The new Presbyterian moderator took to his post in Belfast on Monday, arguing that Christian values face threats from an increasingly secular society.
According to Patsy McGarry of Irish Times, the Presbyterian Church appointed a new moderator on Monday, the Rev. Dr. Ian McNie, 64, who made the comments on Christian values. He would be replacing the Rev. Dr. Michael Berry.
"Opinions are expressed and laws enacted that are at variance with what we, as Christians, stand for," McNie said. "Values associated with the beginning and ending of life, the family dynamic, freedom of conscience and the sanctity of marriage are all under threat."
McNie added that the Presbyterians will "unashamedly and unambiguously reaffirm our total commitment to the biblical and historical position of marriage."
"Marriage is exclusively between one man and one woman, believing that this is God's blueprint for the wellbeing of society, and any redefinition of this position is not within his plan for His creation," McNie said.
McNie emphasized that tolerance was "a two-way street."
"By definition, tolerance accepts there are different opinions and that we should agree to disagree in an agreeable manner, not the definition that is currently postulated - that tolerance is the acceptance of different opinions and that all opinions are equally correct and should be endorsed as correct," McNie said.
The new moderator contended that if the politically correct definition of tolerance holds, it would lead "to a position where Christians are required to promote ideas and deliver services that are contrary to their beliefs."
"True tolerance can only flourish in an atmosphere of mutual respect in disagreement," McNie said.
McNie also laid out a strategy for the church to "penetrate the world."
"Stepping outside our comfort zone will not only be an option but a necessity," he said. "To retreat into the corner, keep our hands clean and backs covered is not the policy established by Jesus Christ."
According to a report in the Belfast Telegraph, McNie first converted to Christianity at age 13. He graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity at Queen's University, Belfast and attended First Antrim Presbyterian Church; he described himself as a "conservative evangelical."
"Dr. Ian McNie said there was a growing intolerance of the church's view on contentious issues such as same sex marriage and abortion," Belfast Telegraph wrote.
According to Belfast Telegraph, up to 1,000 people are expected to attend the three-day event at the church's headquarters in Belfast. Those people will cast ballots on more than 80 resolutions.
"There is a perception that the Christian viewpoint is not always dignified with the credit and tolerance it deserves and the law has left too little room for religious belief," McNie said.
McNie noted that the church believed that society had the right to express its opinions, even if they run contrary to church teachings.
"As a church we must defend the right of society to freely express their opinions, but in so doing we must not be behind the door in articulating clearly what we believe and why we believe it, and we have the right to expect the same level and proportion of tolerance afforded to us that other groups expect afforded to them," McNie said.
According to Irish Times, the outgoing moderator also made some comments. Barry challenged the assertion by some within the LGBT community that the church was "homophobic" for not supporting same-sex marriage.
"I can state categorically that we as a church are not homophobic," Barry said. "We do not agree with such a lifestyle. We believe it is contrary to the Bible's teaching on marriage."
Barry also had a message to the haters who wanted to conduct reprisals against the LGBT community after same-sex marriage was legalized next door in Ireland.
"We must be allowed to disagree without being smeared," Barry said. "If there are any who take the name of Presbyterian and who are carrying on a hate campaign against the LGBT community, then they must stop."
Barry added that "not everyone likes what we believe," noting that the church does "not conform to the world's opinions."
"We do not change our beliefs to fit in with the ways of the world," Barry said. "There will be times we are out of step."
For those who predict the church will become irrelevant in the future, Barry had a message directed at them. He urged everyone in the church to "take heart" and "be of good cheer."
"We read the book of Revelation and there we see the church almost trampled into oblivion," Barry said. "But what happens? Christ wins the battle. And in Him, the church is victorious."