Common Roots: Ancient Evangelical Future Conference

Flag flap leads to Irish rector’s suspension

A Belfast bishop has stood down a parish rector after disobeying a directive not to remove Royal British Legion flags from his parish

The Bishop of Down and Dromore has stood down a parish rector for contumacy, after the Rev. Kingsley Sutton disobeyed a directive not to remove Royal British Legion flags at St Patrick’s and St Mary’s Church in Newry, Northern Ireland. In a statement released on 11 Oct 2015 a diocesan spokesman said Mr. Sutton had “acted against the clear instruction of the bishop in removing” the RBL flags. “In light of this he has been asked by the bishop to step back from ministry for a period of time as every attempt is made to find a resolution.” On 9 Oct 2015 the Belfast Telegraph reported that members of the congregation had written to the newspaper complaining of the conduct of their rector after the bishop, the Rt. Rev. Harold Miller, failed to act as they wanted. Members of the congregation complained their rector was ignoring the will of the congregation by modernizing the parish. Mr. Sutton was charged with closing the church to the Orange Order and the Apprentice Boys — two traditional loyalist groups — and adopting a modernist folk liturgy. In his parish newsletter Mr. Sutton said he was going to replace the RBL flags with white banners with a heart affixed in the center. “We must make a resolute break from the past, lest we be dragged back,” he wrote. “I have taken down the Royal British Legion flags in both churches and have replaced them with a white flag that has a red heart at its centre.” He explained he had “nothing against” the RBL, but had “ intentionally removed these flags to declare a break from the past, and a shift into a new hope, a hope that is embodied in the two new flags.” In a statement released through the diocese, Mr Sutton denied barring the Orange Order from the church.

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