News, Views and Comment on Issues of the Day

 

 

EPS - A VOICE FOR TODAY

EPS strongly believes that evangelical Protestantism must speak to the issues of the day, and the society is very active in this area.  Below are our latest press statements and articles. This page also contains a small archive of other statements and articles on the moral, ethical, theological and doctrinal issues of the day.  Click on any of the sub-pages on the left to view an archived article.

ULSTER STANDS AT THE CROSSROADS

December 2012

It's hard to believe that 44 years have passed since Northern Ireland's then Prime Minister, Captain Terence O'Neill, delivered his famous televised broadcast which began with the now legendary words, "Ulster stands at the crossroads". That was 9 December 1968, just at the time of the growing "civil rights" unrest and on the eve of the prolonged and bloody period of terrorism known as "The Troubles". Today, Ulster is a very different place. Thankfully, the terrorist campaign is now largely over, although, as the tragic murder of prison officer David Black last November reminds us, the threat is still there. We also now have relatively stable devolved government at Stormont, and "bread and butter" issues tend to dominate the news, but it is fair to say that many Protestants are disillusioned and unhappy with the performance of the current, largely dysfunctional, devolved arrangements. Republicans and nationalists, meanwhile, seem determined to seize every opportunity to dilute and weaken Ulster's British identity. We have been reminded of this by the decision by nationalists on Belfast City Council, with the support of the Alliance Party, to remove the Union Flag from the City Hall, where it had flown every day for the past one hundred years. The anger that has flowed from that decision is palpable, for the removal of the flag is rightly seen as a further example of the steady erosion of Ulster's Protestant and Unionist identity. Sadly, protests have sometimes degenerated into outrageous scenes of mob violence, and we have been reminded how fragile the "peace process" really is.

Ironically, however, despite the bombs and the bullets and the ethnic cleansing endured by the Protestant and Unionist people over the years, and the ongoing attempts to destroy our British identity, it would appear that the Union between Northern Ireland and Great Britain is probably more now secure than ever. And, even allowing for population trends, the Protestant and Unionist people of Ulster, to paraphrase Gerry Adams, haven't gone away you know. The parade in Belfast and rally at Stormont on Saturday 29 September to mark the centenary of the Ulster Covenant was one of the biggest demonstrations of Protestantism and Unionism the city has ever seen. It was an amazing spectacle by any standards, with bands and lodges still arriving at Parliament Buildings at 5pm, after some of the other lodges had already left on their return journey home. Those of us who were participants or spectators will never forget it, and we will never see the like of it again. 

Overall though, as we prepare to launch out into 2013, it is our view that all is not well with Ulster. Terrorism no longer features on a daily basis, but we are facing a new sickness - that of moral and spiritual decline. Once again, our Province stands at the crossroads. One of the most striking features of Ulster in 1912 was the spiritually strong and vibrant Protestantism of our forefathers. They were a godly people with a deep and reverent fear of God. Tragically, that is no longer the case today. Modern Ulster Protestants have largely lost their way. We are a materialistic people and we cling to shadows rather than substance. The economy is at the centre of the Programme for Government, but economically and financially Northern Ireland continues to struggle. Our culture and traditions are important to us, but we have elevated them to new heights to fill a moral and spiritual vacuum, and they are no substitute for a robust Biblical Protestantism. Sadly, while people have protested about the Union Flag at the City Hall, there have been no Protestant protests about the further erosion of the Lord's Day when Belfast City Council has approved events such as fireworks displays on a Sunday evening. It seems that we are now very keen to promote our Unionism as an essentially secular philosophy. We do not give moral and spiritual issues the priority that they deserve. Our opposition to the heresies and blasphemies of Romanism has all but evaporated, and, indeed, it is now apparently perfectly acceptable for Unionist leaders to attend Mass.

The Protestant churches have been weakened by liberalism, ecumenism and compromise, to the extent that the Methodist church saw fit to apologise for its support for the Covenant in 1912. We urge all true church leaders to contend for the Faith and to call the Province to repentance. Our Christian politicians must act as 'salt and light' and do what they can to stem the tide of moral decline. The Loyal Orders, while playing a crucial and valuable part in Ulster life, need to encourage their members, and society in general, to give priority to spiritual things. That, indeed, is the priority for us all. Everything else is secondary. Christ Himself says to us, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you"(Matt 6:33). We have got our priorities wrong as individuals and as a Province, but we praise God that He forgives our wanderings, failures and sins, and, when we turn to Him, we know that He restores and strengthens us. In the words of the prophet Hosea, "Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up".

In Psalm 33:12 we read, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance". It is time for Ulster to seek the Lord.