider Church.
2.2 Mission overseas has been a
particular calling and enthusiasm of our Church since the inception of the
General Assembly in 1840. We rejoice that God has enabled us to play our
part in establishing the gospel in distant lands, and in building up the
Churches there. We gratefully acknowledge also all that God has enabled us
to receive and learn through the witness of partner Churches overseas, as
well as from individual Christians from every continent
2.3 Recognising the enormous changes
which are constantly taking place in our world, we affirm that the Great
Commission of Christ our Lord is an unchanging mandate to preach the
gospel to people everywhere, and we pledge ourselves afresh to the work of
mission overseas, not Ieast in Europe. We shall continue wherever possible
to do this in co-operation with partner Churches, and we shall endeavour
to learn from their vision, insights and priorities how best we may
express our solidarity with them in the work of the gospel. We call upon
our own Church to give itself heart and soul for the work of mission, and
pledge greater resources of personnel, money, and pastoral care to serve
this end. We urge congregations to set up overseas mission groups, and try
to encourage active involvement, not Ieast by men.
3.1 Mission in Ireland must always
be our first and immediate task, but mission has been seriously hindered
by the unhappy divisions of Irish society, both North and South.
We confess that we have not done all
that we should to break down those barriers. Within our Church we are
deeply divided between those who would affirm what we have in common with
Roman Catholics, and those who feel that to minimise the differences is to
compromise the Gospel. Both sections need to listen to each other and
learn from each other. For some of us 'Speaking the truth in love' will
require new, sustained and costly efforts to build friendships across the
sectarian divide; for others the challenge will come in not being afraid,
in the context of existing friendships, to witness to reformed truth. Only
through a biblical ecumenism which is concerned with both truth and love
shall the wounds of the people be healed.
3.2 We believe that amid conflicting
cultures God is willing us to create a distinctively Christian
counter-culture, in which we distance ourselves from the kind of
Protestantism which closely identifies the reformed faith with particular
political and cultural aspirations.
We commit ourselves to learning what
it means to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.
3.3 In Northern Ireland, we need
great courage to work for change, and the flexibility to find new ways of
enabling the two traditions to relate to one another in a positive and
constructive way, developing new structures that will build trust, and
help create a just and sustainable community life for the years ahead.
Many people of different backgrounds have acted with great courage in face
of violence, intimidation, and deep personal hurt. We urge our people to
act with equal courage also in finding new ways forward, playing whatever
part they can in public life for the future good of all. To practise
neighbourliness, and to bridge divisions with friendship, and care for
'enemies', is the clear command of the gospel.
In Southern Ireland, where there is
an atmosphere of greater harmony and openness, our people need to be
courageous in bearing witness to Jesus Christ, and in sharing the biblical
gospel in fellowship with all those who sincerely love the Lord.
3.4 In face of widespread
indifference to the Church and to the gospel, especially in urban areas,
we are freed with a gigantic evangelistic task. The whole Church must make
resources available, both in terms of money, and of Church members who are
prepared to engage in new and imaginative ways of teaching biblical truth,
evangelism and Church planting.
3.5 Sensitive evangelism must take
account of the sheer speed of change in recent decades, and what this has
done to human life We need to challenge secular assumptions, (eg that
wealth gives happiness, or that human wisdom has all the answers), and to
minister to the confusion and bewilderment they have created, both by our
words and deeds. We need to discern what are people's deepest hopes and
fears, and to expose the emptiness of the secular sources of comfort to
which they turn, and the power of the gospel of Christ alone to meet the
real needs of our human condition.
4.1 The task of mission involves
both the proclamation of the gospel of salvation, and the demonstration of
the love of God through the works of the Kingdom. Evangelism and social
concern are linked together inextricably in the purpose of God. We affirm
the wide-ranging concerns in which we have been and still are involved. We
are determined to work with other Christians as salt and light in
contemporary society, challenging injustice, and offering compassion and
help to people in their needs. This must involve both biblical insight and
adequate social analysis, as well as caring in practical ways in the name
of the Lord Jesus. New initiatives will inevitably involve taking risks.
