Following two recent cases where church members were dismissed from roles they held after they married their same-sex partner, David Norris has called on the Government to address anti discrimination laws.
The Presbyterian Church of Ireland dismissed Steven Smyrl – one of its elders – following a church probe into his marriage. In late 2018, Mr Smyrl and his partner married in Dublin, the same year the Presbyterian Church voted to deny full membership to anyone in a same-sex relationship.
In the other case, a Church of Ireland organist, who wanted to remain anonymous, was dismissed after 20 years of service following his own marriage. In an open letter to the bishop, Annie West, a former warden, complained “a recent instruction from rector Isaac Hanna [stated] that as soon as he is married, John [a pseudonym] is no longer welcome to come and play the organ at either Drumcliffe or Munninane churches because as rector he feels uncomfortable with this”.
Senator Norris, himself a member of Church of Ireland said that churches should not be exempt from anti discrimination laws. He described how there was a clique within both Church of Ireland and the Presbyterian Church with a “right wing conservative agenda” which had “an eye on controlling the whole church”.
“Presbyterianism started in Scotland. What has happened in Northern Ireland is quite extraordinary. The tail is wagging the dog. It flies in the face of the words of Jesus Christ and his ‘suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me’.” The Senator continued, “Jesus never offered one word on the subject of homosexuality.”
Norris warned of the growth of GAFCON (Global Anglican Future Conference) within Anglicanism – a right wing conservative movement which begun among “wealthy evangelicals” in the US which then went on to spread anti LGBT+ views in Africa. – “They scapegoat gay people and rewrote history to say there was no homosexuality in Africa but that it had been introduced by corrupt Westerners.”
Steven Smyrl, the dismissed Presbyterian elder, has penned three open letters, the first and second of which have called upon the Lord Lieutenant of Belfast, and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, to remove Frank Sellar, a former Presbyterian Church Moderator as a one of the Lord Lieutenant’s deputies due to the fact that Sellar “has repeatedly demonstrated a disdain for the civil and human rights of gay people which I believe renders untenable his continued appointment as a representative of Her Majesty the Queen in the city of Belfast.”
The other letter was to the current Moderator to acknowledge the impact his removal had on Smyrl which was done in a “frankly vindictive manner which infringed my civil rights and left me feeling demeaned as a human being.”
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