E.P.S. Latest Posts - updated 16 May 2016
NEW ULSTER BULWARK AVAILABLE AS PDF
The April-June 2016 edition of the Ulster Bulwark is available free on request. A pdf version is now available. Please email email@example.com
EPS APPOINTS NEW COUNCIL MEMBER
For some time now, we have been keen to strengthen the EPS Council membership and we are therefore delighted to welcome Mr Iain Adams as a new Council member. Iain is a native of east Belfast but now lives at Cloughey on the Ards peninsula. For some time, he lived and worked in England where he was actively involved with Bristol Free Presbyterian Church. Iain is married, and is also a father and a grandfather. His specialised field is in communications and he has worked for several major national and international companies. Iain now worships in Trinity Free Presbyterian Church, Portavogie, where he is a deacon. He is a member of the loyal orders. Iain will being fresh ideas as we seek to take the work of EPS forward, and we look forward to labouring with him in the defence of the Protestant faith.
NEW EDITION OF THE ULSTER BULWARK - Jan-Mar 2016 - NOW AVAILABLE
EPS REFORMATION RALLY 30 OCTOBER 2015
We held our 2nd annual Reformation rally on the evening of Friday 30 October 2015 in the Paisley Jubilee complex at Martyrs Memorial Free Presbyterian Church, Belfast. We were greatly encouraged both by the spirit of the meeting and by the attendance, and it was good to meet up with so many supporters and friends. The meeting was led by Rev Ian Brown, minister of Martyrs Memorial. The preacher was Pastor Ian Wilson of Rathfriland Baptist church who spoke powerfully and passionately on the theme of "Shew me thy glory" (Exodus 33:18). His sermon is available online (http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=103015172413) or as a CD. The whole meeting is also available as a DVD. The CD costs £3 and DVD £5, and both can be ordered from EPS, PO Box 306, Belfast BT5 7WA.
EVANGELICAL PROTESTANT SOCIETY - RESPONSE TO SPECULATION ABOUT PAPAL VISIT IN 2018
Once again, speculation is mounting about a possible papal visit to Ireland in 2018. Such speculation rears its head on a fairly regular basis, but this time it rests upon the Pope's announcement, in the final Mass of his USA visit, that Dublin will host the high-profile "World Meeting of Families" event, set up in 1994 by Pope John Paul II and held every three years. Such an event is often attended by the pope of the day, and, on the assumption that Francis will be in Dublin, we are now being subjected to the usual clamour from the usual suspects for him to visit Northern Ireland.
Sadly, some within Protestant circles who ought to know better have been very quick to issue messages of support. Those Presbyterians who have already done so really do need to go and read the Westminster Confession of Faith.
Of course, the ecumenical movement and its political allies regard any papal visit to Northern Ireland as a key component of the peace process jigsaw. The SDLP seem to revel in possible party political advantage from the idea of a papal visit. Pat Ramsey MLA is reported as having stated, "I welcome this news that the Pope is expected to come to Ireland in 2018. It is absolutely magnificent news for people of all faiths". We are not sure on what grounds Mr Ramsey can make such an assertion. He certainly does not speak on behalf of evangelical Protestants. Commentator Jude Collins seemed to indicate on radio that basically the only ones who could possibly oppose a visit would be those who are sectarian.
As we have said before, we have no desire to deny the people of any faith the right to have a visit by the head of their church. However, in the case of the pope, the position is complicated by his unique claims, and any visit would be controversial and divisive. Much is made of Pope Francis's "humility" and "compassion", and we acknowledge that the Vatican PR machine is doing a good job. However, part of its success flows from the fact that very few people in today's society have any spiritual understanding and are therefore easily conned. The reality is that this "humble" Pope makes the same arrogant claims as his predecessors. His titles include "Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church", "Successor of the prince of the Apostles" and "Vicar of Jesus Christ". He therefore lays claim to spiritual sovereignty over the whole church, and no visit can be merely "pastoral".
At this stage, we will await developments with interest and not be rushed by the media or anyone else into making sound-bite responses to what is still speculation about an event that is three years away. Many elements of any proposed visit are yet unclear. For example, will it be a state visit? If so, there are constitutional issues to be dealt with.
However, if a visit takes place, we will, along with other evangelical Protestant organisations, churches and individuals, exercise our democratic right to express our opposition. We will take the opportunity to highlight the deep and fundamental doctrinal differences between Protestantism and Romanism. And we will also take the opportunity to reach out to all with the good news of the Gospel of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone.
Secretary, Evangelical Protestant Society
29 September 2015
EPS BREAKFAST EVENT
We held our first ever breakfast event to promote our work and witness on Saturday 12 September in the Templeton Hotel, Templepatrick. The event was a great success. As well as a time of informal fellowship and conversation, EPS Secretary, Mr Wallace Thompson, spoke about the work of EPS and our vision for the future, and EPS President, Rev William Malcolmson, brought a message from the Word of God.
POPE SOFTENS CHURCH LINE ON ABORTION
Pope Francis, who is often portrayed as a man of compassion and mercy, has announced that priests around the world will be authorized to forgive the "sin of abortion" when the church begins a "Year of Mercy" this December. In the RC Church, abortion is regarded as such a severe sin that it can be punishable by excommunication, The 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church, para 2272, states, "Formal co-operation in an abortion constitutes a grave offence. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life".
In most countries only a bishop is able to offer forgiveness for abortion. In some countries, such as GB, however, priests are already able to offer such forgiveness. The Pope stated, "The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented," and he added that he has met "many women" scarred by the "agonizing and painful" decision to have an abortion.
We agree that abortion is a very serious issue. We are totally opposed to abortion on demand, for it means the killing of an unborn human being. We are also aware of the tremendous emotional and psychological trauma suffered by those who have an abortion. Indeed, this was highlighted during last year's consultation process on proposals to change the abortion law in Northern Ireland.
However, the statement by the pope, far from being an act of compassion, is a reminder that, beneath the façade of a humble man, the current pope is just as arrogant as his predecessors. It is also a reminder of the arrogance of the Roman Church. No man has the power or ability to forgive sins. Rome argues that the priest does not forgive sins but that God transfers His power of forgiveness to the priest. But this does not stand up to scrutiny. When Jesus forgave the sin of the paralysed man (Mark 2), the scribes accused him of blasphemy as only God could forgive sin. They were right on that last point for only God can forgive sin, but they were unable to see that the One who had just healed and forgiven was God incarnate in the flesh. Christ could forgive because He is God. No ordinary man has that power. And today, Christ is our great High Priest. As John says in 1 John 2: 1, "if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous". We praise God that He forgives sin. Psalm 130:3-4 states, "If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared".
No matter what sin we have committed, we do not need to wait for the pope to authorise a priest to forgive us. Praise God, the "year of mercy" will not start in December. It began at Calvary and continues today.
A new film on John Knox will be shown in the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast on Thursday 24 September at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £6. This film has been produced by Trinity Digital Film.
FAMINE IN THE LAND
Lead article in current edition of the Ulster Bulwark
The warning signs have been there for some time, but the evidence is now clear for all to see. Ulster is turning its back on its historic Biblical heritage at breakneck speed, and we are witnessing an open rebellion. Today, there is a well-established cultural and secular Protestantism in Ulster which is as far removed from true Protestantism as night is from day. Few who call themselves "Protestants" have any real understanding of, or love for, the Bible, or any knowledge of the rich legacy of the Protestant Reformation. Across our society, Biblical truths and standards have been rejected in favour of the moral relativism of "human rights" and "equality", and it is those concepts that are being imbibed by so many and have become the cornerstone of public policy in our society.
The outworking of a secular equality agenda was graphically illustrated on several occasions recently. In April, the DUP Health Minister, Jim Wells, came under a barrage of criticism after comments he made about the benefits of stable heterosexual marriage at a hustings event during the General Election campaign, and he was subsequently forced to resign. It seems clear that there were those who were determined to make sure that Mr Wells, a committed evangelical Protestant, was ousted from his key role as Health Minister. Shortly after Mr Wells' resignation, there were two significant developments which have been well reported and will be very familiar to our readers. On 19 May, a judge in Belfast County Court ruled that the family-run firm Ashers had discriminated against a gay customer by refusing to ice a cake with a slogan supporting same-sex marriage. The landmark case was brought on equality grounds and the plaintiff had the support of the publicly-funded NI Equality Commission. We are glad that Ashers have decided to appeal the judgement, and we encourage readers to pray for the McArthur family as this battle is far from over. On 22 May, a few days after the Ashers case, the people of the Irish Republic voted in a referendum, by a margin of 62% to 38%, to change the Irish Constitution to allow same-sex couples to marry (see page 6). This was also a landmark result, hailed by those who support same-sex marriage as another victory for love and equality. Northern Ireland is now the only part of the British Isles in which same-sex marriage is not legal, and the pressure is building for change. The NI Assembly voted in April this year (for the 4th time in a few years) to reject a motion calling for same-sex marriage, but the margin against the motion was small - 49 to 47 - and those in favour of same-sex marriage are asserting that a majority of the Ulster public would be in favour of change.
