A Northern Irish politician has been ejected his role in his local Presbyterian church after nearly three decades, over same-sex marriage.

Former Alliance leader and justice minister David Ford, who still sits as an MLA, has been public about his support for equal marriage despite the teachings of his faith.

However, his pro-equality stance has not sat well with members of his church, the Second Donegore Presbyterian Church near Templepatrick.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Ford has been forced to step down as an elder at the church, because of objections to his stance on same-sex marriage.

Despite the local-level action driven by the church’s congregation, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland leadership say he remains in good standing with them.

A spokesperson said: “An elder is ordained by a Presbytery (not by a congregation) and becomes an elder of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. He or she is at the same time installed to a particular ‘sphere of service’, usually as an elder in a particular congregation – in this case a ruling elder in 2nd Donegore Presbyterian Church.

“While Mr Ford has been removed from his role as a ruling elder in the congregation of 2nd Donegore, he hasn’t been removed as an ordained elder of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, of which he remains an elder without charge in good standing.”

Official Church policy remains opposed to “homosexual relationships”.

Mr Ford has likened equal marriage to the battle for civil rights in the past.

In a statement to the News Letter, he said: “On 31 August I was informed that Templepatrick Presbytery had resolved to remove me as an elder in Dunamuggy, because the other elders in the congregation refuse to work with me.

“It is a matter of great sadness to Anne and me that both Presbytery and Session have failed to act to promote healing and unity within our church, despite repeated requests from us over the last nine months.

“I believed that, as an elder, I had a part to play in making our congregation fit for purpose. Unfortunately, Presbytery and the Judicial Commission have now made that impossible. It remains to be seen whether or not I have any role in Dunamuggy.

“I thank those members of the congregation and others who have supported Anne, our family and me in word and in prayer through the last four difficult years of church life.”