Dublin minister ordered by the Presbyterian Church to remove gay man from council

Steven Smyrl is in a same-sex marriage which has caused some to call for his removal from church positions.

Left: Ministers at Sandymount's Presbyterian Christ Church where a gay man sits on the council stand together beneath a sign reading
Image: Left: Twitter: @PCIModerator, Right: Unsplash

The Presbyterian Church is ordering Reverend Katherine Meyer and the council at Christ Church in Sandymount to remove a gay man, Steven Smyrl, from his position. Smyrl was appointed to the church council by Rev Meyer despite being sacked as an elder in 2019 due to his sexuality.

A commission was set up by the Dublin and Munster Presbytery to investigate Smyrl’s appointment, concluding that those responsible had approved “that which in scripture God condemns”.

In the leaked report seen by BBC Northern Ireland, the commission continued by saying that the “words and actions of both minister and church council demonstrate their persistent deviation from the confessional standards of the Presbyterian Church”.

It found that by supporting Smyrl’s same-sex relationship, Rev Meyer and the council at Sandymount’s Christ Church “have cause caused scandal injurious to the purity and peace of the church”.

The commission ordered the Sandymount Christ Church council to reverse the appointment and recant, and should Rev Meyer not accept its findings, the Presbyterian Church would “initiate disciplinary proceedings” against her. Rev Meyer’s appeal was rejected by the church’s judicial commission in November, and she and the church council have been given until December 20 to remove Smyrl and renunciate his appointment.

Professor Sam McConkey, an elder at the Presbyterian church in Clontarf, expressed his support for both Rev Meyer and Mr Smyrl, stating that “there is a large minority in the church who think differently [to the church’s decision] and who welcome diversity and inclusion. We don’t agree with this decision.”

Openly gay Methodist minister, Rev Steven Foster, voiced similar sentiments, saying: “I am disgusted by the pursuit of [Rev Meyer], Steven Smyrl and the church council by the leadership of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland […] This ongoing process is hurting very many people, as well as those immediately involved. I am in contact with many closeted Presbyterians living in fear of their own church.”

Speaking to the Irish Times, the Presbyterian Church stated that it was “highly disappointing that an individual, or individuals” would leak a “private” document to the media that focused “on a sensitive internal church matter”.

The statement continued by saying: “While some issues have been considered, matters are still ongoing and further decisions are still to be made. Therefore, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

While Rev Meyer is yet to comment on the matter, Smyrl said he was “shocked and horrified at this incessant, vindictive, spiteful behaviour.”

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