Presbyterian Church of Ireland dismisses long-serving church elder following same-sex marriage

Steven Smyrl was ordained by the Presbyterian Church of Ireland 12 years ago and was dismissed last month following an enquiry into his marriage.

Steven Smyrl dismissed by Presbyterian Church of Ireland
Image: BBC

A church elder who was sacked by the Presbyterian Church of Ireland because he is married to a man has spoken about how hurt he is by the decision.

Steven Smyrl was ordained as an elder in Dublin’s Christ Church 12 years ago.

Last month, the Presbyterian Church of Ireland told him that a church probe into his marriage had come to the conclusion that he should be dismissed with immediate effect.

“It was like a kick to the stomach,” he told the BBC.

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.

Mr Smyrl said he did not agree with that decision, but he didn’t believe it would impact his life.

“I live in the Republic of Ireland.

“I have a fundamental constitutional right to form a civil marriage with the person of my choice.

“As far as I was concerned, that was as far as it went,” Mr Smyrl added.

“My marriage is a civil marriage: it isn’t contracted in any church, never mind a 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,” Mr Smyrl said.

A senior clergyman contacted him saying concerns had been raised about his position as an elder.

He later found out that a six-person church commission was to investigate and make a decision on what action should be taken.

The commission ruled that to be in a same-sex marriage was incompatible with being in ‘ordained leadership’ in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and Mr Smyrl was dismissed with immediate effect.

“I was astounded, to be truthful,” Mr Smyrl said.

“It was so hurtful.

“To be told that I was just dismissed, and to have had every argument I put to them over the six months utterly ignored.. it was really like a kick to the stomach.”

In a statement, a Presbyterian Church in Ireland spokesman said last night: “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.”

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