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'A kick to the stomach': Presbyterian Church elder dismissed over same-sex marriage

Smyrl and his partner of 20 years were married in a civil ceremony in Dublin last November.

Image: Shutterstock/Africa Studio

A LONG-SERVING CHURCH elder in south Dublin has been dismissed from the Presbyterian Church in Ireland as he is in a same-sex marriage.

Steven Smyrl was ordained as an elder at Christ Church in Sandymount 12 years go but was last month told he had been dismissed with immediate effect following a probe into his marriage. 

Smyrl and his partner of 20 years were married in a civil ceremony in Dublin last November following the legalisation of same-sex marriage in 2015.   

In June 2018, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) adopted a new policy that means anyone in a same-sex relationship cannot be a full member of the Church.

Smyrl said he was contacted by a senior Presbyterian clergyman who said concerns had been raised about his position as an elder, later learning a six-person church commission had been set up to decide what action should be taken.

According to Smyrl, the commission claimed that the PCI has a “clearly stated” policy regarding same-sex marriage and to be in a same-sex marriage was not compatible with being in ‘ordained leadership’

The genealogist from Rathgar said he never once asked or expected PCI to recognise his civil marriage as a Christian marriage.

My civil partnership, and subsequently my secular, civil marriage, are a personal legal matter – a constitutional right securing legal protections in areas such as finance, inheritance, next-of-kin recognition. 

“Just because they claim that civil and religious marriage can be conflated as being one and the same doesn’t make it so. Statute law categorically says otherwise and, whether it wants to or not, PCI must acknowledge that the law applies to all without exception,” Smyrl said in a statement.  

In an interview with BBC News NI Smyrl said yesterday that the church’s decision was “like a kick to the stomach”.

“The procedure they’d put me through over the past six months was hurtful enough and then simply to be dismissed,” he said.

BBC News NI put Smyrl’s comments to the PCI which said that as Smyrl had appealed the decision, it would be inappropriate to comment.

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Adam Daly

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