Apart from these examples which relate to the re-definition of marriage, we see further evidence of departure from Bible standards in other areas too. New criminal justice legislation to broaden the scope of abortion law might come before the NI Assembly later this year. On another issue, we have often lamented the growing lack of respect for the Lord's Day, and this was illustrated once again in March when an international football match was held in Belfast on a Sunday for the first time ever.
The Bible has been rejected as a guide and compass, and we are often told by those who oppose the Bible that it is fine for Christians to hold to their faith just as long as they don't bring it with them to the public square. Meanwhile, the secular 'equality' juggernaut will continue to drive forward and, as it does so, it will aim to eradicate Biblical values completely as new and ever more radical demands will be made. Those who would dare to challenge those demands on Biblical grounds will, of course, be dismissed with contempt as bigots, dinosaurs, homophobes etc who have no place in a modern and pluralist society. It seems that those who preach tolerance are not so good at practising what they preach! It's a case of equality for all except those who would dare to promote Biblical truths.
Our society is in a chronic state of moral and spiritual decay, and it seems that God is now leaving a rebellious people to follow their own gods. In the days of the prophet Amos, the people of Israel, who had known blessing from the Lord, rebelled against Him. Amos urged the people to "seek good, and not evil" (Amos 5:14), and, as a faithful servant of the Lord, he warned the people that judgement would come, and in Amos 8:11 we read the following words, "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD". Surely that speaks directly to our current circumstances. There is a spiritual famine in our land today.
How do we respond? The tide of public opinion is against us and we might feel disheartened and deflated, but we must remain faithful to the Word of God. There is a greater need than ever for us to offer spiritual food to a people who are starving. We must evangelise. We must teach sound doctrine, for as we read in Hosea 4:6, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge".
We must proclaim Bible truth without compromise or fear, but we must do so in a manner that is gracious, loving and kind. We must pray that the Lord would keep us faithful and strong, and that in his wrath he would remember mercy and send revival to our land (Habbakuk 3:2). And, above all, we must never forget that our God reigns supreme over nations and peoples. Our cause will prevail for it is His cause. And to Him be all the glory.
SERMON PREACHED BY EPS SECRETARY
WALLACE THOMPSON AT INDEPENDENT
LOYAL ORANGE DEMONSTRATION, 13th July 2015
"LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AROUND AND LOOKING TO THE CROSS"
On 16 September 1656, Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector sat in his room and read Psalm 85. The next day, he rode to Westminster to open the 2nd meeting of his 2nd Parliament, and in his speech to MPs, he referred to this Psalm.
Oliver Cromwell was not a perfect man. He knew that he was "warts and all", not only in his physical appearance, but also in his moral character. He knew he was a sinner, but he was a godly man who was saved by grace. He was a Bible man. His political views were formed on the basis of the Bible. The Bible ought to be at the centre of the life of any nation. The Bible was carried at the front of the parade today. The Bible is central.
Cromwell believed Psalm 85 spoke to the nation and, 350 years on, it still speaks to the nation today in 2015. God's Word always has something to say.
Spurgeon says that Psalm 85 is a "prayer of a patriot for his afflicted country, in which he pleads the Lord's former mercies, and by faith foresees brighter days".
1. I want us to remember God's goodness and faithfulness to us in times past.
2. I want us to reflect on the present.
3. I want us to rejoice in the Gospel.
I. REMEMBER THE PAST (vv1-3)
Verse 1 says, "LORD thou hast been favourable unto thy land". We don't live in the past, but we forget the past at our peril. And we can only properly understand the past if we place God at the centre of it. History is not just political, or social, or economic, or cultural - it is the story of God's dealings with man.
Men have taken God out of history completely and all that is left is a belief what we evolved over millions of years and that everything has happened by random chance. We are therefore just drifting along from an uncertain past to an uncertain future.
But history began in Genesis 1 where we read "In the beginning, God". God was there at the start, and He has been there ever since.
The children of Israel often looked back, and as they did so, they could say with the Psalmist "LORD thou hast been favourable unto thy land".
Today, we look back to the events of 325 years ago at the Boyne, and we praise God. After Oliver Cromwell's short time as Lord Protector, the Stuart monarchy was restored, and during the reigns of Charles II and James II, tyranny plumbed new depths. But God in His mercy sent a deliverer, the godly Calvinist Prince of Orange. The events of 1688-1701 are richly illustrative of God's providence. As we look back on those days, we can say with the Psalmist, "LORD thou hast been favourable unto thy land".
After the Glorious Revolution, our nation became a godly nation, founded on Protestant principles, and the people were a people of the Book.
We look back at the history of our own Province and we also see how our forefathers were Bible people. Take, for example, the period of the Home Rule crisis a century ago, and you will see people who loved the Lord and trusted in Him. They were Protestants by faith and conviction. Those were days when the Bible was read and believed, and people had a fear of the Lord. There was a respect for the Lord's Day.
We see this illustrated in vv2-3 - God had moved among people in blessing. They were a godly people - a saved people. Not all of them, but overall there was evidence of God's salvation, forgiveness - and blessing.
But those days are gone. Let us now turn to second heading -
II REFLECT ON PRESENT (vv4-5)
In this Psalm we see remembering and thanksgiving - but now the peace of vv2-3 is replaced by God's anger. In vv4-5 there are references to God's anger.
As we look at today - what a contrast with the past! Our nation was a Protestant nation but it has departed from the Lord and now in open rebellion. We are hurtling downhill at an alarming speed and are in freefall.
"Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord". (Psalm 33:12). But tragically, God is no longer respected or honoured or feared by the nation
Our own Province was long regarded at the last bastion of Biblical Protestantism in the UK and in Europe but, sadly, not any more. The rebellion has taken root here too.
We are surrounded by s secular Protestantism and a cultural Protestantism. The Bible is now rejected by many who claim to be Protestants, and children are growing up ignorant of the basics of the Protestant faith.
People are turning to false gods. False religions and philosophies are embraced while the Bible is cast aside and treated with contempt.
Our land is ripe for judgement. God is angry with us. He hates sin. He will punish rebellion. We cannot rebel against God and not expect punishment.
There is only one answer and one solution to the current collapse and it is found in vv6-13 of this psalm. It is no new solution - no new set of theories. It is found in the Gospel. This Psalm points us to Calvary.
III. REJOICE IN THE GOSPEL (vv6-13)
Even in his grim assessment of the present, the psalmist prays to God to draw back from judgement. Vv10-11 are beautiful verses which speak so movingly of Calvary - "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven".
Come with me to Calvary and see One hanging there. He is the sinless Son of God, the maker of the heavens and the earth, but he is dying there for you and for me. He is our Substitute. He has become sin for you and me. He is suffering the wrath of God that you might never have to suffer it. He has paid the price. Jesus cried, "It is finished"!!
Can I ask you today how it is with your soul? I'm not asking if you are a Protestant, or a lodge member, or a band member, or if you attend a church. All those things are fine and good, but I'm asking you if you are trusting in Christ alone for salvation.
Our sins have separated us from God and there is only one way of reconciliation. "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one cometh unto the Father but by me". It's all by faith alone in Christ alone. That's the Gospel!
But perhaps today you do believe and are trusting Christ for salvation. But there is a big challenge in this Psalm for believers too. V6 asks "wilt thou not revive us again, that thy people may rejoice in thee". My fellow believers, surely we have allowed ourselves to be influenced by the spirit of age. You remember when the first RUC man was killed, there was total horror and great anger, but then, a short time later, when the murders were so frequent, the feelings of shock and anger subsided. It's the same with what is happening today. We can be so easily numbed and find ourselves accepting what is going on. We can be lethargic and our walk with God can be weakened.
We need to get back to the Bible and to prayer and to a closer walk with God. If we do, I believe that God can move in revival blessing. It has happened before and it can happen again.
Praise God for the Gospel! Whatever lies ahead for our nation and Province, it is vital that we place our trust firmly in the Lord. And may all of us be able to say with the hymn-writer, "It is well, it is well with my soul!"
600th ANNIVERSARY OF MARTYRDOM OF
Jan Hus of Prague was one of the pivotal figures in early Protestant history and he suffered a martyrs death at the hands of Rome 600 years ago, on 6 July 1415. This photo is from a painting of his trial.
The July-September edition of the "Ulster Bulwark" is now available. If you are not on our mailing list but would like to be, please email us. The magazine is quarterly and sent free of charge. Articles in this new edition include "William of Orange - Hero of Protestantism", "Sola fide- Faith Alone" and "The Benefit of the Shorter Catechism".
