Officials at a Canadian church have dismissed a man volunteering with their children’s ministry because he was gay, it has been reported.

Colin Briggs, a 20-year-old student at Saint Thomas University, had volunteered at Crosspoint Wesleyan Church in Fredericton since 2011, but was told last Wednesday by the church pastor that he would have to cease volunteering with the children’s ministry, “to avoid any potential uproar.”

“I went to sign up again this year to volunteer and I didn’t think anything would be a big deal,” Mr Briggs told Global News. “They basically told me they would prefer I didn’t volunteer there because I was gay.”

He added: “I felt disappointed. Personally and towards the church.”

Mr Briggs has received widespread support after his university newspaper, The New Brunswick Beacon, reported the story.

The church pastor, Mark Brewer, told the paper that the decision to stop Mr Briggs volunteering had been made to “avoid any potential uproar” from parents of children at the ministry.

“Having an openly gay male working in the children’s ministry may feel some parents to feel uncomfortable,” Mr Brewer told the paper, adding that he would still be welcome to attend services at the church.

Fellow church volunteer Caitlin Sowers said: “My head hurt when I first heard about it.” She described Mr Briggs as “hilarious, creative and great with kids.”

The church pastor addressed the controversy during Sunday’s church service, in an increasingly heated statement which was recorded on tape. Mr Brewer said that such decisions “often have deeper and more complex issues than what appear on the surface.”

He insisted: “All people are welcomed through the doors of Crosspoint Church, they always have been and they always will be.”

He continued to say: “There are a lot of great reasons for a church to end up in the newspaper, but no one writes those stories. No one seems to write stories about how we love and serve our community, and have done so for over 100 years.

“No one wants to write stories about how we feed the hungry and supply the food bank month after month.”

As Mr Brewer ended his statement, he said: “I will say this: tolerance is supposed to be a two way street. We respect the rights of people to make their own personal choices in these matters, but we request that we receive the same respect as a church in making these decisions.”