It is stated that this venture, which the Forum seems to be but one aspect of, is part of the Programme for Peace and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Border Region of Ireland. This Peace III programme is partly funded by the European Union to the tune of €225 million, with further national contributions of €108 million through its Structural Funds programme. That brings the total to €333 million.
This invitation was extended by Macaulay Associates Network who have been appointed by the CAN Peace III Partnership to deliver the programme.
The Forum is to be led by lay church members in the Greater Glengormley area, and will maintain regular communication with the Glengormley Clergy Fellowship.
A representative Steering Group was set up at the meeting on 20th June 2011. During July and August 2011 the Steering Group has been meeting to develop a strategy and action plan for the next two years.
It is envisaged that the Forum will move around the local churches when it meets.
The 'We can talk' website states: The programme recognises the role of churches within community and offers support and training to those who want to positively influence relationships within and between communities. It will also support faith-based organisations, on an individual or collective basis, to explore and address sectarianism and racism within their communities.
There is a fuller document to download from the website entitled: 'DRAFT Purpose, Aims and Objectives'.
1) To build contact, relationships and understanding between local churches.
2) To work together to identify and address wider community needs.
3) To develop participative activities to bring the whole community together.
4) To develop links and communication between churches and the Council and other groups/organisations on community issues.
Under the first aim it lists a number of objectives: 1.1 To organise a series of visits to local churches to build relationships and understanding across the denominations.
This gives a flavour of what this proposed Forum is about. A reply was sent to Macaulay Associates Network setting out why the Free Presbyterian Church will not be involved in this Forum. There are three main reasons why the FPC wont be participating in this Churches' Forum.
Romanism and apostate Protestantism are well represented in this Forum. By that I mean that there will be many in this Forum, from observing the denominations already represented, who reject among other fundamental truths, the Biblical way of salvation, [ie. salvation by faith alone, through grace alone, in Christ alone].
A house divided against itself in this way cannot stand, Mark 3:24-26. This Forum is certainly divided against itself from its inception. It has no foundation upon which to stand. It is not built upon truth but upon the lie that all are the same.
It is part of the chief cause of society's troubles. It is the forsaking of Bible doctrine, as engaged in by these respective groups, that has brought society's problems upon it. As with Israel of old, who were warned not to forsake the ways of the Lord or else God's displeasure would come upon them, so this present generation has done the same and is now reaping the consequences. The ecumenical Protestant denominations and their ministers have sadly led the way in this departure.
The ills of society will not be cured by more of the same but by a return to the commandments of the Lord. Is it is ecumenism and false religion that has brought these ills upon us. It will never be more ecumenism and false religion that solves them.
The real 'troublers of Israel'. The Ecumenists may seek like Ahab of old to accuse others of being the 'troubler of Israel' but Elijah's words are still true and relevant today: And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim, 1 King 18:18.
Forsaking the Lord and following the modern day 'Baalims' always brings untold trouble upon a society or nation. Departure from God always brings His judgment. We are a nation and a society under the judgment of God. In aligning itself with the Glengormley Clergy Fellowship this Forum is condoning their ecumenism.
Forbidden to attend by the Word of God. As the belief systems of these respective groups are contrary to the teaching of the New Testament then believers are forbidden by the Scriptures to attend or to be involved.
There are five clear exhortations in the New Testament governing who a Christian associates with in respect to spiritual/religious ventures:
1. We are to mark out those who depart from the faith with the view of avoiding them, Romans 16:17.
2. We are to reprove those who depart from the faith, Ephesians 5:11. The child of God is not to remain silent and complicit with error, they are to speak out against the error, reproving those who teach it. This is not the purpose of this Forum I would imagine!
3. We are to reject them, Titus 3:10.
4. We are to have no fellowship with them, 2 Cor 6:14. We cannot remain in fellowship and be yoke together in any religious organisation with those who teach error.
5. We are to separate from them, 2 Cor 6:14. Not being able to fellowship with them we must part company from them and join in spiritual and religious ventures with those of like precious faith.
We are forbidden by the Word of God to accept those who teach/practice falsehood as individuals who seek the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom at all times and those who can be worked with to advance the good of society.
I hasten to add that it would be difficult to find any Bible reference that supports what is being proposed. I can suggest plenty that it contradicts.
These are not the Christian Church's primary goals. These are to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints and to evangelise the lost in this perishing world. I don't see any of this in this document. I don't find the concept of evangelising the lost in the document at all, unless I am mistaken, never mind any definition of what the Forum supposes evangelism to mean.
The world will not be won or changed by social action initiatives. This is not the Church's chief priority or calling. Paul said, as to the emphasise his life's work was to have, that he was sent not to baptise but to preach the gospel, 1 Cor 1:17. What does a text like this say about Churches, ministers and others who engage in social action initiatives as outlined in this document with no reference to preaching the gospel of saving grace? These social action initiatives of fighting racism or sectarianism are so far removed from a Church or a minister's calling! They may be excusable as part of preaching the Gospel. They are inexcusable without it.
That revival caused people to turn from sin and false religion, live right before God and towards their fellow man. This proposed Forum will certainly not be a vehicle for that to happen again. That revival in 1859 was preceded by a growing spirit of prayer and searching of heart for God to come and work and do something.
The Bible's answer is to preach the Gospel. When the Gospel is preached souls are saved and natures are changed. This causes a turning from sin and a forsaking of false religion. Not until this happens will there be a dealing with society's many problems. Anything else is putting sticking plasters over an infected wound.
Only when the heart is right will actions improve, As a man thinketh in his heart so is he, Prov 23:7. Dealing with society's problems must begin with dealing with their spiritual problems. Wrong conduct comes from a sinful heart, Mark 7:20-23.
No better example of this can be found than the Protestant Reformation which not only brought spiritual deliverance from Romanism but an age of enlightenment and advancement in every other area of life as well. That should still be our pattern. That pattern is every bit as relevant today as at any time in the past.
I would imagine that many in the Forum would be utterly ashamed to promote the Protestant Reformation with its doctrine and practice as an example to follow for our own times. What would the local priest say?
That being so it highlights how far off the mark a Forum of this sort really is!
Biblical example. In the divided society of the first century where there was manifold persecution of Christians and divisions between Hebrew and Greek speaking Jewish Christians and between Jews and Gentiles, the Apostles did not set up a Forum. They were insistent that they would continue to pray and to preach the Gospel. It was evangelism and the inherent truth within the Gospel that brought Jew and Gentile together in the New Testament church to look upon each other as equals, not the type of venture being presently proposed in this Forum.
If each and every church in the Borough of Newtownabbey, and further afield, took the Bible as their guide and went back to preaching the same message that the Apostles preached, with the power of the Holy Spirit upon it, then the same results would flow which would have substantial and lasting good for our society.
It is of no use just dealing with the symptoms, the root cause must be sought for. The root cause of society's ills is spiritual departure from God and it will never be remedied until there is a return to the right ways of God.