FOOTBALL MATCH YET ANOTHER STEP TOWARDS EROSION OF LORD'S DAY IN NORTHERN IRELAND
The Evangelical Protestant Society is deeply saddened by the decision to proceed with the Euro 2016 qualifying match between Northern Ireland and Finland in Windsor Park this Sunday (29 March 2015). This will be the first time an international football match has been held in Belfast on a Sunday, and it marks another watershed moment in modern Ulster's increasing rejection of the Lord's Day. Our Province once held resolutely to Sunday observance, but those days are long gone. Church attendance is in decline and Sunday has become a day for shopping, sport and recreation. Far too many sporting and social events are now organised on Sundays with, it seems, scant regard for the rights of evangelicals who, because of their faith, are unable to be involved. Many evangelical Protestants are ardent fans of the national team and would dearly love to be present at the match. We wonder what efforts, if any, were made to have Sunday's fixture re-arranged. We also wonder what, if any, consultation has been held with churches and residents in the area around Windsor Park in relation to how the match might affect them. We fully accept that we are out of step with the majority of public opinion on this matter, and we suspect that many who claim to be Protestants will be present at Windsor Park on Sunday. Sadly, too, some who profess to be evangelical Protestants might also be present. That is up to them, but, as an umbrella organisation pledged to defend and promote evangelical Protestantism in our changing society, we urge all evangelical Protestants to put God and His day above all other considerations. God says, "them that honour me I will honour" (1 Samuel 2:30). We need to return to the old paths in relation to Sunday observance.
The Evangelical Protestant Society is deeply saddened by the decision to proceed with the Euro 2016 qualifying match between Northern Ireland and Finland in Windsor Park this Sunday (29 March 2015). This will be the first time an international football match has been held in Belfast on a Sunday, and it marks another watershed moment in modern Ulster's increasing rejection of the Lord's Day.
Our Province once held resolutely to Sunday observance, but those days are long gone. Church attendance is in decline and Sunday has become a day for shopping, sport and recreation. Far too many sporting and social events are now organised on Sundays with, it seems, scant regard for the rights of evangelicals who, because of their faith, are unable to be involved. Many evangelical Protestants are ardent fans of the national team and would dearly love to be present at the match. We wonder what efforts, if any, were made to have Sunday's fixture re-arranged. We also wonder what, if any, consultation has been held with churches and residents in the area around Windsor Park in relation to how the match might affect them.
We fully accept that we are out of step with the majority of public opinion on this matter, and we suspect that many who claim to be Protestants will be present at Windsor Park on Sunday. Sadly, too, some who profess to be evangelical Protestants might also be present. That is up to them, but, as an umbrella organisation pledged to defend and promote evangelical Protestantism in our changing society, we urge all evangelical Protestants to put God and His day above all other considerations. God says, "them that honour me I will honour" (1 Samuel 2:30). We need to return to the old paths in relation to Sunday observance.
EPS SUPPORTS RIGHTS OF CONSCIENCE
The Evangelical Protestant Society has joined with a wide range of Christian organisations and churches to offer its support to Mr Paul Givan MLA in his plans to introduce a conscience clause as an amendment to sexual orientation legislation. We submitted a detailed response and also met with Mr Givan during consultation on his proposals.
For some time now, it has become increasingly obvious that Christian businesses are being targeted, in a quite sinister way, by gay rights campaigners. As soon as a business expresses a reluctance to provide goods or services which might be seen as in some way giving approval to the legitimacy of same-sex relationships, then the "offended" customers have not been slow to air their grievances in a very public manner. Matters came to a head last summer when a customer complained that Ashers Bakery, a small family-run firm, had refused to ice a cake with the words, "Support Gay Marriage". The case was taken to the NI Equality Commission who have now proceeded with court action against Ashers. It must be noted that Ashers did not refuse to bake the cake. They merely said they felt they could not be seen to be endorsing a concept-still illegal in Northern Ireland-with which they sincerely and profoundly disagreed. It is clear that the customer, who could easily have found an alternative baker, was determined to make an example of Ashers. Common sense and common decency would surely lead people to take the view that if one particular business does not, for whatever reason, want their custom, then the most sensible thing for them to do is simply to go elsewhere. But common sense and common decency are in short supply in these cold and litigious days in which we live. The "equality agenda" is trumpeted by many-including Sinn Fein for whom it is their Trojan Horse- but it is clear that some people are "more equal" than others. Christians, it seems, can hold their beliefs just as long as they don't bring them into the public square. Now Ashers face the anxiety and uncertainties of a complex and contentious court case. If they lose, the genie will be well and truly out of the bottle and who knows where it might lead. We must pray that Ashers will be successful. Pray for legal counsel as they mount their defence. EPS has donated towards the legal defence fund and we urge our readers to help if they can.
We wish Mr Givan well in his efforts to build legislative safeguards into existing Regulations. The press have been scathing in their attacks on Mr Givan and his proposals, and some of the media coverage has been badly-and we suspect deliberately - ill-informed and misleading. Absurd allegations have been made that this is an attempt by Christians to refuse to serve gay people. There have been trades union rallies where people have warned about the dangers of a conscience clause. It is highly unlikely that Mr Givan will succeed when he brings his Bill to the Assembly as Sinn Fein-those champions of human rights and equality - have made it clear that they will use a "Petition of Concern" to block it. However, despite the efforts of the press, a constructive debate has now begun, and the consultation exercise on the Bill will provide useful information on the way forward for those who genuinely value civil and religious liberty for all.
Meanwhile, a new case, which is strikingly similar to Ashers, has just emerged in Drogheda in the Irish Republic. A hairdresser, who says he has been doing business for his salon with printing firm Beulah for several years, is now shocked that the company has refused to print invitations for his forthcoming civil partnership. Once again, the media and the public have failed to understand the issues, and Beulah could become another Ashers.
ELECTION 2015 - YOUR CHANCE TO HAVE YOUR SAY
Our nation goes to the polls in the General Election on Thursday 7 May. Many of us will remember election campaigns of just a few decades ago when policies rather than personalities took centre stage. That is no longer the case. Modern politics are now largely stage-managed and choreographed. Image is more important than substance.
However, we have a responsibility, as Christians and as citizens of a free nation, to follow the campaign closely, both nationally and locally, and to question candidates on their policies so that we can make informed decisions.
Righteousness exalts a nation (Proverbs 14:34), but our nation has largely forsaken its historic Biblical and Protestant roots, and the foundations are crumbling. Candidates should be asked for their position on a range of moral and ethical issues. We need to pray that a greater number of Christian MPs will be returned, and that they will be able to play their part as "salt and light" in the new Parliament. Above all, we urge all Christians to vote. Too often we hear people say that voting is a waste of time, but such an argument is hollow, for our vote does make a difference. A high price was paid to secure the right to vote and we must exercise that right on 7 May.
BOOTLE PROTESTANT FREE CHURCH WILL BE HOSTING A SERVICE OF PRAYER, RECONCILIATION AND COMMITMENT FOR THE ORANGE ORDER IN ENGLAND ON SUNDAY 22 FEBRUARY 2015 COMMENCING AT 6.30PM. ALL WELCOME.
POPE CLAIMS MARY WAS CONCEIVED 'WITHOUT ORIGINAL SIN' DURING FEAST OF IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
(Christian News Network Dec 2014)
ROME - In one of the feasts and celebrations marked on the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar leading up to Christmas, Catholics around the world observed the Feast of Immaculate Conception on Monday, a day in which those who follow the religion commemorate their belief that Mary was born without sin. Pope Francis led Catholics in the annual observance of the holiday, delivering an Angelus address in St. Peter's Square."Oh Mary, our mother, today the people of God in celebration venerates you, the immaculate, preserved from the contagion of sin from the beginning," he prayed. "Accept the gift I offer on behalf of the church in Rome and throughout the whole world." "In this time that leads us to the feast of the birth of Jesus, teach us to go against the tide," Francis continued. "The power of God's love, which has preserved you from original sin, freed all of humanity through your intercession from every spiritual and material slavery and made the designs of God's salvation victorious within hearts and events."
According to the National Catholic Register, he also declared to the crowds gathered that in Mary "there was no room for sin," because "God had chosen her to be the mother of Jesus," which resulted in her being preserved from "original sin."
The pontiff later venerated the Statue of the Immaculate Conception in Rome's Piazza di Spagna and invited others to join him. The statue was created in 1857 as a mark of the Roman Catholic belief that Mary was conceived without sin. "I ask you to spiritually unite yourselves to me in this pilgrimage, which expresses filial devotion to our heavenly mother," he said.
A NEW YEAR MESSAGE FROM EPS PRESIDENT,
REV W J MALCOLMSON
Having entered into the New Year 2015, and not knowing exactly what lies ahead for our nation, our Province, our churches or ourselves as individuals, there is surely for all of us the need for Divine guidance. Sadly, with a few exceptions, it is seldom sought by our political leaders and so we have this dreadful spiritual and moral downward spiral in the nation. There is a great need for Divine guidance and this should cause us to seek for it. And we can find it in many places in the Bible. One particular place comes to mind, and it is Exodus 13:17-18 - "And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt: But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt". God led them by the long way and not by the shorter as they would not have been equipped for war with the Philistines, and would have been minded to turn back. They were not only being divinely guarded, but divinely guided. The shorter way would have led them into disaster, and they would not have reached the "Promised Land". The shortcuts in life are not always the safest.
God's guidance does not always seem to be the most direct. Had they attempted to go through the territory of the Philistines they would have been butchered. They would have been walking into disaster. God makes no mistakes. He is miles ahead of us. He has purposes ahead that we cannot see. The longer way is often the better way.
God is never in a hurry. He knew their greatest need was to be disciplined, organized and equipped, in order to become a proper nation and not a recently liberated crowd of slaves. There are times in life when the wilderness is the best place for us, although it is hard and difficult, for it produces character and imparts knowledge, which the shorter way cannot give. The Lord knows the way through the wilderness. God saved them from themselves. He prevented them from taking the wrong way. In life, shut doors are often divine guidance as much as open doors are.