4.2 The constraints of time,
manpower and resources inevitably mean setting limits to what we attempt
to do, and particularly in the field of social witness. At a local level
there needs to be a genuine listening to the community we seek to serve,
so that they may have some part in setting the agenda. Local people need
to know that our Church not only preaches the gospel, but lives the gospel
in the love and compassion of Christ.
4.3 Congregations need to be
regularly informed of the wider work of the Church, carried out in their
name. A deeper sense of mission needs to be developed, both centrally and
locally, so that we become less concerned with the maintenance of
buildings, projects and present patterns of ministry, and make mission our
priority, sharing the limited resources available to us, and deciding in a
prayerful and ordered way what God is leading us to do.
4.4 The Church must develop a
strategy for urban mission, adequately financed, as a matter of high
priority. Forward-looking policies regarding buildings, co-operation with
other Churches, partnerships between suburban and inner-city
congregations, the development of team ministries, significant lay
leadership, the setting up of mission centres, are all areas that must be
4.5 Three-quarters of our
congregations are rural, and this is often where our Church appears at its
strongest with much generosity for local needs. Rural congregations,
however, are often unenthusiastic about the needs of the wider Church, and
lacking in leadership. Their members are often too reserved to share their
faith with others. It is important that our Church should develop new ways
of rural evangelism, social witness and pastoral care, and of training
elders and lay people to be involved in such tasks.
4.6 Recognising the value of small
groups from the model of Jesus' ministry and the experience of many
congregations all over the world, we would urge the greater use of such
groups in our congregations, particularly for evangelism, discipleship
training,and to foster community care. Such groups must be carefully
integrated into the life of the whole congregation.
The Life of the Church
5.1 Our engagement in the tasks of
mission involves a particular understanding of the nature of the Church
'We believe one holy, catholic and apostolic Church...' We confess that,
while valuing the diversity of our several traditions, we have been less
than enthusiastic about visible unity. The quest for unity is a costly and
difficult one, and beset with many problems. We rejoice in the privilege
of belonging to the one Church of Christ, and we will seek to give visible
expression to this whenever and however we and our sister Churches can in
conscience do so.
5.2 The ordained ministry is one of
the Church's most important resources. Many ministers are overburdened,
and hindered in their spiritual, pastoral and teaching tasks, by the
pressures of correspondence, administration and representative roles in
the community and the wider Church. Ways must be found, especially at
congregational level, of liberating ministers to fulfil their primary
5.3 The strengths of our traditional
theological education need to be released into a new integration of theory
and practice. This must address the problems of 'ministry' in inner
cities, rural areas, and in counselling, youth work, and social witness.
None of these problems will be properly tackled without the kind of
training which equips a Ieader to motivate others.
5.4 The scriptural pattern of
ministry encourages us to motivate, train and utilise a team in the
outworking of congregational life and mission. The ordination of men and
women to the eldership has built this biblical perception into the
structures of our local churches. The Kirk Session, together with
Congregational Committee and the local leaders of many kinds ought already
to have experience of working as a team. In practice, we acknowledge we
have often been weakened by the absence of vision and lack of resources,
team leadership, and training. We urge Presbyteries and Kirk Sessions to
review our present practice, and to seek ways to equip elders and others
for this approach to ministry.
5.5 Christians are indeed God's
pilgrim people in the world; as such they should travel light and live
simply. They should not be enslaved to materialism or indulgent living,
but ready to share their resources with others. The biblical principle of
tithing should be taught and encouraged in our congregations so that, in a
willing and cheerful way, funds may be released to further the work of
God. Sacrificial sharing of time, energy and possessions, as well as a
healthy disregard for their own comfort, should characterise the lives of
6.1 The Church is the family of God.
As such it incorporates into its membership Christian families, including
singles, widowed, childless couples, one-parent families, as well as
parents and children. We hold to the scriptural principles of purity
before marriage, and fidelity within marriage. Increasingly, however, we
are being called upon to offer pastoral care and counsel to those whose
marriages are in serious difficulties, or have already come to an end, and
to divorced persons seeking re-marriage Congregations need to take these
pastoral opportunities much more seriously. Training for those involved in
counselling, who need not always be ministers, should be made available
frequently. Presbyteries should encourage the provision of marriage
preparation courses and marriage enrichment courses.
