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Presbyterian Church ousts long-serving church elder after he got married to a man

Nick Duffy October 11, 2019
Presbyterian Church leaders told elder Steven Smyrl his marriage was 'incompatible' with his role

Presbyterian Church leaders told Steven Smyrl his marriage was 'incompatible' with his role. (BBC)

An elder within Ireland’s Presbyterian Church has been ejected from his post after an anonymous “complaint” about his same-sex marriage.

An unidentified person raided the Facebook page of Steven Smyrl to download family photos of him with his husband Roy Stanley, before sending them to church leaders.

Smyrl, who has been a member of the Presbyterian Church in Dublin for 30 years, faced months of uncertainty after the church took up the complaint – but was informed by Reverend Alastair Dunlop in September that he would be removed from his role as elder.

Same-sex marriage is ‘incompatible’ with Presbyterian Church, elder told

In a letter, published by the BBC, Dunlop explained: “The commission decided, on the basis of the clearly stated policy of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, that to be in a same-sex marriage is not compatible with being in ordained leadership of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

Presbyterian Church leaders ejected Steven Smyrl despite support from his local congregation at Christ Church Sandymount
Presbyterian Church leaders ejected Steven Smyrl despite support from his local congregation at Christ Church Sandymount

“Mr Smyrl’s usefulness as a ruling elder in a congregation has therefore been seriously impaired.

“It therefore removed Mr Smyrl from office in the congregation of Christ Church Sandymount… with immediate effect.”

The church has long held anti-LGBT policies, which it has reinforced in recent years.

Church elder ‘sick to the stomach’ about plot to oust him

Smyrl, who lived with his husband for decades before they married in 2018, told the BBC he felt “felt sick to the stomach” that someone had gone to the effort of sending the church photos of him at “happy family events” with his husband.

He said: “I couldn’t understand how people that belonged to the same denomination as I did could possibly treat me in the way that they had done.”

The former church elder added: “I live in the Republic of Ireland. I have a fundamental constitutional right to form a civil marriage with the person of my choice and as far as I was concerned that was as far as it went.

“My marriage is a civil marriage, it isn’t contracted in any church never mind the Presbyterian Church, so as far as I was concerned it was no business of the Presbyterians to question the fact that I had married a person of the same sex.”

Smyrl said he had “100 per cent support” from members of his local congregation, who were aware of his sexuality when he was ordained as an elder in 2007.

A spokesperson for the Presbyterian Church told the BBC: “As Mr Steven Smyrl has appealed to the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s judicial commission against a decision of a commission of the Dublin and Munster Presbytery, it would obviously be inappropriate to comment on any matter related to that appeal, or indeed, any associated accusations.”

More: Church, Presbyterian Church, Religion

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