We also learn from these verses that God's way is the surest. The long way is the right way, and there is often guidance in delay. We are being guided according to His plans and purposes if we are walking with the Lord on a day-by-day regular basis, through Bible study and prayer. In Psalm 107:7, the psalmist looks back on Israel's history and concludes, "And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation". May this New Year of 2015 be one of great spiritual blessing to all our readers and friends as we all seek for Divine Guidance at a personal, church and national level.
PREACHING OF THE WORD MUST BE CENTRAL AT FUNERALS
Society's attitude toward death changes, it seems, with every generation. Our Victorian forebears were obsessed by it, but today death is almost an embarrassment in a secular world which regards itself as sophisticated and advanced, and people often seek to deal with it by making light of it in one way or another. Evidence of this can be seen in how funeral services are conducted, both in funeral homes and some churches. Hymns are being replaced by the deceased's favourite pop songs, Bible readings by poems and prose, and preaching (weak and meaningless as much of it is) is minimised or cut out altogether to allow for a series of tributes which are often based on humorous anecdotes and banality. Of course, the unsaved are much more comfortable in this type of scenario for it dims their senses and helps them to cope with the grim reality of death. In some ways, the removal of all religious trappings would be a more honest approach, for there is something incongruous about people who have rejected Christianity using churches for baptisms (or "christenings" or "getting the baby done"), marriages and funerals. Some time ago, I attended a humanist funeral in a funeral parlour which actually was probably a more honest event than many a religious funeral, but there was irony in it all for, as the coffin was being lowered for cremation, the deceased's favourite song was played over the speakers. It referred to walking the lonesome valley and mentioned the Bible and faith.
What is more worrying is that, as so often happens, the world's standards are slowly but surely creeping into funerals held in evangelical churches. Such change is less radical and more subtle but it is happening nevertheless. It should go without saying that a funeral service is a solemn event, for we are brought face to face with the fragility of life and the certainty of death. It should certainly not be an occasion for light-heartedness and jokes, but it presents evangelical preachers with a unique opportunity to present the Gospel to people who rarely, if ever, darken a church door. The funerals of God's saints are obviously sad occasions in many ways, but there is also comfort in the midst of tears, for the deceased has gone to be with Christ, and that point alone enables the preacher to highlight the good news of the Gospel. Indeed, all who are believers will want the Gospel to be proclaimed at their funeral, and, rather than have themselves eulogised, they will want the name of Christ to be lifted up before all who are present. Sadly, the centrality of the preaching of the Word is now being seriously undermined at far too many funerals in evangelical churches, and precious time is taken up with tributes, poems and eulogies. In some ways, it is symptomatic of the sidelining of the preaching of the Word in worship in general. We need to do all we can to halt this trend in our churches. Tributes to the deceased have their place, but let us not forget that, in the very presence of death, what is needed most of all is for mourners to be challenged about their own spiritual standing and to be told about Jesus Christ, the only Saviour of sinners, who says to them "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?"
SCOTLAND SAYS NO!
We were very pleased with the outcome of September's Scottish referendum on independence which was 55% in favour of remaining part of the UK. The devolution debate will continue, but, for the foreseeable future, the unity of the UK has been secured. The greatest need for the UK now is a return to the Biblical standards that were once our nation's solid foundation. "Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD" (Psalm 33:12).
EVANGELICAL PROTESTANT SOCIETY MOURNS PASSING OF IAN
"The members of the Council of the Evangelical Protestant Society are greatly saddened to learn of the passing of Ian Paisley. Although he had been in failing health for some time, the news of his death is still a shock, and it marks the end of an era. No other figure in modern times has dominated the political and spiritual landscape of Ulster to the extent that Ian Paisley has done. He was a giant who had a profound impact on the shaping of the history of Northern Ireland, and we will never see his like again.
As an organisation which is pledged to defend and promote historic Protestantism, we salute the uncompromising stand he took for the Protestant faith. He diligently proclaimed the Gospel of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone, and only eternity will reveal the extent of his soul-winning. He was never ashamed to own his Saviour, and he was determined to resolutely oppose false doctrine at every turn, even if it meant confronting the pope to his face at the European Parliament. We were honoured to have Dr Paisley as our guest speaker at our annual EPS Thanksgiving Service in 2005.
As a sinner saved by grace, Ian Paisley is now with Christ in glory and his earthly struggles are over, but death causes separation and heartache for those who have been bereaved, and we want to assure his grieving family of our heartfelt sympathy and prayers at this time. "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints". (Psalm 116:15)"
Evangelical Protestant Society
12 September 2014
TESTIMONY OF MR BRENDAN FLYNN
A few weeks ago, we received a phone call from Mr Brendan Flynn from
In the Bible, God's word, Jesus gave a solemn warning when He says, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of the Father in heaven. Many will say to me in that day [the great white throne judgement], 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in your name?' and I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me you who practise lawlessness.'" Matthew 7:21-23.
According to this, many religious people who thought they were Christians are going to get a shock when they stand before God in judgement for their sins at the great white throne judgement (see Revelation 20:11) only to find out that they were religious (many of them with dog collars on) but not saved, and it will be too late then to change anything. If the Lord hadn't opened my eyes, I would have been one of them, so I'm eternally grateful to the Lord Jesus for saving me. This is my testimony of how the Lord did that.
I was brought up in a very strict Catholic family as one of twelve kids. One of my brothers is a priest and one of my sisters a nun. All my life, I went to the Catholic Church, and believed in anything they told me (brainwashed). We were taught by the Catholic Church never to question what we were taught as that was wrong and a sign of rebellion. To cut a long story short, when I was in my twenties, while working away from home and after much soul searching, I realised that in spite of all the effort I'd put into trying to be a good Catholic, I was still a lost sinner. I was under conviction about this, so in my mind I asked God to forgive me and save me, and right away I felt forgiven and cleansed - something I'd never experienced before. I felt right with God, a new person. I didn't realise at that time that I was born again and that I'd received the Holy Spirit. Because I knew nothing about the Bible and had never heard of 'born again' or any other biblical terminology, I didn't realise or understand what had happened to me, so when I came home and tried to explain to my parents that something great had happened to me and that I wanted to buy a bible, my mother said, "There will be no bible thumpers in this house!", so I decided to go to my parish priest and get him to explain what had happened to me. So I went to the chapel house and asked the housekeeper if I could see the priest. A few minutes later, he arrived and asked me what I wanted. I said, "I don't know how to explain this but something fantastic has happened to me and now I feel I have a personal relationship with God." Right away, he cut me off and said, "No you don't," and showed me the door and told me to go home. Walking home, I felt a fool because we were conditioned to believe (brainwashed) that whatever the priest, Pope, bishop, etc. said was right. I decided while I walked home that I wouldn't discuss this anymore with anyone, especially my family, but I was determined to get a Bible and read it for myself - something I'd never done before (if Catholics or anyone were to read the Bible, they would get their eyes opened).
I was working offshore in the North Sea as a welder (where I still work today). It was 1985 and I was only married 6 months. I'd bought the New King James Bible and took it offshore and couldn't stop reading it even in my tea breaks, I had such a hunger for what God had to say. The more I read, the more I learned and gradually came to the realisation that the Catholic Church was totally false and that we were in a false religion. When I was home, I tried to explain this to my wife (at the time a devout Catholic). That upset her, especially when I proved from the word of God that we had been told a pack of lies in the Catholic Church and that it was and is a Satanic deception. We looked at how God has an opinion about Catholicism and He expresses that in His word. For example, they have a false gospel of works not by grace through faith and Paul the apostle said in Galatians 1:6-9, "if anyone preaches another gospel, let them be 'anathema' [damned to hell]." Also, in the book of Revelation, the Lord seals His word with the warning that "anyone who adds or takes out the word of God, He will take their name out the book of life [damn them to hell]." Revelation 22:18-19. The Catholic Church have added praying for the dead, indulgencies, the mass, the papacy, idol worship, purgatory, limbo, etc. The list is endless. We also discovered in the book of Revelation (which is about the future) from chapter 3 onwards that the Lord calls the Catholic Church 'the whore of Babylon', Babylon being where idolatry began under its founder Nimrod and describes the Catholic Church; she sits on seven hills, i.e. Rome (17:19) and in verse 6 she is "drunk with the blood of saints" - that is all true Christians like myself who have been executed or burnt at the stake for daring to speak out against her; down through the ages she has slaughtered them. She sits on the back of a beast - the antichrist, the coming world leader she thinks she can control - but God has decided He will use the antichrist to destroy her by fire, (possibly a nuclear weapon, verses 16-17).