6.2 Loving family relationships are
God's purpose for His children and we should do all in our power to
instruct our people and to model before them authentic Christian family
living, in all its love and discipline. The local congregation in a real
sense should be a family and a fellowship should encourage hospitality,
using the homes of its people as a base for fellowship, pastoral care and
6.3 The majority of those who come
to personal faith do so before the age of twenty! Believing in the place
of children within the covenant of grace, we need constantly to reassess
our ministry to children and young people, as to its effectiveness in
leading them to faith in the Lord Jesus, and building them up in
discipleship. Church must be for them a place where they know they belong,
and where they feel valued and loved throughout their growing years. Both
here at Church and in the home they must be taught about the faith so that
they are enabled to relate it to life in the world as they know it. There
is a desire to re-emphasise the significance of sacramental discipline,
and to reappraise the consistency of our approach to it.
The Worship of the Church
7.1 The renewal of the Church, for
which we long, depends in the ultimate sense not upon human organisation,
but upon the grace of God, bestowed in Christ, and sealed to us by the
indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We humbly acknowledge our deep sense of
failure and need, as we call upon God to cleanse and forgive us, and to
renew us by His word and Spirit, so that we may serve Him as we ought, and
carry out the work of mission faithfully, as He has entrusted it to us.
7.2 In such renewal, worship is
central. We rejoice in the gifts of God for the people of God. Biblical
preaching must be at the very heart of true worship. It must, of course,
be presented attractively, and applied sharply to the actual situations
and needs of our time. Yet the nourishment of mind and heart cannot
adequately be accomplished by Sunday worship alone. We urge Kirk Sessions
to be creative in providing additional opportunities to study the Bible,
and we urge our people to take these seriously.
7.3 The sacraments are also gifts of
God, and should be celebrated with joy. Careful ordering of the services
can go hand in hand with the use of modern worship resources. The biblical
practice of frequent communion is worthy of serious consideration by
ministers and Kirk Sessions.
7.4 A rediscovery of prayer is also
of vital importance to public worship, as well as to personal discipleship
and congregational life. It is the clue to the Church's renewal, and to
the effective carrying out of her mission. Many of our people miss out on
the discipline and joy of personal prayer, and are fearful and ill-at-ease
at the prospect of praying with others. These barriers must be overcome if
we are to have the joy of seeing prayer answered in the renewal of the
Church and the healing of our land. We need to help our people to more
disciplined prayer in personal and family contexts, to more meaningful
participation in the public prayer of the Church, and to a new commitment
to group prayer.
7.5 The singing of praise is another
important part of Christian worship. Recognising that music should help to
renew the mind rather than the emotions it is believed that music and
songs must be related to the worship and the Word. The time has now come
for a new supplemental hymnary incorporating some of the best of recent
material. The revision of the Psalter ought also to be contemplated, since
the Psalms must always have a normative place in Christian worship. We
call upon our congregations to give a high priority to improving the
standard of Church music, offering possibilities for wider training and
experience to organists, choirs and others involved in congregational
music. We call on all our people to put new heart into their singing and
to let the inspiration and joy of Christian praise be heard in all our
8.1 The General Assembly records its
grateful thanks to all who have organised this special residential
Assembly and have contributed to its programme through teaching,
discussion, the leading of worship and in any way.
8.2 We offer thanks to Almighty God
for all that we have learned and shared together in these days, and pledge
ourselves anew to Him, and to the tasks of mission to which He sends us.
To the Living God, Father, Son
and Holy Spirit, be glory in the Church now and ever.