My wife believed the word of God and that she was a sinner, and she asked the Lord to save her too and the night she did that was the night that changed her life. She bought a Bible too and started to read it. Like me, she had never read a Bible in her life and loved the word of God and she grew rapidly in God's word. It's been a privilege to tell others about the Lord and that they too can be saved - that is why I'm writing this. We left the Catholic Church and started going to an evangelical (Brethren) bible-believing church. Some Christians tend to think I have views of the Catholic Church that are a bit extreme but they don't understand Catholicism - I do. When we left the Catholic Church, we decided to tell our families. That was very difficult and it went down like a lead balloon. They are not searching for the truth and just want to trust whatever the Catholic Church teaches even though the Catholic Church repeatedly contradicts the bible. I have spoken to lots of priests, nuns and other Catholics over the years and they are clueless about the Bible, completely ignorant of scripture, all of them. The bible teaches that everyone is a sinner so everyone needs saved by the Lord. Sadly, my family and my wife's family don't believe the Bible; I hope you don't make that mistake because everyone needs a spiritual rebirth to be saved. Baptism and church membership won't save you - Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3 that unless you are born again, you will never get to heaven. So, if you want to be saved and set free from the penalty of sin (hell), just put your trust in the Lord and turn to Him for salvation. He has done that for my wife and me (saved us from God's wrath) and will do that for you. He died on the cross for you to pay the penalty for your sin because He loves you and wants to save you, and for you to spend eternity in heaven with Him.
Thanks for reading,
Please feel free to contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHY WE STILL SAY "NO POPE HERE"
Earlier this year, and almost out of the blue it seemed, the idea of a papal visit to Northern Ireland was once again being mooted and discussed. Following a unanimous vote from the Irish Senate to invite the Pope for an official visit, the issue was raised in Northern Ireland by the SDLP within Belfast City Council. Councillor Pat McCarthy said, "A papal visit to Belfast, endorsed by everyone, would send out a strong message to the rest of the world about how we are progressing, especially after the failure of the Haass talks." In light of comments such as those, you really do have to wonder what planet Councillor McCarthy and his colleagues live on. Of course, it was essentially a cynical ploy by the SDLP in the run-up to the council elections and was seen as such by most observers, which is why the EPS refused all requests by the media for a response. We felt it prudent to remain silent in the face of such a stunt and to comment in our own time. When the issue was debated by Belfast Council on, appropriately enough, 1 April, it was backed by Sinn Féin, the SDLP and Alliance, but unionist councillors abstained. While some people felt that this was a weak decision by the unionist bloc, Belfast Council has no power to act on any invitation and, in light of the SDLP's agenda, abstention was probably the wisest course of action to take in the circumstances. As DUP Councillor Lee Reynolds said, the motion, "was essentially an election stunt and it wasn't a game we were willing to play. They were wanting an insult and we weren't going to give them that, so we chose the path of abstention".
However, a stronger stand against a papal visit will need to be taken by our Protestant elected representatives if the issue is debated in the Northern Ireland Assembly and if those who have the power to do so decide to proceed with a formal invitation. Although the SDLP proposal was something of a storm in a tea-cup, the responses by politicians and church leaders were nevertheless very interesting and instructive. Councillor Jim Rodgers of the UUP was the most vocal unionist in opposing a papal visit to
Pope Francis is being well-marketed and promoted by the Vatican PR department as a humble and unassuming man of peace and reconciliation. And it has to be said that, overall, they are doing a good job! He seems set to be a very popular pope, but he is still the pope, and he still makes precisely the same claims as his predecessors. Like them, he arrogates to himself temporal and spiritual power over all the earth. In that sense, there can be no simple "pastoral visit" as such. Papal claims make it impossible. During his visit to Ireland in 1979, Pope John Paul II (recently beatified by the current pope) dedicated the island of Ireland to Mary. We remember too how, when the adoring crowds sang of him "He's got the whole world in his hands", he smiled and nodded approvingly. Such is the arrogance of the Roman Pontiff, and Pope Francis is no different to any of his predecessors. In addition, if the visit was to be a "state visit" then it would have to be within the context of the United Kingdom, and that would not be acceptable to the Vatican, for they would want any visit to Northern Ireland to be part of an all-Ireland itinerary. Then there is the vexed issue of the moral corruption within Romanism that is highlighted over and over again by the handling of the child abuse and similar scandals. It's interesting how such important matters are quickly forgotten at the mere mention of a papal visit.
While Councillor McCarthy might hope that a papal visit will be endorsed by everyone, his hope is a forlorn one, for true Protestants (and, we suspect, others as well) will oppose any visit, and they will have very strong scriptural and moral grounds for doing so. Meanwhile, we would strongly advise Protestant politicians and church leaders to take another look at the subordinate standards of their own churches and also the official teachings and claims of the Church of Rome. Such an examination might just prevent some of them from opening their mouths and making fools of themselves.
HERE WE STAND....
Our statement below (issued 22 January 2014) generated considerable media interest, especially in light of the timing, and the main media focus was on our reference to the First Minister's comments last October. It is important to put this whole matter into context. When Peter Robinson announced in February 2011 that he would attend requiem mass, we were greatly shocked and saddened. We issued a press statement and did press interviews setting out our position. We issued no press release when he did attend a mass a short time later. In October 2013, Mr Robinson raised the issue again in a speech, in which he referred to his attendance at mass, along with two other gestures, as being the right thing to do. But Mr Robinson is not the only Protestant politician who has attended mass. Some Ulster Unionist politicians have attended over the years, but this did not happen within the DUP until quite recently. We therefore decided to take up the matter again in our next (quarterly) Ulster Bulwark published just before Christmas. We subsequently decided in early January to send a copy of this to all Protestant/Unionist MLA's and MP's, with a covering letter drawing attention to two articles - the one on the mass and the other on the Lord's Day. After waiting for a reasonable length of time, we issued our press release. The timing was completely co-incidental, and we obviously have no control over how the press decide to report these matters. We do note, however, that Mr Robinson has said he has no apology to make. At least he is clear, but it is sad that he appears unable or unwilling to acknowledge that he has offended many evangelical Protestants. We have no doubt that he, and others, might gain votes by their actions and that we are probably out of step with majority opinion. So be it. We have no apology to make either.
A CALL TO PROTESTANT POLITICIANS TO UPHOLD BIBLICAL VALUES
Press statement from EPS, 22 January 2014
The Evangelical Protestant Society, as an evangelical umbrella organisation which seeks to defend and promote evangelical Protestantism in our changing society, has been concerned for some time about the gradual but steady erosion of Ulster's Protestant foundations. We have therefore written to all Protestant and Unionist elected representatives at Stormont and Westminster to urge them to take a firm stand in two specific areas where we feel there has been slippage in recent times.
First, there is an alarming decline in respect for the sanctity of the Lord's Day, with more and more social and sporting events being held on a Sunday. Sadly, it seems that this relaxed attitude to Sunday is also rubbing off on some evangelical Christians, and it is vital that there is a return to the old paths in relation to Sunday observance. We commend the DUP for its principled refusal to participate in the Haass talks on a Sunday, and encourage it and, indeed, all Unionist representatives, to stand firm for the Lord's Day.
The other area of concern relates to the seemingly increasing willingness on the part of some Protestant politicians to attend requiem mass. Now, we fully appreciate the sensitivities surrounding this issue, and do not wish to take an approach which might be interpreted as harsh or uncaring towards those who have been bereaved and are in sorrow. However, there are ways in which we can offer support and sympathy which do not include being present at the Mass. While we respect the right of conscience, we disagree with the assertion by the First Minister in a speech last October that his attendance at the Mass was the right thing to do. It is not the right thing for an evangelical Protestant to do, and it should never be demoted to the level of a confidence building measure.
We assure all our Christian politicians of our prayers. We commend those who are prepared to be salt and light in these challenging times, and we encourage all others to take the same approach, no matter what the cost.
PROTESTANTS SHOULD NOT USE "RIP"
The letters "RIP", meaning "'Requiescat in pace' or "Rest in Peace", have long been used by the Roman Catholic Church, and can be frequently seen, for example, in death notices and on gravestones. However, the use of "RIP" has become much more widespread in recent years, and it is now often quoted by many Protestants on the social media sites Facebook and Twitter. While it is probably being used in all innocence and sincerity, it is a further illustration of spiritual confusion within Protestant circles.
In the Church of Rome, the term "Rest in Peace" is virtually a prayer for the dead, so that should alert us right away. A person's eternal destiny is decided prior to death. If your faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation, then at death, your soul will immediately pass into glory. However, if you have not trusted Christ but have rejected God's offer of salvation, then, tragically, when you die your soul is lost in hell forever. This is what the Bible teaches, and there is no Biblical warrant for praying for the dead or for wishing that their soul might "Rest in Peace". Indeed, such a view contradicts the Bible. The redeemed do not need our prayers, and the lost cannot benefit from them once they have passed from us. We would be better to pray more for them while they are alive. Let us reject and repudiate the superstitions of Rome and remain faithful to the clear teaching of the Word of God.
THE LORD'S DAY
It goes without saying that respect for, and observation of, the Lord's Day in Ulster has been in decline for some time. For many years, Ulster stood apart from the rest of the UK as a place where Sunday was a special day and very different from the other six days. I remember as a child in the late 1950s and early 1960's how my parents, who at that time were church-going people but who did not openly profess faith, would not allow us out to play on a Sunday, and the same attitude as taken by other parents. Shoes were polished on Saturday night and Sunday was most definitely a day apart. That attitude was mainstream.
Fifty years on, and society has changed radically. As church attendance has declined, so has respect for the Lord's Day. Nowadays, Sunday is a leisure day when individuals and families spend time in sport and recreation, shopping, watching TV and so on. An increasing number of social and sporting events are now held on a Sunday, with little or no thought given to the rights of Christians and churches. We should not be greatly surprised by this, because there is no fear of God or of His Word in modern Ulster.
However, of much greater concern is that this relaxed attitude towards a Sunday seems to be rubbing off on evangelical Christians. Social media such as Facebook and Twitter reveal a very definite decline in Lord's Day observance among evangelicals. Christian believers will attend their place of worship but then quite happily watch sport and other programmes on TV, go shopping or eat out in restaurants on a Sunday. Some will argue that this is acceptable as the Lord's Day is different from the old Sabbath, and they will point to other believers from past ages who engaged in sporting activities. But, deep down, surely the believer should not feel comfortable engaging in these sorts of activities on a Sunday. Matthew Henry counsels that "the law of the sabbath is still binding on us today". Will we really get the best out of the Lord's Day if we watch TV or dine in restaurants? And let's not forget that by engaging in these activities, then we are expecting others to work-and it is clear that Christians who work in shops and restaurants have very few rights. Now, as with other areas of life, we must all be fully persuaded in our own minds on these matters, but this author feels that we must seek to get back to a high view of the Lord's Day. The Westminster subordinate standards are very helpful here. Q60 of the Shorter Catechism asks, "How is the sabbath to be sanctified? And the response is"The sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God's worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy". Those words "necessity" and "mercy" are the key to a proper analysis of what we can do, or cannot do, on the Lord's Day. Chapter XXI of the Westminster Confession of Faith makes a similar point at para 8. We close with a solemn quote from D L Moody who said, "You show me a nation that has given up the Sabbath and I will show you a nation that has got the seed of decay".
REV ERIC CULBERTSON
We were sad to learn of the passing of our friend and former EPS Council member, Rev Eric Culbertson. Eric had been seriously ill for some time, and the Lord called him home on the morning of 8 November 2013 at the age of 59. Eric had been a faithful and fearless evangelical Protestant witness within the Church of Ireland for many years, and his passing leaves a huge gap. He was a very gifted man with an encylopaedic knowledge of a wide range of matters, but underpinning it all was his commitment to Biblical truth and principles, and he was motivated by his love for the Lord Jesus Christ and the Gospel. We mourn his passing, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family.
ULSTER'S LONG HOT SUMMER
(The full text of the lead article in the Oct-Dec 2013 edition of the Ulster Bulwark)
As the autumn and winter set in once again, summer already seems a distant memory, but we are thankful that Northern Ireland enjoyed one its best summers for many years in 2013 with a lengthy heat-wave in July and high temperatures right through until September. However, the Ulster summer was also hot for other, less desirable, reasons, for we had one of the most contentious and difficult marching seasons for some time with regrettable levels of tension and unrest in some areas. The reasons for this are many and varied, and nowhere nearly as simple or straightforward as portrayed by some sections of the media. Prior to the marching season, tensions had already been simmering within the Protestant, Unionist and Loyalist community due to the decision last December to remove the Union Flag from Belfast City Hall. There were also ongoing concerns about several aspects of the "peace process", including plans to locate a "Conflict Resolution Centre" at the Maze near Lisburn, close to the site of the infamous "H" Blocks which once housed terrorist prisoners. Thankfully, those plans have now been shelved. There was very considerable anger at Sinn Fein's decision to press ahead with a parade in Castlederg in mid August to honour several IRA men, including two killed by their own bomb. No matter how we look at it, it all seems a far cry from the rarefied atmosphere in the Waterfront Hall in Belfast during President Obama's carefully orchestrated and choreographed visit there in mid-June.
A few of our friends on the mainland have contacted us to express their concerns about the violence that occurred after an Orange march was stopped at Ardoyne on the evening of the Twelfth of July. We share some of those concerns and feel it appropriate to make brief comment. Each year, there is a degree of tension during the summer marching season but it reached new levels this year and the situation in some parts of Belfast remains highly volatile. Responsibility for this tension rests mainly with a range of Republican and Nationalist elements whose "concerned residents" groupings stridently oppose traditional loyal order parades going through what they describe as "nationalist areas". The Parades Commission, which is tasked with making decisions on every parade, has long been extremely unpopular with the Protestant and Unionist community as it regularly panders to these residents groups and imposes unfair conditions upon traditional parades. Matters came to a head this year when the Commission decided to prevent the three Ligoniel Orange lodges from returning home via Ardoyne in north Belfast on 12thJuly evening. Last year, the Orange lodges obeyed the law in detail and held their return parade much earlier than they had wished to ensure they complied fully with all that was asked of them. On that evening (12 July 2012), Republicans rioted and opened fire on police with automatic rifles. This year, Republicans were rewarded for their violence and the Orangemen were punished for obeying the law, and the parade was not allowed back home by its traditional route. This wholly unjust decision caused great anger, not only in Belfast but across Ulster, and it is important for our friends, particularly those in GB, to understand these feelings of injustice.
It is often asserted that Orange parades seek to force their way through nationalist areas, and the loyal orders are thus portrayed as nakedly sectarian and confrontational organisations. This simply is not the case. We accept that population changes over the years have altered the community balance in some areas, but the so-called "contentious areas" have largely been engineered by those who are motivated by deep-seated hatred of Protestantism. The majority of Roman Catholics have no problems with traditional parades, and opposition is led by a small hard core of militant republicans.The route used by Ligoniel Orangemen on 12thJuly is along a main arterial route and the short "contentious" section consists mainly of a few closed shops. The bands do not play going past this area. So a very small silent traditional parade would pass by within a few minutes and that would be it.
The Parades Commission got it all wrong (yet again), and predictions of serious disorder proved sadly to be true, with full scale rioting at Ardoyne in which some Orangemen and bandsmen attacked police with ceremonial swords, poles, bottles, bricks and anything else that could be found. Those who were present testified to the levels of drunkenness and obscene language - and all this at the end of a Protestant parade. The fact that the Twelfth had passed off extremely peacefully and in glorious sunshine at several locations across the Province was quickly forgotten as the world's media focused attention on the shameful scenes at Ardoyne. We can point the finger of blame at the Parades Commission or at the PSNI-and both carry some responsibility for what happened - but there simply is no excuse for the disgraceful scenes on that evening. Once again, theOrangecause came under the spotlight in a negative way. Thankfully, all subsequent protests at Ardoyne - which are being held on a very regular basis - have been peaceful. Some argue that the only language that is understood in these days is that of violence, and we have seen plenty of evidence to back that up, but violence can never be excused or condoned. Indeed, it must be unreservedly condemned. Great shame is brought upon the Protestant cause by violence of any sort.
Secularism is advancing at great speed in Ulster, and this is very evident in Protestant working class areas of Belfast where once the Gospel was proclaimed and received but is now largely rejected. Today, all that is left are shadows and symbols of a rich spiritual heritage. Too many who claim to be Protestants have no love for, or understanding of, the fundamentals of the Protestant faith. In place of a robust religious base they have substituted "culture" and "tradition". One placard carried at loyalist protests about the Ardoyne issue proclaims that marching is our culture, but, with respect, that is not the case. Marching is the vehicle by which the Protestants of Ulster have traditionally demonstrated their religious heritage and faith.
It is important to remember that the loyal orders are primarily Protestant organisations. That is why they are hated by the enemies of Protestantism. The Gospel is proclaimed from Orange platforms on 12th July, Orange Halls are used for Gospel Missions which are open to all, and much good work is done by the loyal orders in many different ways. EPS feels strongly that Biblical standards and spiritual values must therefore take absolute priority over all other considerations and agendas. That is the best way forward. The "Qualifications of an Orangeman", which we publish on this page, set out an excellent standard to which all of us, whether Orangemen or not, should aspire.
At the time of going to press, the US diplomat, Dr Richard Haass, former aide to President Bush, has begun his initiative designed to resolve the issues of parading, flags and dealing with the past. Time will tell how that will go. Meanwhile, we urge our readers to pray for Ulster.
Yes, much has changed in a short time, but nothing really has changed. Francis, for all his purported "humility", will asurp to himself titles that belong only to our sovereign Lord. He will lead a church which is, as the BBC put it, "beset by problems ranging from a worldwide scandal over child sex abuse to allegations of corruption at the Vatican Bank". Those problems are deep-rooted and endemic and, far from being of comparatively recent origin, they are in many ways an essential part of what Romanism has always been and always will be. The various scandals receive more of a public airing nowadays and they have led to fresh discontent among Roman Catholic laity, but as Martin Luther and the other Reformers realised, the Roman Catholic Church is completely incapable of reform from within. It is corrupt and rotten to its very core. It is the enemy of Christ and His Gospel and the system of antichrist.
Despite all the scandals and corruption, however, Rome has the uncanny knack of hypnotizing a naïve and gullible world. It's always interesting to observe how it retains the respect and adulation of media, politicians and the ecumenical movement. Tributes and best wishes to the new pope have come from so-called Protestant church leaders. At times such as this we are reminded of how all the world wonders after the beast (Rev 13:3). But, while we expect nothing else from those who are in spiritual darkness, it is tragic to see the extent to which some within evangelical circles have also been hypnotized and conned. Rome has not changed one iota, but some evangelicals have certainly softened their attitude towards her. They have given up the war with Rome and have decommissioned their weapons. John Piper went so far as to tweet during the papal election, "O Lord of truth and mercy, put in place a Pope most willing to reform the Catholic Church in accord with your most holy word". Some evangelicals have concurred with that sentiment. Others might not totally agree with it, but have no desire to challenge or confront Romanism. Rome has not changed one iota, but some evangelicals have certainly softened their attitude towards her. They have given up the war with Rome and have decommissioned their weapons. All this will, of course, be music in the ears of Francis and his friends.
It is, however, a most alarming trend and one that we in EPS will continue to oppose. The battle with Rome is a battle against a religion that is false and arrogant and which holds people in spiritual bondage. Rome is the very antithesis of Bible truth. We cannot be lured into surrender or be tempted to desert the battle field. As Spurgeon said, "In our fathers' days the gigantic walls of Popery fell by the power of their faith, the perseverance of their efforts, and the blast of their gospel trumpets; and now there are some who would rebuild that accursed system upon its old foundation….We must warn with judicious boldness those who are inclined towards the errors of Rome; we must instruct the young in gospel truth, and tell them of the black doings of Popery in the olden times. We must aid in spreading the light more thoroughly through the land, for priests, like owls, hate daylight. Are we doing all we can for Jesus and the gospel? If not, our negligence plays into the hands of priestcraft". Our fathers were made of sterner stuff than the jelly-like evangelicals of today's generation, and we must carry on the battle. As the hymn states,"Our martyred Fathers' dying words, as at the stake they stood, Bid us resist thee to the end, words written in their blood".
It is our duty and privilege as evangelical Protestants, not only to continue that great battle against Romanism, but to reach out in love to our Roman Catholic neighbours and friends, many of whom are bewildered by the state of their church. We have a wonderful message of hope for them and for all mankind. We can point them to Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord, who says to them, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no man cometh unto the Father, but by me"(John 14:6) and"him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.(John 6:37).It is our prayer that, even as a result of scandals and corruption within, many souls would find freedom and eternal life by fleeing from Romanism to Jesus Christ.
These are the responses from the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, and the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, regarding the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. Read them and weep.
Archbishop of York:
"With the news that Pope Benedict XVI will resign at the end of February, the Christian world will miss a great theologian with great spiritual depth.We should remember Pope Benedict communicated the revelation of God in a characteristic way as a true successor of St Peter. He was unafraid to proclaim the Gospel and challenge a culture that is so self-referential, managing to lift our eyes to God's glory.Let us all lift our eyes to the glory of God, embracing his love and care for this world."
Archbishop of Canterbury:
It was with a heavy heart but complete understanding that we learned this morning of Pope Benedict's declaration of his decision to lay down the burden of ministry as Bishop of Rome, an office which he has held with great dignity, insight and courage. As I prepare to take up office I speak not only for myself, and my predecessors as Archbishop, but for Anglicans around the world, in giving thanks to God for a priestly life utterly dedicated, in word and deed, in prayer and in costly service, to following Christ. He has laid before us something of the meaning of the Petrine ministry of building up the people of God to full maturity. In his visit to the United Kingdom, Pope Benedict showed us all something of what the vocation of the See of Rome can mean in practice - a witness to the universal scope of the gospel and a messenger of hope at a time when Christian faith is being called into question. In his teaching and writing he has brought a remarkable and creative theological mind to bear on the issues of the day. We who belong to other Christian families gladly acknowledge the importance of this witness and join with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters in thanking God for the inspiration and challenge of Pope Benedict's ministry. We pray that God will bless him profoundly in retirement with health and peace of mind and heart, and we entrust to the Holy Spirit those who have a responsibility to elect his successor.
The events surrounding the Home Rule crisis of 1912-1914 in Ulster are of huge historical and contemporary significance and, as we approach the centenaries of those key events, there have been determined efforts by the Northern Ireland Executive and others to ensure that they are observed in a spirit of inclusivity and mutual tolerance. However, although one hundred years have passed, many of the issues remain alive, relevant, and - and, to some extent, unresolved. Today, we live in times of relative peace and political stability, and we can sometimes forget that the old quarrels have, to a large degree, merely been parked. To paraphrase Gerry Adams, they haven't gone away you know.
The crux of those quarrels is, to all intents and purposes, the long-standing tensions between Protestantism and Unionism on one hand and Roman Catholicism and Nationalism/Republicanism on the other. Not all Protestants are Unionists and not all Roman Catholics are Nationalists, but, by and large, the religious and political fault-lines remain broadly coterminous. A minority on the island of Ireland, Protestants in Ulster have long believed that their religious and political identity could best be secured by remaining firmly within the United Kingdom. Any absorption into all-Ireland political arrangements outside the UK would, they have long asserted, be injurious and perhaps even fatal to their survival as a people. That was the case in 1912 and it remains the case in 2012.
While some aspects of Irish and Ulster history are complex enough for Ulster people to understand and interpret, the task is even more difficult for those outside Ulster. This much has been admitted by several of our friends in England, and one of the aspects some people have the greatest problem with is the Larne gun-running of April 1914, organised byMajor Fred Crawford and Captain Wilfred Spender for the Ulster Unionist Council to arm the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). The morality of such drastic action has been called into question, as has the assertion that there would be no Bible in Ulster today if it had not been for the action taken at that time. It is impossible for us to predict with any accuracy or authority just how the history of Ulster or Ireland might have unfolded if our forefathers had not taken the stand that they did from 1912 on, or if they had been defeated. But it is fairly safe to presume that the Gospel light, which shone brightly in Ulster in the years following the defeat of Home Rule and the introduction of partition, would not have shone nearly so brightly under an independent all-Ireland state. Indeed, it might well have been all but extinguished.As Kipling wonderfully expresses it in his poem "Ulster 1912", the dark eleventh hour was indeed drawing on, and our fathers feared for their future as a Protestant presence in Ireland.
Our fathers, quite correctly as the subsequent history of the Free State/Irish Republic readily confirms, identified Home Rule as Rome Rule and felt that they were duty bound to resist it to the death. There was Biblical and historical precedence for their robust and brave stand, and they drew inspiration from others who had been there before them.
Ulster's Solemn League and Covenant, drawn up in 1912 and signed by over 500,000 people that September, was inspired by the historic covenant documents signed in 1638 and 1643, by which the Scottish Covenanters entered a political and military alliance with English Parliamentarians during the first English Civil War to oppose Popery and promote the Protestant cause across the nation.
The 1912 Covenant, like its 17thcentury predecessors, was a political and a religious document which encapsulated the very heart-beat of Protestant Unionism. It began,"Being convincedin our consciences that Home Rule would be disastrous to the material well-being of Ulster as well as of the whole of Ireland, subversive of our civil andreligious freedom, destructive of our citizenship, and perilous to the unity of the Empire", relying on"the God whom our fathers in days of stress and trial confidently trusted",the signatories pledged themselves to use"all means which may be found necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland".
The Scottish Covenants were not the only precedent or basis for Ulster resistance in 1912. We only have to look back to the time of the Siege of Londonderry in 1688-89, when the Protestants, again fearing for their very existence, had fled to that city and, defying the authority of the King, shut the gates and resisted by force until the Lord sent them relief and delivered them from the hands of their enemies.
This determined mindset was well express by Rev Patrick Bronte in a letter to his younger brother, Hugh, at Rathfriland. Writing from Haworth on November 20 1843, he had this to say of the deteriorating situation in Ireland at that time- "If all the Protestants in Ireland were rightly armed and organised they need not- owing to their good cause and their superior intellects and wealth, fear their opponents- should the Romanists gain their ends, they will destroy, and utterly exterminate, both Churchmen and Dissenters- and I hope that both Dissenters, and Churchmen, see this, and will act accordingly. I like not war, but Christ has said, in reference to a case of necessity, like this, "Let him who has no sword, sell his garments and buy one".Earlier in the same letter he urged Protestants in Ireland to remember what"a few determined men did at the siege of Derry". Indeed, his fellow evangelicals in the Church Of England in West Yorkshire such as William Morgan and Hammond Roberson took an even more militant stance!
Rather than questioning the morality or the judgement of those who stood firm in 1912 and the years following, let us thank God for that stand, and pray that we might be emboldened to continue to defend the evangelical Protestant cause in Ulster and in Ireland in 2012.
For God and Ulster - the faith of Sir Edward Carson
By Jack Greenald
Edward Carson was born in Dublin on 9 Feb 1854. His father was a Presbyterian of Scots descent and his mother was Church of Ireland and a descendent of the Cromwellian General John Lambert. Carson was brought up in the Church of Ireland. He was taught the truth of the Bible by his mother. In his last major speech in Parliament, in the House of Lords in 1927, he said: 'religion is a thing that you learn at your Mother's knee ... Any religion I ever learned was from my Mother, and it is to me one of the most precious possessions'.
Carson studied law at Trinity College, Dublin, and joined the Orange Order as a student in 1872. A clergyman who was present at his initiation wrote 'that he can bear witness that he was a decided Christian, and worked as an evangelist amongst students during his stay there'. This was confirmed by his biographer, Ian Colvin, who wrote that 'as a law student at Trinity College he used to preach at street corners of a Sunday night; his religion was something very deep and very dearly cherished'.
His legal career began in 1878 and on 19 December 1879, he married Annette Kirwan at Monkstown Parish Church, Dublin. Ten years later he became a QC. Aged 35, he was the youngest QC in Ireland. On 1 July 1892 he was appointed the Irish Solicitor General, and eight days later he became the Liberal Unionist MP for Trinity College, making his maiden speech in the House of Commons on 2 February 1893. After 1893 he built up a legal practice in England, and in May 1900 he was appointed Solicitor General for England.
Carson accepted the leadership of the Irish Unionists in the House of Commons on 21 February 1910, and led the Unionist opposition to the Third Home Rule Bill. On Ulster Day, 28 September 1912, Carson was the first man to sign the Ulster Covenant in Belfast City Hall.
On 19 July 1913 Carson was presented with a Bible at a Unionist rally in Harryville, Ballymena, by John Collis, ex-President of the Apprentice Boys of Derry Club, marked at Romans 8 v 31'If God be for us, who can be against us?' Carson said: 'This is, indeed, a very unexpected pleasure, for I was not aware till I came here that I was to have this priceless gift handed to me. I need not say that I accept it in all humiliation. In all humiliation, because, whatever may be the efforts of man, it is under Heaven, and under a firm belief and trust in the great Almighty alone, that the future can be assured to any of us. I can only say I shall treasure to my last day that Holy Bible, the gift of the men of Harryville. It will never leave me, I will hand it on to my children, and I will tell them I expect them to do what I hope I am trying to do, namely, regardless of consequences, to act up to their consciences with a firm trust in the Almighty'.
During World War I, Carson served as Attorney General, First Lord of the Admiralty and a member of the war cabinet. In the 1918 General Election he was elected MP for the Belfast constituency of Duncairn. He resigned as the leader of Ulster Unionism in February 1921 and in May he became the Lord of Appeal.
Carson had fought many battles in the Law Courts and in Parliament, and his last Parliamentary battle took place in 1927 when in the House of Lords, he opposed the proposal in 1927 when in the House of Lords, he opposed the proposal to approve the Alternative Prayer Book for use in the Church of England. He viewed this battle as 'the struggle under very difficult circumstances to maintain the principles of the primitive Faith involved in the successful issue of the Reformation'.
In a speech in the Lords, Carson said that this was the first time that he had felt grateful to Gladstone for disestablishing the Church of Ireland because Parliament could not bind the Church of Ireland to use the proposed new prayer book, and they would be free to continue to use the Book of Common Prayer and 'go on cherishing the precious heritage of the Reformation'. Carson questioned why practices that were abolished at the Reformation such as sacrificial vestments and the use of the wafer were being re-introduced by the proposed Prayer Book. He said, 'they want to be able to say that they have the Mass and to call it the Mass, although the Mass is one of the first things repudiated by the Reformation'. Carson was also concerned by the question of the reservation of the Sacrament, which he said 'is one of those matters which for a long time those people who have set up these illegal practices in the Church have been attempting to foist upon the Protestant Church'.
Carson believed that the Prayer Book would bring division to the Church rather than unity and discipline as some of the Bishops argued. He felt that 'those of us who believe that the Black Rubric is true, that the bread and wine remain still in their very natural substances and therefore may not be adored, for that were idolatry, to be abhorred by all faithful Christians', could not worship in the same church as those who believed the opposite. 'I hope I offend nobody when I say that I believe the Black Rubric to be right ... do not let us have this chaos in the Church not only of two Prayer Books, which is bad enough, but of two Communion Services, in one of which something is declared to be absolute idolatry while it is legalised in the other. How can a Church stand in those circumstances?'
He ended his speech by saying: 'I have spoken perhaps strongly, but not more strongly than I feel, because I believe we have arrived at a real crisis, and that after the passing of this Measure nothing but disaster can follow.' The proposed prayer book was passed by the House of Lords but was defeated in the House of Commons by thirty three votes where opposition had been led by the Evangelical Protestant William Joynson-Hicks.
In the last days of his life Carson was visited by Dr D'Arcy, the Church of Ireland Primate. Carson told him 'I have seen much to shake my faith, and what remains with me is no more than I learned at my mother's knee: 'God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son'.Carson died at his home, Cleve Court, Ramsgate in Kent on 22 October 1935. His state funeral took place in Belfast on 26 October and he was buried in St Anne's Cathedral. His biographer wrote that 'Carson's life, indeed, had always glowed around a core of earnest faith'.
LOYAL ADDRESS TO HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN ON THE OCCASION ON HER DIAMOND JUBILEE
I write on behalf of the Council of the Evangelical Protestant Society,Belfast, to extend to Your Majesty our warmest congratulations on the joyous occasion of your Diamond Jubilee.
It is hard to believe that sixty years have elapsed since Your Majesty ascended the Throne after the sad and sudden passing of your dear father, the late King George VI. Those years have seen hugely significant changes in so many aspects of life, but you, Ma'am, have been a beacon of stability, light and hope during good times and bad, and we rejoice that, sixty years on, you remain our much-loved and greatly revered Queen.
As evangelicals and Protestants, we strongly believe that God has blessed theUnited Kingdomover the years because of its faithfulness to the Bible. The Bill of Rights 1688 and the Act of Settlement 1701 have provided a solid framework which have guaranteed civil and religious liberties for our nation during the past 300 years.
We humbly urge Your Majesty to stand firm against those who, for whatever motive, are seeking to introduce constitutional and legislative changes which will undermine the historic Biblical and Protestant foundations of Your Majesty's Throne.
We have been encouraged to note that in some of Your Majesty's recent public pronouncements, including your Christmas address to the nation, you have taken the opportunity to remind your subjects of the importance and contemporary relevance of the Bible and its message.
Your Majesty, this will be a busy and challenging, but also hopefully a happy and memorable, year for you and the Duke of Edinburgh as you carry out a wide range of public duties and meet with your subjects across the nation. We rejoice with you in this Diamond Jubilee year, and you can be assured of the warmest and most heart-felt of welcomes when you visitNorthern Ireland.
I have the honour to be, Madam, Your Majesty's loyal, humble and obedient servant
Secretary, on behalf of the Council and members of the Evangelical Protestant Society
YET MORE ROMANIST WHITEWASH
The report of the Vatican's "Apostolic Visitation" to Ireland to investigate the child abuse scandal has just been published (20 March 2012). It seems to be a case of "déjà vu all over again". The Vatican expresses "dismay and betrayal" at the "sinful and criminal acts" by Catholic clergy and the Irish hierarchy have responded with the ritual hand-wringing and crocodile tears. The report fails to accept responsibility for the culture of secrecy and cover-up of what was systemic abuse, and it also states that the Visitation was pastoral in nature - an indication that no meaningful action will be taken to bring the guilty to account.
Michael Kelly of the 'Irish Catholic' said the report carried "a very clear warning that says authentic renewal cannot be brought about by dissent from Church teaching." The report states, "The Visitators also encountered a certain tendency, not dominant but nevertheless fairly widespread among priests, religious and laity, to hold theological opinions at variance with the teachings of the Magisterium, this serious situation requires particular attention". Such arrogance is a reminder that nothing has changed or ever will change. Rome will not tolerate any independent thinking and the Magisterium (the teaching authority of the church) continues to take precedence over the Bible.
THE WORD OF GOD - THE SECRET OF ENGLAND'S GREATNESS - Queen Victoria presenting a Bible to an Indian Prince
EPS PLANS TO EXPAND INTO GREAT BRITAIN
Although the Evangelical Protestant Society has many supporters throughout the UK and much further afield it is, essentially, a Northern Ireland based organisation. However, in recent years, the Society has increased its profile on the British mainland and we have made some good friends there. In talking to them, there is a feeling that the cause of evangelical Protestantism might be better served across the nation if we were to create structures which would enable EPS to have a formal presence in Great Britain. These plans are still in the early stages of consideration and discussion, but we envisage the establishment of an EPS branch in England, one in Scotland and one in Wales. If anyone is interested, please contact Mr Ian Thompson (Liverpool) on 0151 427 7210, email email@example.com or Mr Wallace Thompson (Belfast) on 028 9048 1920, firstname.lastname@example.org. As these plans develop, we urge all our friends to pray for wisdom and guidance in relation to this matter.
Our bank has informed us that, for security reasons, it can no longer accept cheques made payable to "EPS". We would therefore be grateful if you would ensure that all cheques are made payable to the"Evangelical Protestant Society". Thank you for your help in this matter.
Click here to see the article "Sixty Years on and Still Contending 1946-2006." From the April - June 2006 edition of the "Ulster Bulwark"
29 January 2011
"What is it to Earnestly Contend for the Faith?"
On Saturday 30th October 2010 Mr Wallace Thompson delivered the keynote address at the "Expressing the Faith, Defending the Faith Seminar." His subject on the evening was, "What is it to Earnestly Contend for the Faith?"
25 January 2011